Monday, January 5, 2009

Convairs, 727's and MKE

In the first of I hope MANY 'fan stories,' my good friend and fellow Hermanphile, Arron Propsom sent a wonderful story, along with some photos for us to enjoy.

'Back in December of 1983, I had just finished my Annual School Musical and I was sick as a dog. My throat felt like I'd eaten a box of razor blades. I was definitely sick and wanted to go home and get into bed. The following morning I awoke way too sick to go to school so my Mom needed to find a neighbor, or someone, who could watch me, seeing she had to go to the airport (MKE-Milwaukee) to pick up Grandma, who was flying in from MSP on Republic Airlines. Too my luck, no one was able to watch me that day since there was a pretty heavy snow storm occurring, and the schools were closed, so most parents had to worry about their own kids. Lucky for me, I thought, as I was about to experience the events of the next few hours!

Mom had no choice but to bundle me up and take me with her to the airport, which shouldn't be a problem seeing we were going to just pull up the Baggage Claim area and pick up Grandma. After waiting about 20 minutes, with no sign of Grandma, my Mom told me to wait in the car and she went in to check the arrivals. Soon after, Mom returned and said that we were going to have to go in as the flight was delayed in arriving for about 30 minutes. By this time I was starting to feel better, probably because I knew I was going inside the airport and was going to get to see some airplanes!

We made our way into the terminal, where a Flight Attendant for Republic has heading in the opposite direction, stopped me and gave me a pair of Republic kiddie wings and an Unaccompanied Minor button, which I still have to this day. We made our way into the Republic Terminal, which I always called 'The Circle,' because that is basically what it was; a big circle terminal with 6 gates in the main circular area and 2 gates on the stem. Mom and I waited for over an hour when an update was made that Grandma's plane was still in MSP, so we decided to go and get some lunch at the airport restaurant. This was a very neat restaurant to a kid, seeing it overlooked the ramp. I will never forget how neat the ramp looked with all the snow and how a group of Northwest Orient 727's really stood out in the snow. Mom decided we should get a grilled cheese sandwich; YUCK! I hate grilled cheese sandwiches and, too this day, I've not eaten another. After lunch we returned to the terminal to wait for an update. Mom thought it would be a good idea for me to stretch out and rest, seeing my fever was picking up again. That didn't seem to last long because I heard that sound that was music to my ears; there was a Convair coming in! I raced over to the gate to watch it roll in and shut down, watching the passengers disembark, to which I was then given strict orders to get back to our gate and lay down!

I rested for maybe a half hour when I heard the sound of jet engines coming into the gate and I wanted to know what it was. I went up to the gate next door to ours and all I could say was 'WOW!' This was the first time that I'd ever seen a Republic 727 in person. Mind you, still not as good as a Convair, but I was in awe seeing this airplane, and it looked huge to me for some reason. Shortly after we heard an announcement that there was going to be a flight arriving at our gate from Eau Claire. Once again I heard the sound of Allison engines getting near and I raced to the window. Out of the snow, the ghostly outline of a Convair appeared. I watched as people disembarked and noticed my Grandma was walking across the tarmac, weird I thought, since this flight was coming from Eau Claire and not Minneapolis.

I always loved watching the people come up the stairs off the ramp, and about 3rd to last was my Grandma. We said our hellos and Grandma began talking about her adventure in trying to get from Minneapolis. First to note would be that this was her first flight ever so this turned out to be adventure for her. The first two direct flights were cancelled out of MSP so the only way she was going to get to MKE was to fly via Eau Claire on the Convair. If Grandma had made her original flight, she would've flown on a DC-9 and not the I feel really blessed for that!

In 1984, Republic began drawing down operation at MKE, which would be the last time I ever saw the Convair in MKE until the short return of NWA Mini Hub in 1988. The one time it paid off to be sick, and it was totally worth it. If a time machine is ever invented, I am going back to that day, the day I got to spend with Republic.'

Arron attached a few photos of the MKE North Central/Republic Terminal, courtesy of Scott Grieger and Chuck Boie. This terminal is still used today by NWA, but has been completely remodeled. Of note is the photo of the walk way the people walking towards you...note the very bottom left corner of the photo. :) I see Herman in the floor!


Anonymous said...

Oh and there was a excellent little ice cream stand. If memory servers me right it was right to the left as you entered the circle. They had the best frozen strawberry yogurt. I have not been able to find any as good as the yogurt at the airport.

Hey anybody remember the T.V. seats? I think you put a quarter
in and could watch T.V. at the airport.


Rand Robinson said...

I remember those seats. I recall seeing them in the hallways at DTW in the 1980's. I think 25 cents would give you 15 or 30 minutes of local programming.

Speaking of DTW, anyone else have some old DTW terminal memories they'd like to share?

Anonymous said...

Amiable post and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you on your information.