Courtesy photo From Walt Pierce's Facebook page: ÔThe Waco in airshow style colors was probably flown by Firman Church. He is mentioned many times in newspaper articles about performing throught Florida in the 1930s. The single high wing airplane in the background belonged to Lawler Wells. It was once used to transport Mae Frances Welch to the Warm Springs Georgia Polio treatment center.'
published: Sunday, July 01, 2012
Local barnstormer discovers photos of AP airport's early years
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
AVON PARK - Walt Pierce is a well-known airplane stunt performer (more commonly called a barnstormer) and avid plane enthusiast. Pierce has been "wing-walking" and performing spectacular stunts for decades and enjoys every second of his unique profession.
The New Mexico native began his fascination with planes, which spanned his commercial pilot career into something greater, at a very young age.
"I was an airplane kid. I used to ride my bike to the airport near my house when I was little and just sort of discovered it," Pierce said.
Pierce is good at discovering things it seems. Decades after he discovered his passion for airplanes Pierce has discovered a unique piece of Highlands County history.
"I found these old photos at the airport in Avon Park," Pierce said. "They're pretty old. Some are from 1934. They show the family that lived near it and the progress of the airport. It's mostly buildings; there was not a lot of activity out there at that time."
The wallet-sized, black and white photos depict the early usage of the Avon Park airport as well as the pilots, barnstormers and families who used to run the facility.
"These pictures are important. They show a lot of history about the area. It's not something that the general public is extremely interested in, but I had one book made and given to the Historical Society," Pierce said.
Pierce feels the photos are a unique and much needed part of not only pilots and airport personnel but to the community as a whole. Some of the photos include former FBO (Avon Park airport commercial operation) co-owner Don Gossick and his Stearman plane. The Gossick family operated the FBO for more than 20 years. The photos also show the original airport hangar, which dates back to the early 1930s.
"I wanted to do this service to the people. I grew up around planes in the '70s and there are still some people around here that will find this stuff interesting like I do," Pierce said.
As for Pierce, he continues to look for ways to inform the public on the history of his art as well as the history of the community surrounding them. Pierce continually practices and performs to entertain friends and strangers alike, while giving them a little piece of himself.
"I've turned this into a way of life. I keep at the airshows because they are a part of my life," Pierce said.
For more information on Pierce visit his website, www.barnstormerwalt.com/. Photos of the early AP airport can be seen at the Avon Park Historical Society or on Pierce's Facebook page by searching "Barnstormer Walt Pierce."
(by: Rusty - 7/3/2012)
Cool story. Local history is alway's fascinating.
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