Obviously, having almost a hundred young airmen and their support crews living on the edge of town had a great effect on the populace
of Sanderson. G. Downie remarked that the base personnel quickly integrated into the social fabric of Sanderson. Many
dances and social gatherings were held for and by the airmen, and even a few marriages resulted from local involvement.
airmen tried to maintain as normal a life as possible, including the romantic aspects.
Local businessman J.W. Happle related
in the TC history book that two of the young fliers were in rivalry for the affections of a young lady in San Antonio, and made the
300-mile flight as often as possible to woo her and try to steal her from the other.
On one trip she rewarded one young beau
with a cute little puppy, to keep him from being too lonely when they were apart. But, as he was making the journey home in
the open cockpit of the DH-4, the puppy bit him, and, to use Happle's language, the young flier "salvoed" the pup to a rocky fate,
thereby dooming his chances for the young lady's hand.
As the airmen of the 90th Aero Squadron were well-known in Sanderson,
they quickly became a part of the social scene. Often, during these Prohibition days, their social affairs were fueled by contraband
liquor, acquired on clandestine trips to Mexico where the 18th Amendment was not applicable.
Mr. Happle said that during
one of these "mercy" flights, the venerable and overworked DH-4 aircraft limped into Sanderson from the east. Throughout the
flight the engine had coughed and sputtered, threatening to quit altogether.
As he came to the outskirts of town, the
engine gave up the ghost and he was forced to set down on the baseball field/rodeo arena on the east side of town, crashing to a stop
against a barbed wire fence.
Very quickly a truck from the air field was dispatched to rescue the unbroken bottles of
refreshment from the broken aircraft, before law enforcement could "spirit" it away.
Happle also told the tale of Jimmy Dolittle, hero
of World War II who led the daring bombing raid on Tokyo.
The young Dolittle was stationed at Eagle Pass with Flight A
of the 90th, but frequently flew in and out of Sanderson. On one trip he is said to have flown under the Pecos River railroad
bridge on a dare, and, apparently, without a reprimand from his superiors.
Dolittle was an engineering officer and pilot
and commanded the group that went to Mexico to recover a downed plane.
Lieutenant Alexander Pearson was making a transcontinental
flight attempt when he went off-course and was forced down in a small canyon, not far from the Rio Grande. A few days later
he rode into Sanderson on a borrowed burro.
Usually, the government ordered downed planes destroyed to prevent the technology
from falling into foreign hands. This plane, however, was thought salvageable, and, with its $11,250 pre-inflation price tag,
was deemed worthy of repair.
When Dolittle and his group reached the airplane they found that, indeed, it was reparable.
Dolittle ordered a replacement motor and four mechanics using 1920 technology...carrier pigeons...to send the communication.
parts were delivered by parachutes and the repairs made. Piloting the airplane himself, Doolittle took off from a 400-yard airstrip
hacked from the desert canyon floor and flew back to Del Rio.
An interesting sign of that time was the plethora
of Kodaks (cameras) that found their way to the Sanderson Aerodrome. A huge number of photos taken by the young flyers recording
their military experiences is available online and in books.
Unfortunately, today, the actors in this interesting bit
of our colorful history have long-since passed to their reward. But, their photographic evidence and written record is still
here for us to marvel at and enjoy.