A Brief History of the First Decade of the
Carolinas - Virginia Antique Airplane Foundation, Inc.
By Jack Cox
Both the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and the Antique Airplane Association (AAA) were founded in 1953 and were well established nationally by the early 1960s when the first attempts were made to create a local affiliate in the Carolinas/Virginia area. According to Swanson Poer, the earliest attempt was by Colonel Jim Hamilton of Charlotte, NC.
Sometime around 1962, Col. Hamilton obtained a list of owners of pre-World War II aircraft residing in North Carolina and mailed out cards inviting them to attend an organizational meeting in Winston-Salem. Unfortunately, the weather was terrible on the appointed date and no one showed up. Discouraged by what he assumed was a lack of interest, Col. Hamilton gave the list of names to Ernie Webb of Charlotte who, in turn, passed it on to Swanson Poer. Consequently, early in 1962, Swanson and Jackie Poer sent out cards to the owners inviting them to a gathering at the Burlington, NC airport. To their pleasant surprise, seven antique airplanes showed up and the good fellowship enjoyed that day sowed the seed that would later result in the formal establishment of our organization.
Swanson and Jackie tried to get the owners together again early in 1963, but bad weather kept all but a few stalwarts like Ernie Webb away. Later that summer, however, the first formal steps were taken to form what would become the Carolinas Virginia Antique Airplane Association Foundation. Evander Britt, a Lumberton, NC attorney, obtained a list of East Coast members of the Antique Airplane Association and proceeded to mail each of those living in the Carolinas and Virginia a newsletter he had written which outlined a complete plan for a new organization - even to the extent of a proposed slate of officers. Evander volunteered to serve as secretary and newsletter editor, and proposed Gordon Sherman of Gastonia, NC as the group’s first president, along with Dolph Overton of Mullins, SC as first vice president, Swanson Poer of Greensboro, NC as second vice president and Fred Simmons of Shelby, NC as treasurer.
It is not known today whether all the proposed officers were warned in advance of their impending appointments - but that was just Evander’s way. Taking the bull by the horns and getting things done was his normal method of operation, whether in his law practice or in his hobby of buying, restoring and selling antique airplanes. In any event, Evander sent out about 60 of his newsletters, dated August 8, 1963, and continued to do so each month at his own expense until the group accumulated a treasury that could pay for paper and stamps.
Gordon Sherman accepted his appointment as the group’s acting president and announced in Evander’s September 1963 newsletter a “First Fly-In” to be held October 12-13, 1963 at the Gastonia, NC airport. Fortunately, the fly-in turned out to be a great success and the new officers were formally elected during the Saturday night awards dinner.
Ernie Webb’s Travel Air 2000 was named the Most Outstanding Antique of that First Fly-In, which is why that airplane is on our logo today. The 1963 Gastonia Fly-In received full coverage in the February 1964 issue of the AAA News, with articles and photos by John Howard and Frank Hartman, and brought a number of new members. The Carolinas Virginia Antique Airplane Association Foundation had been chartered by the state of North Carolina as a non-profit, non-stock corporation, with Gordon Sherman, Fred Simmons and Evander Britt as the incorporators. Everything was legal now!
The Foundation’s second fly-in was held at Burlington, NC on May 30-31, 1964 and was hosted by Swanson and Jackie Poer. Gastonia was again the fly-in site that fall, on the weekend of October 10-11. Fly-ins held for remainder of the 1960s were:
1965 - Newport News, VA - May 15-16
Gastonia, NC - September 25-26
1966 - Florence, SC - May 21-22
Gastonia, NC - September 24-25
1967 - Burlington, NC - June 10-11
Gastonia, NC - Sep. 30/Oct. 1
1968 - Camden, SC - May 25-26
Fredericksburg, VA - July 13-14
Gastonia, NC - October 5-6
1969 - Wings and Wheels, Santee, SC - May 3-4
Fredericksburg, VA - June 21-22
Gastonia, NC - September 27-28
AAA president Bob Taylor was on hand at Gastonia in 1964 to present the group a charter, making the Foundation an affiliate of the Antique Airplane Association. The following year at Gastonia, the new editor of the AAA magazine, Richard Bach, would be on hand to represent the national organization. Richard would later become the world-acclaimed author of the aviation allegory, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Evander Britt continued to serve as newsletter editor until the demands of his law practice compelled him to resign the post in May of 1966. Jack and Golda Cox of Asheboro, NC began writing, printing and mailing the publication in June of 1966 and would continue through the end of 1969 when they resigned and began 30 year careers at EAA in Wisconsin in January of 1970. Golda came up with the name Antique Airways in 1966 and the newsletter has used that title ever since. Ray Bottom would succeed the Coxes and would publish Antique Airways for a remarkable 32 years. The Carolinas Virginia Antique Airplane Association Foundation had six presidents during the 1960s. They were, in succession:
Gordon Sherman - 1963/1965
Swanson Poer - 1965/1966
George McKiernan - 1966/1967
Dolph Overton - 1967/1968
Dick Austin - 1968/1969
Ken Hyde - Beginning in September of 1969
All were inspired leaders and each built onto the Foundation’s strengths, laying an enduring foundation for the organization as it exists today. The Carolinas Virginia Antique Airplane Association Foundation ended the 1960s as the largest local or area organization of its type in the United States, and its annual fly-ins were the largest held on the East Coast until the advent of the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In in Florida in the late 1970s.