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Beth's Weekly Moultrie Observer Column - Week 6
(This appears here courtesy of The Moultrie Observer)

We're all, as Colquitt Countians, proud of Spence Field. As someone who is not a Moultrie native, I've often wondered about how Moultrie would become an aviation city. Now, in my package of old newspapers, I find an article that will explain.

It was November 13, 1913 when the first "mechanical bird" came to Moultrie. Aviator A. C. Beech, known then as "just a plain darned fool," soared his flying contraption from a takeoff on a baseball field. He amazed the crowd of more than 5,000 persons who had come by car, wagon and train to witness the "flight of man in air." Since that time, according to the old article, Moultrie has become known throughout the nation as somewhat of an aviation center, thanks to Spence Field training activities and to newspaper publicity in connection with the landing here of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The President's plane was The Columbine.

By way of providing air transportation between Moultrie and all parts of the nation, the city became fully "air minded" in May of 1930 when City Council purchased a tract of land in northwest Moultrie from Mrs. Z. H. Clark. Known as Clark Field, the airport was built jointly by the city and FERA (later the SPA). It was formally dedicated October 9, 1934. Several noted speakers, including Senators Walter F. George of Georgia and William H. Bankhead of Alabama delivered addresses. A 45-minute air show completed the ceremonies.

In 1940, a city-county committee pronounced the airport "inadequate for present day needs." Similarly, federal authorities termed Clark Field "too small and confining to be of real value for transport and army planes." Finally, in 1941, the City of Moultrie purchased a 1,597 tract of land and leased it to the federal government for $1 a year. With America's entry into World War II, cadet trainees began arriving. The potential young airmen were trained under the supervision of the Hawthorne School of Aeronautics.

By official count, 5,583 pilots received their wings at graduation exercises during World War II at Spence Field. In addition, 2,337 pilots received transition training in P-39's and P-40's and a contingent of French cadets were sent through flight courses before the field was placed on inactive status in December of 1945. With the closing of the field, commercial aviation in Moultrie was dormant for several years.

In March of 1951, Hawthorne Flying Service was extended a contract to train Air Force cadets at Spence Field in Moultrie, Georgia. This reactivated Spence field and added another chapter to Moultrie's air service story.

Flames completely destroyed a Doerun school building the night of February 7, 1917. The fire was not discovered until it had gained such headway that nothing could be saved. The building was valued at $12,500 but was insured for just $7,000. Defective wiring was blamed for the catastrophe.

Visiting Moultrie in the fall of 1916, J. E. Martin, a New York cotton executive, attended a Georgia Products dinner. Asked what he liked best, he said "possum." He admitted it was the first he had ever tasted, but said that all other meals "were flimsy imitations of something good." Mmmmm.

The Women's Civic League petitioned the Moultrie City Council to make poultry owners keep their chickens cooped up in December of 1914. City Attorney, L. L. Moore, was asked to draw up a suitable ordinance.

It wasn't until December 1, 1910 that cows were finally banned from the streets of Moultrie. The cow retained her freedom overtime, according to civic groups of the time.  Numerous efforts to prevent animals from roaming free on the streets were made by citizens, starting as early as 1895, when visiting farmers argued that "goats and cows are eating the hay off our wagons." The hay was brought along to feed the horses and oxen hitched to various conveyances in which the farmers traveled.

By the turn of the century, Moultrie had more than 2,200 citizens and the general public showed a growing sentiment toward ridding the streets of cows. Leading merchants said they were "becoming embarrassed" to admit on trips to other parts of the country that "cows still harass the merchants and scare the ladies after dark in the downtown area."

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