Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cleveland Regional Jetport site was home for Ramsey

Yolanda Ramsey

Yolanda Ramsey lived almost all of her 93 years on a farm along Michigan Avenue Road where Cleveland Regional Jetport sets. 

“This used to be an alfalfa field and pasture,” she said Thursday during an interview in the terminal building at Cleveland Regional Jetport. “The (dairy) cows go to the creek at the foot of the hill.”

A portion of the creek still flows at the bottom of the hill. The creek was dammed about 940-feet south of where it entered Little Chatata Creek and rerouted to flow underneath the runway through a three-box culvert system and then into the Little Chatata.

Ramsey is the daughter of the late J. L. and Lina (Reynolds) Ledford. They bought 310 acres in 1910 and the family moved from Chattanooga to Bradley County. She had two older sisters, one older brother and one younger brother.

“My father didn’t do much farming. He always had somebody to do the farming. He traveled a lot and did farm loans and insurance for Prudential Insurance Co., but we were on the farm 100 years,” she said.

“My father offered the farm here for the airport before they built the one over there (Hardwick Field).

“George Castings Jr. came out of the service in World War II. He had a small plane. He had been a pilot, and he landed out here. He took me and my older son (Jon) up for a flight and he tried to get them to buy this property, but they decided on the property over there (off North Lee Highway).”

According to past reports, Hardwick Field was constructed in the early 1950s when Castings built a dirt landing field to be used as a training facility for flight students. Castings had flown P-47 fighter planes in World War II.

In the late 1950s, Castings sold the training center and property to the city of Cleveland for $10,000. The facility, at that time, consisted of a 2,000-foot runway, a 1,000-gallon fuel tank and a six-plane concrete hangar.

Ramsey said she was still willing to sell the farm for Cleveland Regional Jetport on the condition that she could remain in her home for the rest of her life.

“I didn’t want to move,” she said. “But I didn’t know it was going to be like this! I thought it would be an airstrip out there somewhere. I lived by myself, and after they started moving dirt and digging around the house, I just thought it was time for me to get out.

“My daughter (Mary Keasler) had a basement apartment. I have plenty of room there and we get along fine,” she said.

But when she was a little girl, Ramsey attended grammar school at Tasso. The elementary school was located on Tasso Lane. It stood on a hill across the road from Tasso United Methodist Church.

Tasso Baptist Church is there now, not in the same spot, but close. In the early 1900s, Tasso Academy sat on the hillside between the grade school and the road.

“Tasso Academy was the school they had in the late 1800s and early 1900s, even before I can remember,” she said.

Ramsey graduated from Bradley High School in 1937 while the country was still in the midst of The Great Depression. (Bradley High was located where Ocoee Middle School is now).

She remembers well The Great Depression.

“We lived on a farm and we had a garden, had cows and sold milk. We had a separator, sold cream to the creamery in Cleveland and gave the skim milk to the hogs. Now we drink the skim milk,” she recalled. “The Depression didn’t hurt us like it did some people. We were very fortunate.”

Her mother died in 1936 when Ramsey was 16.

“My older sisters went to college, but after she died, it kind of tore the family up, we were different. I went to the McKenzie School of Business in Chattanooga and took a business course. I came back to Cleveland and worked in the county agent’s office and Hardwick Stove Co.. I took a Civil Service test and got a job in the War Department before the war started,” she said.

Ramsey started work at the War Department in 1940, where she checked enlistment records of draftees. She remembers getting on an elevator in the office building where she worked on Monday, Dec. 8, 1941, the day following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

She remembers hearing President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous Pearl Harbor radio address to Congress and the nation earlier in the day at 12:30 p.m.

“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan,” the president stated in the very first sentence of his six-minute appeal to Congress for a declaration of war.

“When I got on the elevator, there was a Japanese couple in the elevator,” Ramsey said. “I remember that very well, going down in the elevator with the Japanese couple with a child.”

No one spoke except to just say, hello, though their quiet ride had more to do with being in an elevator than the attack.

“We hadn’t had time to realize, I guess, what had happened. It was just so quick,” she said.

She worked for the War Department for two years and then moved to Newport News, Va., for a couple of more years where Clyde worked in a shipyard.

“When the war was over we moved back here,” she said. “He and my younger brother (J.L. Ledford) ran the farm together.”

Clyde and Yolanda raised four children: Jon, who lives in Florida, Mary Keasler, the late Sarah Hancock, and Paul.

Read more: Cleveland Daily Banner - Jetport site was home for Ramsey

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