Harley Busam

Mt. Healthy Airport Stories

Harly Busam

I graduated from the old aviation school in 1943 and got a job out here at the Mt. Healthy Airport in 1943. There was a fellow by the name of Jerry Greenfield, who was running the airport at the time or had rented it out. And there was another fellow we always called him Pop Muhlberger. He had a ninety-nine year lease on the airport from Mr. Bosserman, the owner of the property. The ninety-nine year lease was for one hundred dollars a year. Before they built Northgate Mall they had a very large problem getting the land title straighten out.

Pop Muhlberger talked to Mr. Bosserman and somehow or another got the land in his name. When they tried to build Northgate Mall, Pop was living in Florida. They went down there and had an awful time settling with him. I don’t have any idea what kind of money he got out of it, but the title probably was ten years late being delivered.

Pop Muhlberger’s plane was in the T-Hanger, his X-4. That’s the first airplane I took a ride in, an old X-4, an old X-5. It had a pilot seat in the front, open cockpit bi-plane. It had a real big back end where four people could sit, in an open cockpit in the backend. Right after I got my first airplane ride, I got a job at the airport, and by that time, Pop Muhlberger had moved to Florida.

I was a hanger boy over there when I started out. I think I made about half a buck an hour. I would go in about eight a.m., bring the airplanes out, and tie them down. When people come for their planes for their joy rides, I would prop them up and get them started. That went on for a couple of weeks. My salary was pretty near thirty dollars one week. I was getting fifty cents an hour, twelve hours a day, seven days a week.  Greenfield said, “You’re making too darn much money.” He said, “Would you take $27.50 a week and start at ten a.m. and close up every night?” I agreed to that, so that’s how I started at the Mt. Healthy Airport.

I only worked there about nine months. I remember one time an old Grumman Hellcat came in there during the war. It flamed out coming in and tore up our runway, but he did get into the airport and landed safely. Then they all went straight across the street and had themselves a couple of beers at the old Hudepohl Tavern. That was a thrill for me because I was just a kid yet, seventeen years old.

I remember across the street from the airport, there was an old shed, which was formerly a gas station, and the Hudepohl Tavern at one time.  Then they converted it to an old barn where we tried to rebuild old airplanes. We’d tear the fabric off the old wings. I remember one time we were in there putting new linen on the wings, and old man Bosserman use to sit up there and watch me. This one particular day, I remember, I was spraying dope on these wings to try to stretch the fabric and make it look like a decent job. It was so cold in there, and we had a potbelly stove. It was pretty near red-hot. It’s a wonder it didn’t explode.

We were sitting there in all that mist, from the dope that was sprayed around there. Nothing ever bothered it. I can remember old man Bosserman saying to me, “Boy, if you ever get a little money, you ought to buy this corner here. I’ll sell it to you for two thousand dollars. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that. I guess that’s worth a couple of million dollars today, at least.

Then there was Joe Rudolph, the principal of Colerain School. He got interested in flying and I guess Joe was up in his late 50's. He was as much as sixty when he started flying. He got his first private pilot license. Anyway Joe, I think the name of the airplane was a Curtis Fairchild, had us do the whole plane. We re-fabricated it, and he insisted on having a cream color enamel paint put on it.

I guess we painted that thing a half of dozen times. You cannot paint over dope; it blisters. He insisted he had to have enamel, and we insisted it could not be done. I don’t even remember what the end of the end of the story was, but I know he was very displeased with our work. Joe was a pretty hard guy to get along with.

Joe Hudepohl had his tavern first in the old toll house shack, on the northwest corner of Colerain and Springdale. This was before he moved to the northeast corner of that intersection. On that corner Joe had a regular dance hall, tavern, a service station and everything there in 1943. Joe would kid with me that is where he first had his tavern.

The Bevis Tavern was open before prohibition and was located in the area where Sun Appliances is today. In fact, we had our wedding reception there June 5, 1946, in the tavern itself. We had our breakfast served there, and in the evening, we had our reception. Pete and Nick Kahles owned it then. It was vacant all during the war years, and after the war, they reopened it.

At one time there was a tollhouse on the southeast corner, where White Castle is today. Where Pearle is today, there was also a gas station and this old barn where they sold penny candy. On the northwest corner there was a very large sycamore tree, two of them, and it would take two or three men with their arms outstretched, touching, to reach around the tree.

