EAA Chapter 22

Cottonwood Airport, Rockford, IL


A Brief(?!) History of EAA Chapter 22

Compiled by former Newsletter Editor Nick Lung:

"It all started when a group of like-minded pilots, and EAA members, decided to found an EAA Chapter. Their names, as far as we can ascertain, (no records exist either here in Rockford or at EAA National HQ at Oshkosh) were; Frank Murray, Joe Kirk, Lynn Stevenson, Ken Long, Hendley Hall, Mel Jacobeson, Bud Harwood, Ken Casson, Bob Richardson, Ed Livingston and Roy Maim.

These Charter member names come from the mind of the only Charter member left that we have been able to locate. Most have passed on to that Great Airport in the sky. This history of EAA 22 comes from Newsletters, meeting minutes and notes and letters from past decades.

EAA Chapter 22 started with a meeting in Cottonwood FBO owner Frank Murray's office. Day and month are unknown but the year was 1957. We won't list the chapter officers, that extensive list is found elsewhere in this tract (and interesting reading it is!), but suffice it to say that the first president was Frank Murray. He ran the organization until he resigned due to ill health and the record is murky until September 1959 when a re-organization meeting was held. (We wonder why?)

Presided over by Vice President Joe Kirk, an election of officers was called for. Dues were established at $2.00 per year and by-laws were discussed. In 1961 the first meeting minutes appear and the big discussion was that, starting in ‘December, a two way radio would be required when operating out of the Greater Rockford airport. This was, you must understand, long before the days of TRSA's, ARSA's and TCA's. Rockford was happy to have an operating control tower, with a tower chief named "Smoky" Smolla.

The year 1962 saw the meeting places of the Meridian Road barn, Machesney airport restaurant and Rockford airport warehouse replaced by Maim Machine Company's office, which served as the chapter 22 HQ for the next eleven years.  In 1963 during the 11th EAA National Convention, held at Rockford, a Continental aircraft engine of 85 HP was purchased by the chapter and used as a raffle prize by EAA headquarters. That raffle netted $1200 that was donated to the EAA Museum at Hales Comers.

Also, in 1963, the OX-5 Chapter of Rockford presented the Darwin-Udyssen Trophy to Fred Machesney. (Ed. note: anyone know what this trophy is' or is for?)  In 1964 the first issue of "TOUCH & GO" was published with Peter MacKay as the editor. He noted that the EAA National Fly-In and Convention was to be held during the month of August at Rockford. Also noted was that the 1st building for the EAA Museum at Hales Comers was finished. The chapter was incorporated in the State of Illinois in 1964 and the winter Dinner held at the Rockford airport Sky Room restaurant featured EAA President Paul Poberezney as the speaker. Paul spoke of the 12th annual convention and chapter 22's participation. At that convention we again raffled off a Continental 85 HP engine, as we did in again in 1965. In 1966 the winter dinner in February was named the "Frank Murray Memorial" dinner and it kicked off a drive to purchase a Continental 90 HP engine for the convention.

In 1967 a Corben Junior Ace project, just started, was donated to the chapter and member Carroll Dietz started welding the fuselage. The newsletter reported that Hugh Doyle was the new Rockford tower chief.  President Paul again spoke at the Murray Memorial dinner and a J-3 Cub was discussed as a raffle prize.

In the minutes of 4 November 1969 we come across the interesting item regarding the 1970 EAA Convention, "the Greater Rockford Airport Commission stated that the Rockford airport would be available to EAA if Nick Rezich (a very active chapter 22 member and past President) and Bob Hoover (we know who HE is!) "...were NOT to perform during the convention!"  (We wonder what brought THAT on?)  In any case, the 1970 EAA Convention was moved, with much help from EAA 22 members, to Wisconsin and the first "Oshkosh" was held.

Back in Rockford, Ralph Hartwig donated a landing gear set for the chapter project and a warehouse building was offered to the chapter as a meeting place. The November newsletter noted that Dietz was still welding on the Corben Ace and Bill Walters donated a set of control wheels. (We note, later, that the project had control sticks. What happened to the wheels?)

The chapter, after all the moving around, ordered a building in May of 1971, to be erected on leased Rockford airport property. On 11th of July the building was dedicated as the "Sport Aviation Building". Also in 1971 the chapter bought another J-3 Cub but EAA National decided to run the raffle, which eliminated the 10% that Chapter 22 received from the raffle sales. Chapter dues were increased to $5.00 per year. Chapter president Curt Lofgren resigned and Ms Rosemary Geddes was appointed to fill his term.

