A Hawthorne School of Aeronautics Memorial Plaque was dedicated at Spence Air Base on October 12, 2004 in conjunction with the 2004 Spence/Hawthorne Reunion. It is located at the base of the control tower, on the east side. The accompanying pictures were taken facing west toward the tower.
MOULTRIE -- There's a lot of
new stuff out at
Spence Field off Quitman Highway these days. And there are
a lot of memories.
It was the memories that took center stage Saturday.
Standing in the shadow of the air conrol tower they used more than 50 years ago, some 30 former instructors, pilots, workers and family gathered at to remember the Hawthorne Flying Service.
A memorial was dedicated to remember the training program that Hawthorne ran from 1951 to 1961 at Spence.
Vivian Griner, the former publication chief for Hawthorne, organized the reunion and memorial at the site of the former instruction program's base. The air control tower and a few hangers still remain from the era, but the former Hawthorne building was torn down. The Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition building now sits on Hawthorne's former site.
The instructors and pilots who came to the dedication ranged from as far away as Springfield, Ill., Richmond, Va., and Nashville, Tenn. Others remained in Moultrie when the training program was deactivated by the U.S. Air Force in Dec. 1960.
Henry Klar, a former pilot at Spence, said he came to the training program from Los Angeles but remained in Moultrie after meeting and marrying his wife in the local Presbyterian church.
A total of 6,470 young men came to Spence Field and were trained to fly and to defend their country. Instructor Doyle White said some trainees came from other countries like Norway, Denmark, France, Germany and Belgium. Those pilots trained for military service, and many went on to fly commercial airliners in their flying career.
The training program was even recognized by the Air Force for its efforts, White said. During its existence, Spence was recognized as being the best training program for flight safety.
During the dedication ceremony, an Air Force T-6A flew overhead, which the group recalled as being very symbolic. White said the Hawthorne instructors and pilots flew the original T-6 trainers used by the Air Force.
Bert Harsh, then vice-president and general manager of Hawthorne, said the memorial reflects the attitude of all the employees at the training facility. The company made every employee, from the mechanics and pilots to the food service personnel, feel like they were making a difference and that their jobs were essential to the operations.
'What made Hawthorne was the people," Harsh said. "Every person was important."
As the numbers of people who worked and trained at the facility decreases each year, White said the dedication was a "satisfying yet moving experience" for those remaining. Looking at the tower allows him to remember when the air field was covered with hundreds of trainer planes.
"It brings back a rewarding experience and a great time in our lives," White said. "There are a lot of memories here."
The Finishing Touch
In 2006 the finishing touch was added when Hawthorne wings and the period of flying training operations were engraved on the base of the memorial. Pictured is Vivion Griner, a former Hawthorne employee who has coordinated the Spence/Hawthorne reunions for several years and was a key player in the planning, creation and installation of the memorial. Our thanks to Vivion for for her great work on the reunions AND the memorial. Thanks also to those who contributed funds to make the memorial possible.