First airplane to land in Portales, May 12, 1919

By Don McAlavy: local columnist

The airplane under the active control of Lt. Smarling and Mechanic Johnson left Roswell Monday at exactly 9:30 a.m. and arrived at Portales at 10:30 a.m., the time of leaving Roswell having been wired to the stationmaster here, according to the Portales newspaper on May 12, 1919.

The day was an ideal one for the purpose of the Fifth Liberty Loan Drive, and fully 1500 people had gathered on the school section to witness the demonstration for the Fifth Liberty Loan Drive. Lt. Smarling did several interesting and difficult stunts in the air, looping the loop, rolling over sideways and many other feats that sound rather terrifying but looked mighty graceful and easy as performed.

After the fancy work, Mrs. M. J. Campbell, chairwoman of the ladies committee of the Victory bond campaign, was designated as the lady who had earned a ride in the airship, by reason of having sold the most bonds, and was given the first ride.

County Chairman James A. Hall was also entitled to a ride, but he very gracefully gave his place to Eddie (Wood) White who had tried to join the air service and had been turned down, and joined the Railroad Engineering Corps in which service he lost one of his arms in the war in Europe. He was in service until wounded.

Like all who witnessed the flights, Hall would have given much for the ride, and it was a real sacrifice he made in order to do honor to a returned soldier boy such as Eddie White.

Ed J. Neer was given the third and last ride, he having bought more bonds than any other individual.

Much care had been taken in having the grounds prepared; it had been freed from mesquite tops, the holes filled and all rough places flagged, and Lt. Smarling complimented Hall highly for this foresight, and stated that Portales had the best aviation ground of any place that he had visited.

The demonstration lasted for about one hour and the people were highly pleased.

The demonstration gave many of our citizens their first chance of seeing one of these planes that played a most important part in the great war.
The entire citizenship of Portales and a large percent of the population from the country were here to greet the officers in charge at the ball grounds just east of town.

As the plane was due in Clovis at 1 p.m., the birdmen moved on, according to orders from their Uncle Sam.

(This article was given to me by Ruth Burns of Clovis, daughter of Eddie White.)

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