One time at the airport I was in a plane and we were dusting the field. They would plow up the field over there to redo the runway.  As they did the runway we had to reseed it, so I had to sit in the back of the plane. We’d drill a hole through the old Piper Cub and had a flexible tub with a funnel in it. I sat in the back with a bag of rye grass seed over my back, dumping it through that funnel. That’s how we replanted the field that time.

 When it rained very hard no one could take off, but with the cinder based runway that Jerry Greenfield put in, it was not a problem taking off or landing in the rain. It was all grass and cinders. They didn’t need a very long runway for those little Pipers, but when that Grunman came in, he used everything we had. When you came in from the east, you had to slip your plane over those wires.

There was a fellow who went to school with me by the name of Harry Stricter. He was a Jewish boy whose mother had lots of money. I think Jerry Greenfield backed Harry a little bit. Harry would fly out of here. He was learning to be an instrument pilot.

I remember Harry and a fellow by the name of Duke Howell. They took off from our airport for a trip up to Cape Cod. They got to Pennsylvania somewhere, and Harry pulled the plane into a stall taking off from this little airport in Pennsylvania. The plane came down and Harry lost his life. Duke Howell lived to tell the story.

Right before that, we did some work on that plane, and I was scared to death that I had made a mistake. When Duke came back, he said the mistake was not ours. It was a complete power failure. He had pulled the plane through a stall, so that relieved me a bit.

There was a plane crash over on Poole Road. I had to go over there and get it. The plane took off from the airport. The motor quit over Poole Road and went down in a cornfield over there. Myself and a couple of other fellows went over there. I believe Elmer Lierer was home on leave, so we all drove over. We took a rope and pulled the plane out of the cornfield. We brought it over Poole Road down Springdale Road until we got it back to the airport.

When the plane came into the cornfield, it hit, nosed over, and broke the prop on it. We fixed it all up.  All we did was replace the prop on it and replace a couple of spars. Elmer helped, but when he came back for good, he went back to work at the airport and worked there until it closed.

We prefabricated the tail assembly of an old cruiser. We tore off the old fabric on the tail end. A fellow by the name of Al Wineberg, a flight instructor who later went down to Florida, was helping repair the plane.

Al was welding one of the pipes.  These planes were made of nothing but pipes on the back end, and it caught fire. What fabric was left on the body was what caught on fire. The blaze got up into the hanger, but we got out safely.  That fabric would burn so fast.  In a couple of seconds it was gone. I was supposed to be standing with a fire extinguisher, but it didn’t work.

There was at the airport what they called the Glasshouse. That’s where we had an office. They use to sell sandwiches and things like that there. It’s easy to remember the GlassHouse; it was pretty near all windows. It was an elongated building, say 20-25 ft long, maybe 15 ft wide.

When they broke up the airport, they took the old Glasshouse, jacked it up, and took it down Springdale Road.  Today that house is down at 6000 Sheits Rd. They redid it and today it is Stucco Brown. After the airport closed, King Bee Leasing took over part of the space for a car lot.

Powell Crosley owned all the property on the southeast corner of Colerain and Springdale up to Service Merchandise. I was living up at 9300 Colerain Pk and happened to be home one afternoon when I heard these planes coming right over the house. The jets had flamed out and were looking for Wright-Pattterson airport at Dayton, but they found little Lakewood Airport on Pippin Road. Mt. Healthy Airport was closed then, and Lakewood had a blacktop runway, but the Jets just tore it up. They did get in safely, all three of them.

I put on my shoes and zipped right on over to Lakewood airport. The airport was right in my backyard, and I could walk through the field to the airport. I got to talk to these pilots. I asked one pilot, a captain who was only nineteen years old, what it was like sitting in one of those planes. He said that it was like sitting on a keg of dynamite.

They came down from Dayton and got them out of there. Joe Rudolph, the teacher from Colerain High School, had one of the biggest planes at the airport. I think it was a Cessna. We refabricated it and painted it for him in the old shack on the northwest corner of Colerain and Springdale.

Corky Sheilds had an old world war, well a 1930-33 fighter plane. He bought a Fairchild training plane at a salvage place. That could be about the biggest plane that ever came in over at Mt. Healthy. They didn’t have that long of a runway.

There were two small lakes at the south end of the property, and Pop Muhlberger started pay-fishing lakes, but they didn’t last too long.

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