A monetary crisis was at hand as building costs were a deficit of $775 per year over chapter expenses so in 1972 the Chapter 22 Sport Aviation building was sold. As you can see, these were turbulent times for the chapter. Meanwhile the chapter project was moved from the Dietz garage to the Dick Bowers garage.

On a happy note, in 1973 Tim Casserly joined the chapter and later he went on to be the chapter Treasurer for 18 years! The Corben Ace project was moved to Ron Galster's garage in May of 1973. On 12 August, MST Aviation (Dick Thomas) in Belvedere held a grand opening and Chapter 22 participated by serving breakfast, the start of a long tradition in this area. At the end of the year the Ace project was moved to South Beloit for winter storage.

In May of 1973 Raffle Chairman Bob Gyllenswan announced that EAA headquarters "will not sanction or participate in any raffle." This, Bob said, was due to IRS considerations. EAA later changed the way the raffle was conducted and it continues to this day. The regular EAA chapter 22 fly-in breakfasts were started in 1974 with the first one held at the Hartzog sales hangar. In 1975 the project, a "2 seat, side by side, open cockpit parasol wing" aircraft moved to a Cherry Valley garage.

In Aug. 1976 chapter 22 served breakfast at Belvedere airport fly-in and the chapter project was again moved, this time to a Belvedere garage. Of note, in 1976 - in October the round pancake grill was built! and on November 6th the chapter had a fly-in breakfast at the Hartzog Sales hangar. (Ed. note:  November seems a strange time for a fly-in!)

Our next fly-in was held on May 21st at the Beloit Airport. This event, sponsored by EAA 22, also featured a flea market.  In June of 1978 the Corben Ace project was moved to Wally Hunt's garage and then was moved to Jim Cook's garage. In May 1979 the breakfast was held at Anderson-Easton Aviation hangar and again in May of 1980. Dues were raised to $6.00 per year.

Well, it finally happened. In September of 1982 the chapter project, a Corben Junior Ace was sold. It went for $2,500.00 (less engine, a $2000 value, and prop, a $300 value) and the money was donated to EAA National for the new Museum. The project took 15 years of chapter time and probably more money spent than received, but the hours of working together, of trying to get members involved and the general experience - who knows how many members it pushed into building their own aircraft?

A last comment on the project: Nick Rezich, a past President of Chapter 22, coming back and giving a speech to the chapter many years later (and no longer a member or living in the area) was amazed to find that the project, ongoing when HE was a member, was still not completed! So, Hey! Chapter 22 has perseverance!!!

In 1985 six members of chapter 22 purchased Cottonwood airport and formed the Cottonwood Corporation. In 1986 TDM, the site of 22's breakfasts was sold so Mark Clark was asked if he would allow us to use his facilities. The answer was yes and a long and mutually profitable partnership was started. And in 1988 the Jenny, built by 22 founders Frank Murray, and given to EAA after Frank's death, was moved from Machesney Mall to the museum at Oshkosh. In 1990 Chapter 22 loaned the Cottonwood Corporation a large sum of money to pay for the water/sewer system, along with other bills, and get "off the ground" so to speak, and operating. It was another mutually advantageous association. Cottonwood, so long associated with EAA Chapter 22, has hosted the 120/140 club, Antique Aircraft Association, Midwest Antiquers Aircraft Club, as well as many Chapter 22 functions. 

And last, in 1993 the Rock River Valley Aviation Foundation, Inc. was formed to own the hangar that the chapter now uses. Tito Nappi, a long time chapter member and past officer, donated this hangar, used as chapter 22 headquarters, to the chapter. Through his generosity the chapter has a first class meeting place and focal point for all aviation activities.

Each year, you note, Chapter 22 was also doing a lot of flying, building and socializing, along with participating with EAA National at Oshkosh. In spite of past adventures with the raffle, the chapter continues to man the raffle building at each national convention. Every year a large fly-in breakfast is held along with the Frank Murray Memorial dinner and a chapter picnic. The Dawn Patrol (early breakfast flyers) is still going strong after many years and at last count the chapter had over 14 experimental projects ongoing. And the newsletter has been published, on a continuous basis, since 1964.

It has been an exciting 50+ years!!!!"


   50 years would have been 2007, so I assume Nick wrote that for the 50th anniversary then.  We owe a lot to these EAA aviation pioneers! 

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