We Build Our Home
When EAA Hangtown Chapter 512 decided to build a home, there was no lack of enthusiasm and support for the project. Because the Chapter had provided maintenance labor for the airport for years, the County gave them a lease for $1.00 per year on the ground. After obtaining permission for the site from the airport authority, a raffle of a TV, which had been purchased at dealer cost, was held in the member's storefront on Main Street. This provided enough funds to purchase an old Quonset hut that had been located behind a barn. The usual snags of getting stamped engineering drawings and county approval were overcome with a member's assistance. Share certificates were issued to those who donated or lent funds. Once the Quonset hut was obtained, the additional money to obtain some necessary parts, do the site work and provide plumbing and electrical supplies was addressed. Again, a raffle seemed to be the answer. A small pick-up was purchased, again at dealer cost, and the raffles sales began. Every day a member would tow the pick-up on a trailer to a heavily trafficked commercial area (with the merchant's permission) and raffle tickets would be sold from a table. A good deal of the time this was done by the ladies in the Chapter, and the effort continued for the better part of a year. Finally a winner was selected, and the proceeds were put to the good use of their intention - to build a hangar for the Chapter.
Well, on that first historic day, September 3, l978, that brows produced sweat building our home, a trench one foot deep was dug for the l-1/4 inch PVC water line. They hand-dug 60 feet, then Bob Bland was able to borrow a powered ditch digger from Bob Combellack. About l00 feet of pipe was cemented and connected to the northwest corner of the hangar. Bob Mighton was appointed by Ernie Nicolls to head up the project with Manfred Stumpp, Ernie , Don Reynolds, JimJensen, Darrell Hansen, Bob O'Hara, Tom Matassa, Jim Hutton, Bob Bland and George Pearce providing the labor. The next project was to wash the bows of the quonset hut, straighten and paint them and dig a foundation trench. The site work continued while the hangar parts were steam cleaned, wire brushed and primed. Manfred did some "body & fender work" at his auto repair shop and provided welding skills where needed. Several large loads of crushed rock were donated in mid-October 1978 by L. H. Brunius to be used under the cement slab.
On October 21 1978 the gravel was leveled and holes were dug for the 4" steel posts that would support the hangar doors. Bob Mighton got the posts and spent several days working alone using sheetrock and metal rebar to keep the gravel from slipping into the foundation trench. Manfred and Bob dug holes four feet deep and two by two feet square to support the steel posts. Using several sacks of dry mix in the bottom of the holes set the posts. On Halloween, October 31, 1978 the cement slab 40 feet x 30 feet was poured. What a tremendous day! The EAA crew worked with two professionals from 7:00 a.m. until after dark. Harold Miller did a large part of the finishing with hand tools. The overcast day with light sprinkles did nothing to dampen the spirits of these hard working EAA'ers -- they celebrated!
November 4 a portion of the concrete forming lumber was removed and some preliminary positioning of the rails, supplied by Milon Thorley, that would support the hangar doors was done. Bob O'Hara, Milon, and George Pearce planted a sycamore tree in memory of Mike Womack who lost his life in a plane crash at Cameron Park on October 14, 1978. Mike, you will recall, was the member who got the engineering done and helped get the permit through the County. November ll, the ramp was poured and the rails were secured at the front of the hangar. A cement base for the rock near the sycamore tree was also poured. Light snow flurries fell while the work was done. On November 12 Bob O'Hara and George Pearce planted the first five liquid ambers along the fence.
November 18 the bows were installed, all in one day. A lift-bed truck was lent, and Manfred and Darrell Hansen pulled up the bows with two ropes. Several ribs were installed to hold the bows in place. The group that worked all day was Bob Mighton, Ernie Nicolls, Bob O'Hara, Tom Matassa, Milon Thorley, Hen-Min Hiu, Bob Fritts, Bob Bland and George Pearce. The following weekend additional stringers were attached to the bows and the sheet metal was washed with Manfred's steamer. The first few sheets of metal were installed on the northeast corner with the usual make-up of workers. On November 30, Bob Mighton and George Pearce finished attaching the lower row of sheet metal on the east side of the hangar and completed one-half of the west side. December 2 the metal sheets were painted and additional ribs were installed for strength. Carl Perryman brought a scaffold to be used for the high work. The following weekend several members installed additional sheets of metal.
