Wolcott Historical Society News - June 2017
By Florence Goodman
This month I will conclude my series on aviation history in our town; a topic, which has proven to be interesting to all. When I began this research, I was unaware of the number of incidents that I would uncover, but so many readers were willing to share information and I found more as I perused old newspapers.
Many years ago a large parcel of land in the Beecher Road area was being considered for an airport, but was eventually voted down. I never realized that in 1963 both Wolcott and Oxford were under consideration as sites for an airport. A small group of Wolcott residents were hoping the town would approve building the airport in the northeastern section of town, but most residents and town officials were not in favor of this idea. There was much debate about the issue in the local newspaper from March of 1963 through May of the same year. A public hearing was planned to inform angry residents of the advantages an airport could bring to the town. Residents who opposed the airport signed petitions against it. They wanted the question placed on referendum to allow the voters to decide, but it never reached that point. It all came to a head when the CT State Health Department and the Sanitary Engineer of New Britain caused the whole idea to take a "nose dive." They found that site for the airport was in close proximity to the New Britain Reservoir, which could cause major problems. They stated that drainage and pollution problems might contaminate the water, which supplies drinking water to over 200,000 residents of New Britain. Once the site in Wolcott was no longer an option the airport was eventually built in Oxford.
Fast forward to 1996 to an article I found interviewing Harry and Helen Wabuta from Woodtick Road whose family owned a large amount of land in the area. In the article Harry told Waterbury Republican-American reporter, Ann Maglaris, that he came home one day in 1944 and told his wife that he had bought an airplane. I was told that the plane was parked in the front yard of the property for many years. From a conversation on "Wolcott Chats," Dave McKay told Jerry O'Neill that he knew Harry and that the aircraft was a WWII surplus plane Harry had acquired as part of a fundraising campaign. Dave and Jerry thought it might have been a U.S. navy fighter craft possibly a F4U Corsair and the overall color was probably dark blue. It was also stated that Harry would let the Civil Air Patrol Cadets play in the plane. The plane was later scrapped and supposedly the wings were buried on the property. I also spoke with Ed Spataro who remembers that George Knauf had the seat from the plane at his home on Paul Street. I only wish I had seen the plane, but that was not my area of town growing up. I spoke with some older residents in the area, but they do not remember the plane.
Another aviation story that has raised questions is the one about a plane crashing at 190 Centrai Avenue along the sharp curve called "Dead Man's Curve." Not, really! The owner, Bill Sehnal, placed the fuselage and wings of a plane in his front yard. I recently spoke with Bill and he gave me the lowdown. He placed the parts of the plane on his property in 1999 right around the time John F. Kennedy Jr's plane went down. He stated that he used to tell people that, "the NTSB would not let him move the plane." At first his neighbors were not happy about it, but as time passed it was just ignored. Originally there were a pair of wings, but someone stole one wing. That's the story; and another mystery solved!!
I have one last story for which I have no answer. Does anyone remember a glider landing in Wakelee Elementary School field sometime in the early to mid1980s? I received a call from John Kizis last month and he asked if I had any information on this landing. He said that is was a glider from the Mt. Tobe/ Waterbury Airport in Plymouth and it could not get the updraft that it needed to stay airborne so it landed in the field at Wakelee School. He said the pilot was from Southbury. If any of my readers have any recollection of this, please give me a call.
This concludes my series of aviation stories in our town, but if you have any new information to add to these stories, I will gladly share it with my readers. Lastly, I do have some new pictures to share from Marlene Tosun showing the hanger and plane that belonged to her dad, Alexander Churchelow Churchill on Spindle Hill Road.
(Information for this article was taken from phone conversations with William Sehnal, April 2017, and Ed Spataro, 2017; Facebook conversations from Wolcott Chats on January 21, 2017; emails from Jerry O'Neill; Waterbury Republican-American, Tapestry series by Ann J. Maglaris, 1996; The Wolcott News, March 1963, April 10, 1963, April 17, 1963, May 1, 1963, May 15, 1963 and May29, 1963; pictures from Marlene Tosun)
The plane along the sharp curve called "Dead Man's Curve" at 190 Central Avenue.
Helen and Harry Wabuta in 1996.
Alexander Churchelow Churchill's children standing in front of his plane.
The hanger that was located on Spindle Hill Road on the Churchelow property.
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