Airport history explored and explained

By Don McAlavy: CNJ columnist

Several times in the past couple of years I have been asked about the history of the Clovis Municipal Airport on East 21st Street.

I didn’t have any history of this airport. And when I started researching, I ran into a brick wall, so to speak.

It seemed all the people involved in the creation of CMA (Clovis Municipal Airport) have died.

I finally talked four Clovis men into helping me, a couple of them old-timers and pilots that flew out of CMA. They came up with some information that was useful, but I still didn’t have a date when CMA was built. You have to have a date — a beginning.

I went through some old Clovis News Journal papers and ran across a story on “Clovis Chamber of Commerce history parallels that of Clovis.” In it was a brief item saying that the “CofC spearheaded efforts to obtain improved air service in 1957. City Attorney Harry Patton and City Manager Marvin Hass were also quite active in this matter.”

That article got me to thinking about the Chamber and my old friend Bob Spencer, manager of the chamber for 24 years. Before he died in 1982 he told his wife to give me a small box of his notes, etc., concerning Clovis. I thought I had lost those notes, but finally dug them up and went through them. Near the bottom was a document: CLOVIS MUNICIPAL AIRPORT.

The document was compiled around 1970 by Burnice Nowell (secretary) with the help of City Manager Marvin Hass.

Here are the highlights:
• In 1956, negotiations were completed on the airport site, and the title on the land was conveyed to the federal government in May of that year. The government, in exchange for this acreage, agreed to furnish $175,000 to the city in relocation funds (relocating CMA from the airbase to a site east of Clovis). The city then received matching federal funds for the acquisition and constructions of a new airport facility.

Eight hundred acres of land approximately seven miles east of the city were purchased. The cost for the land, buildings, runways and lighting was $745,926. The city put up $325,000 of this amount and government funds financed the rest.

The project was completed in 1958. Hasie & Green of Lubbock had the engineering contract; Jim Burran was the architect; W. R. Bauske did the construction, and Floyd Haake constructed the runways and lighting.

By 1961, Frank Murray, Art Jentzen and Archie Boney had the Clovis Aviation Inc. in action as the authorized Piper dealers, air charters, air ambulance, flight instruction, aircraft sales and airport rentals.

The city constructed a bank of 10 T-hangars in 1968 and a bank of eight in 1969, bringing the total number of hangars to 34. Lydick Engineering was awarded the engineering contract with K. Barnett & Sons having the construction contract.

Commercial air service was provided by Continental Airlines up to 1963. Trans Texas/International Airlines provided carrier service since 1963. (Remember, this history only goes to around 1970.)

This document would surely be in the archives of the city of Clovis. I sent Steve Summers, current manager of CMA, a full copy of this document. Summers has been manager for the last 11 years and prior to him was Jerry Golledge who was manager about 17 years.

I know now why I didn’t recall the construction in 1957 of the CMA. I was in college in California and I had only three things in mind: the song “Purple People Eater” (came out in 1957) and Russia’s Sputnik went into space that year. Oh, I about forgot. Girls were the third thing, I recall.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at:
dmcalavy@telescopelab.com