The beginning of 1979 saw more sheet metal and fiberglass attached to the hangar. A trench was dug for extension of the water line along the rear of the hangar. Harold Miller came up and gave some advice on complying with code requirements on pipe installations. January 13, a small number showed up and completed the second and third rows of sheet metal on the east side of the hangar. Doc Balciunas, the Huttons, Milon, Bob Mighton, Manfred, Bob Bland and George Pearce all worked in the cold. January 20 workers installed the fourth row of metal sheets on each side of the hangar. On Sunday, the 14th, heavy winds at night blew off three sheets from the last installed row on the west side. It was determined to have been caused by excessive separation of two halves of the top stringer allowing the nails to slip out. The sheets were re-installed. The covering was finished except for the eight foot section in the center of the top. They needed to find a source for ten foot curved sheets allowing plenty of overlap to prevent leaks. At the Board meeting of January 24, Bob Mighton and Milon Thorley reported they had found a place in Stockton that had the ten foot sheets. Milon offered to drive down Friday, the 26th, to buy the sheets. February 3, Bob Mighton, Manfred, Darrell Hansen and Bob O'Hara installed the top center sheets. When the last piece was fastened in place, they cut a small pine branch and attached it to the top of the front bow as a good luck charm in a traditional "topping out" ceremony. Milon flew his Taylorcraft over the taxi strip in front of the hangar while George Pearce took pictures. A bottle of champagne appeared and Bob O'Hara proposed a toast to President, Ernie Nicolls. Jim Hutton, and John Neville who had also worked that day joined the celebration. Milon's Taylorcraft was the first plane in the hangar on this auspicious date -- February 3, 1979.
Through all member effort, the hangar was complete enough so that on May 16, 1979 the first meeting was held in the hangar. During the summer the electrical and plumbing work were completed. The wooden doors worked perfectly on their rails when first opened and closed. Every time special tools were needed, or parts were required, a member would provide or find an outside source to fulfill the need. Many times they worked to get them donated or purchased at a reduced cost. In September of 1979, one year later, EAA Chapter had a home.
Over the years the hangar has continued to serve an ever-growing Chapter with more varied needs. Kitchen facilities have been added, the original wood doors have been replaced with metal ones, holes in the roof have been repaired, etc. But this is also done, as in the past, with volunteer labor. It is the focal point desired by the original visionaries who sold the then small Chapter on the idea of undertaking this task. It continues to serve us well.
In November of 1999, a 360 square foot hangar loft was completed. The planning began in Spring of that year. Don Ide had done most of the planning work. Geoff Peabody donated the welding. In July the steel plates were bolted to the floor and the beam was put into position. Don Ide’s construction helpers included Al Herron, Al’s father-in-law, Jim Critchfield, and others.
Have you ever wondered how Chapter 512 came to be? Well, you are about to find out.
It seems several local EAA types were either members or began visiting Chapter 52 meetings at Sacramento. Ernie Nicolls, Dr. Earl Sanderson, and Dave Conrad were members when Bob O'Hara and Art Criss began visiting. As Bob and Criss were returning from a meeting in the fall of 1973, they began to wonder if there was enough interest around the Placerville area to form a chapter. Bob and the guys started asking around and soon had enough bodies rounded up for Bob to request chapter formation information from EAA national and begin working with the California Secretary of State for tax exempt corporation status. The group started meeting at Al Jesperson's hanger to work on getting the chapter started.
Finally the charter for Hangtown EAA Chapter 512 arrived, dated April 1, 1974.
Among the first really important items to be accomplished by the chapter was the design of a logo. Several ideas were submitted, but the one that best showed the Hangtown theme was the one drawn by Art Criss, the one in use today.
The original officers were: Dr. Sanderson, President; Bob O'Hara, Vice President; Aileen Nicolls, Secretary; Jerry Henley, Treasurer; Dave Conrad, Historian; and Art Criss, Designee.
Charter members were: Jack Snyder, Jess Frampton, Ernie Nicolls, John McPherson, Don "Jack" Armstrong, Brian Matthews, Robert Bland, James Kearns, Harold Peak, Mickey Maher, Fred Alleman, Cory Edgecombe, Warren Tufts, and Gary Diehl. Lynn Dean, FAA, was the first Honorary Member.
Family participation has been very important since the beginning, and still is today. Surely one of the main reasons for the continuous success and popularity of the chapter.