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Cramerton once had an airport too

By Alan Hodge

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Editor’s note: Stories in the May 7 and May 21 editions of the BannerNews profiling small airstrips that once operated in Belmont and Mt. Holly decades ago prompted a response from folks who recalled a similar grass runway in Cramerton.

Once upon a time, the front lawn at Cramerton Middle School was actually the runway of a private airport owned by the Cramer family.

Several people remember the airstrip from stories passed down about it. One of those folks is Hugh Craig, 72, who lives on New Hope Rd. Here’s what he had to say.

“When I was a child, my father took me to see where the airport was but it was grown over with weeds,” he said. “I can barely remember the planes. The runway was near a house owned by Rachel Hannah Hoke (1924-1980).”

Craig shared other stories about the airport that he says were told to him by his uncle and aunt. A couple of them revolved around famed local aviator Manson Arrowood.

“Manson would fly in and out of the airport,” Craig said. “ He had a Fairchild PT19 (a WWII primary trainer with open cockpit). I was told he would take people for rides. He also flew a plane under the Buster Boyd and Wilkinson Blvd. Bridges.”

Perhaps the most interesting thing that Craig had to say about the airport involved Morris Field which was a WWII Army Air Corps pilot training base where Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is now. A street there today is named Morris Field Drive.

“The pilots would fly P40 fighters from Charlotte to the Cramerton airport where they would practice short field landings and takeoffs,” Craig said. “My uncle told me once there was a lady that was washing clothes outside and they dived down in the planes and it scared her so bad she laid on the ground.”

According to Craig, a P40 crashed nearby.

“It happened where Forestview High is now,” he said. “It hit behind where the ballfield is. My daddy said he ran over to the site and the front part of the plane was buried fifteen feet in the ground.”

Later Craig revisited the Cramerton strip.

“It had become a horse pasture,” he said.

Cramerton resident Ted Reece also shared a couple of anecdotes about the strip and two  Cramerton residents/pilots who were said to have used it and who would later become famous. 

“J.B. ‘Killer’ Cain and his sister flew from there,” Reece said. “One time Killer flew down the railroad tracks while E.B. Hudson was preaching at the Baptist Church.”

Killer went on to be a WWII Navy ace and commander of the USS Yorktown. His sister Pauline Cain served in WWII as well.

“She applied to the U.S. Army Air Corps but was turned down,” Reece said “She went to Canada and flew for the Royal Canadian Air Force.”

The person with the closest connection to the Cramerton airport is Warren Cramer, grandson of Stuart Cramer. Here’s what Warren, who lives in Florida, recalled about the strip.

“I have some limited information regarding that airfield,” he said. “George Cramer Sr. was my father,  and he used that field regularly in the 1930s. In fact I think the airfield was built by him with crews from Cramerton Mills.  At that time he had a fine Cabin Waco biplane aircraft. After the War, Dad had a beautiful Twin Beech, which he kept at the Charlotte airport into the 1960s. Dad learned to fly around 1925 from Colonel Elliott White Springs of Springs Mills of Fort Mill SC, who was a family friend and a WW1 ace and well known author of flying books. I believe Springs also flew into the Cramerton field on occasion. I think that General George Patton also flew there, a time or two, as he visited Cramerton often in the ‘30s. I know that Dad took Patton up in his aircraft a few times. I recall a very few tales regarding the airfield and early flying, which I heard from my Dad.” 

Well, there you have it, another story about the golden age of aviation in our area and some of the personalities that made it a time of  daredevil fun and high adventure that still awe and entertain folks today.