Each step down the Oregon Aviation Historical Society’s (OAHS) runway was a step back in time last Saturday. There was a journey to 1928 to a Chrysler model 65 roadster, a trip to 1941 via an Interstate Cadet aircraft and a multitude of other stops throughout the 20th century along the way.
Over 50 vintage planes, cars and motorcycles were showcased for nearly 200 visitors in Cottage Grove last weekend at the sixth annual Wings & Wheels.
“I’m just thrilled. It worked exactly perfectly today,” said new OAHS executive director Janice Scanlon. “I call it an orchestra: you rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, you prepare, you read the notes and now I just feel like a deep breath, it’s a sigh. I look for smiling faces, happy people. I look for things running smoothly. It all worked.”
The annual event brings together planes, motorcycles, cars and the enthusiasts who make them run to swap stories as these vehicles are on display to the public. For Cottage Grove native John Barrong, the day represents celebrating Oregon’s aviation past, enjoying the present with those in attendance and hoping to inspire future generations.
Barrong’s history with these vintage items began with his grandfather who had the second pilot license in the state of Oregon and the first plane in Cottage Grove. This love for all things with an engine was passed down to Barrong who, at the age of 10, took up welding to keep up with his love of go-karts.
“So my one uncle was a welder and so he said, ‘You need to learn to weld something, stuff doesn’t fall apart.’ So then I bought a welder and I started welding go-karts so it doesn’t fall apart. You can go faster and not worry about things coming off,” said Barrong. “I would have damaged myself if I didn’t learn to weld. So that’s how that all started. And it never stopped.”
Now Barrong has a hunger for the hobby and a hangar full of engines (including a diesel engine from the 1920s), motorcycles (he just traded for a 1932 Harley), cars (too many to count) and some planes for good measure. On Saturday, he displayed his 1929 Ford Speedster, 1997 one-of-a-kind Adams Arrow plane and 1990 FLSTC Harley Davidson.
“So I’m 41 years old now so in 25 years I’ve collected this mass of antique cars, planes, motorcycles, hit and miss engines, steam engines, traction engines, everything under the sun. And just because it interests me. Figuring out how to fix things and how it works has always been what I’ve done,” said Barrong. “It’s kind of key to preserve that history, I think. And show the youth that you can do this. You can build and fly your own dang airplane if you want to.”
Down the runway from Barrong sat Mathew Northway with his 1941 Interstate Cadet. The plane that served as a trainer during World War II wound up as Northway’s after it was initially owned by a dentist in Southern California during the war and sat stagnant on a runway in Wyoming for decades. With no wings, engine or interior, the plane ended up resting in a hangar before Northway purchased it in 2014.
“I put a lot of money into this but what people don’t realize is pre-war and post-war, from about 1940 to about 1955 they made a lot of little planes. Just like this that if you’re interested in flying, you can buy one of those for about the price of a good used Toyota,” said Northway. “People think they need to be millionaires to fly a plane but in fact, if you’re willing to fly an older, fabric-covered plane, you can do it for between 15 and 20 thousand dollars. And you’re in.”
After the plane was put back together by Tim Talen near Creswell, it was back in the skies as Northway flew it to Oshkosh, Wisc. where it received an award for being rebuilt. Since then, Northway and his plane stay primarily in Oregon with trips to Crescent Lake, Odell Lake and John Day to visit family.
But on Saturday, it was about being on the runway and being able to talk to like-minded individuals about something he loves.
“I like to go to events like this because I can sit with friends and talk about planes, I can talk to people who are interested in it,” said Northway. “I’m a member of the Oregon Aviation Historical Society and this is a fundraiser for them so I like to bring the plane out and keep people to come in.”
While the planes were front and center, off to the side of the event was 81-year-old George Beebe sitting with his 1928 model 65 roadster Chrysler. In 1957, when Beebe was 19, he bought it for $80 and drove it off the lot.
Since then he has acquired other cars, including his award-winning 1932 Chrysler Sedan. But for Beebe, like so many other son the day, he enjoyed being able to share his car with those around him.
“Personally, every guy has his own thing, this is where I get warm and fuzzy,” said Beebe gesturing to the all the cars and planes around him. “Sitting out in the sun, watching the people.”