Monday, June 03, 2013

Mystery Photo No. 36: A tough mystery to solve - Greene County Airport (KWAY), Waynesburg, Pennsylvania

Mystery Photo No. 36

by Jon Stevens
Greene County Bureau Chief

Published Jun 2, 2013 at 11:40 pm (Updated Jun 2, 2013 at 11:40 pm)

This was a tough one – eight young men standing and kneeling beside a Piper Cub on the grassy infield of Greene County Airport, most likely in the early 1940s.

We expected a lot of calls from people who could readily recognize some or all of those in the picture. We received one call, from Enid Crockard of Dry Tavern, who is “almost positive” the man standing on the far left was her husband-to-be, Charles Crockard.

“It sure looks like him, because he and his friends would go the airport to take flying lessons,” she said.

Crockard’s phone call was much appreciated, but so many unanswered questions remained, such as, what was the meaning of the wording “Waynesburg Wolfpack” on the T-shirt worn by the man standing second from left? If this photo was in fact taken in the early 1940s, did these flying lessons have anything to do with war preparations?

Leave it up to James “Fuzzy” Randolph, curator of the museum at Waynesburg University, to clear up some of the mystery.

First, Frank Wolf was the head football coach and head basketball coach at Waynesburg College from 1928 to 1941, and 1928 to 1943, respectively, Randolph produced copies of The Yellow Jacket, the college’s newspaper, which often referred to Wolf’s teams as the “Wolfpack,” although the college kept its athletic nickname as the Yellow Jackets.

Perhaps more telling as to why that man was wearing the T-shirt was that Wolf also was the coordinator of the Army and Navy aviation courses at the college, and dozens of stories in The Yellow Jacket shed some lights as to why young men might be gathered around a plane at Greene County Airport.

Although we do not know whether these the young men in the photo were college students, a story in the college newspaper Jan. 16, 1942, says “College to Emphasize C.P.T. Course.” C.P.T. stands for Civilian Pilot Training.

Briefly, the story says, “This course is now quite definitely a part of the country’s quest for supremacy in the air.”

The article continues, “The current war necessitated a drastic move by the national government in regard to student pilots. Within a few hours after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor early in December (1941), all pilot licenses, including the student licenses of the C.P.T. classes, were temporarily suspended. They are now being reinstated.”

And one last headline: “College has trained 57 in two years; 21 already active in U.S. Air Service.”

Randolph believes one reason the men may have been hard to identify was that prospective pilots came from all over the area, not just from Greene County. And, Randolph said, if any attended the college, they could have been from anywhere.

Look for another Mystery Photo in next Monday’s Observer-Reporter.

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