My interest in flying machines began one afternoon in July back in the year 1910. I had managed to save fifteen cents out of my weekly pay of 50 cents as a helper on a newspaper route. This exactly the price of admission to the Winnipeg Exhibition Grounds, that is for children,, and I was still able to pass myself off as such although sort of lanky and overgrown though not too well 'filled out". The afternoon was warm and sunny, and I walked from our old family home near the General Hospital across country, taking a short cut to the Fair Grounds on Dufferin Ave. west of Arlington St, On that afternoon I saw my first flying machine. I never did figure out how I managed to get close enough to that machine to actually touch It. I guess I must have been prodded by a boy's natural curiosity. I didn't realize I was in forbidden territory until I heard a loud voice yelling to someone to get the h--- out of there. That someone turned out to be me.
Well, before my presence was noticed I had had a few minutes to have a good look at the first flying machine to be assembled in Winnipeg. In those days, the aircraft used in these exhibition tours were always dismantled and shipped by, rail from point to point. This time, along with several years following, belonged to the fix and fly era, and to fly an aircraft was definitely a circus or exhibition stunt. That afternoon turned out to be perfect flying weather, with a gentle westerly wind, right up and down the long way of the inner grass area of race track.
Flights were always advertised or announced as "weather permitting". I figured that this afternoon the weather was going "to permit", so I parked myself as close as the enclosure fence and waited. A rumour was passing through the crowd that the flying machine would fly, so space along the fence near the machine was fast being filled. At this time I cannot remember whether it was Coffine, Elie or Catherine Stinson who made the first flight over the Exhibition Grounds, but somehow I seem to favor Elie. The flight that afternoon certainly impressed me no end; each afternoon and evening I found myself perched up on the overhead bridge, not too distant from the Grounds, waiting and hoping that the weather " would permit".
From this experience grew a desire to build a model of this flying machine, Of course it had to be a flying model. I can recall how patiently I planed down strips of wood to supply the struts and outrigger boom. The kite shaped biplane was covered with silk I salvaged from an old dress. This I glued in place on the plane's and front and rear outriggers. Cross-bracing wires were twisted cotton thread, tied in place then turned to tighten, and glued while tight, to hold the position. I can remember the first test flight, I tied this contraption to the back of my Dad's bicycle on a long piece of string, and then started off down the pavement at full speed. By the time I could get stopped again, there wasn't enough of my "pride and joy " left together to recognize. This little episode no doubt cured me of any urge or desire to build any models again- for to this day I have still to build another.
However, the urge or yearning to fly was deep rooted, and occupied many of my conscious as well as sub-conscious hours in the next few years. The automobile age was now upon us in full vigour and this in a very large way was an out for my flying urge. If I couldn't fly I could do the next best thing, and that was to ride in an automobile or on a motorcycle. These two-wheeled inventions of the devil, proved just the needed diversion to keep me content during my teen-age years. Fortunately for me my father had an automobile in 1912 and I was allowed to drive it still in short pants. But my best piece of good fortune came when my life-long pal got a motorcycle given to him by his Dad. My buddy Arni Eggertson was not mechanically inclined, so I acted as his grease monkey and mechanic to keep the motorcycle running. Needless to say, I practically glued myself to that machine while it lasted.