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A Taperwing’s Tapestry

THE PYOA CONTEST GRAND PRIZE WINNING STORY

By:  Brittany Lozier Moon

 

As a middle school teacher, when I introduce myself to my students, I always tell them that I grew up at the airport. The questionable looks and glances always lead to my explanation of just how much an airplane can be a part of a family.

 

You see, my father bought a 1929 Taperwing Waco consisting of only paperwork, buckets of parts, and an engine before I was born. After I was born and I started to do the normal things babies do, Cream Soda — as my mother fondly named the Waco — grew too. I remember the “puzzle pieces” of the ribs being cut, glued, and nailed. Wood floating in my bathtub as it was shaped. The wings coming together, fabric being stitched, the smell of the covering finish being applied. Neighbors wondering about this “thing” in our garage. As time moved on, I could climb up Cream Soda myself, pretend to fly, but never really understanding the depth of what I had my hands on until later in life.

I remember the morning that my parents came into my room to tell me Cream Soda was gone — in fact, I think I was more upset that she was gone than if my dad was okay! Thankfully, no one was hurt in the multiplane accident, but part of me, us, my family, my “sister,” was in pieces.

Trials and tribulations. Years passed. My parents divorced. Our time spent with my dad was at the airport. We had the “Wacko” hangar, full of pieces and parts. Freckles, the three-legged dog, would come keep us company as the work to rebuild Cream Soda happened. This time, however, something was different. My brother and I learned exactly what was in our hands: an era of time gone by. An era that is often skipped over for the preferred Warbirds. An era that provided joy, yet many hardships, for pilots. Finally, Cream Soda, our 1929 Taperwing Waco was rebuilt. My brother and I got to enjoy her in a completely different way now that we were older. She was more appreciated, more loved. We understood the importance of keeping her in the air. We understood what it meant to be caretakers of an airplane with a soul.

Then there was the in-flight fire. My brother and I knew it would be up to us to get Cream Soda flying again. She was rebuilt under the careful eye of my dad sharing his knowledge and expertise. However, this time, she was rebuilt with my own boys as they grew. Photos were recreated. Maintenance lessons were taught. Saturdays spent at the airport are once again, with a new generation running around, climbing in to move the stick, and learning about that wonderful aircraft smell. My boys even calling their grandpa “PlanePa.”

In 2021, with my brother 10,000 miles away and after some 30 years of ownership, we started to dig into Cream Soda’s history. What we found was pretty remarkable and unknown to our dad — in fact, he was speechless.

She was originally built for Art Davis as a competition plane in February of 1929. In a matter of days before the Gardner Trophy Air Races in late May, Davis got approval for modifications to achieve an average speed of 140 mph to place third as he ran out of fuel. She then had numerous owners during the early 1930s in the states of Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Missouri.

 

Then in 1935, she was sold to Mike Murphy of Kokomo, Indiana. Our Taperwing was then flown by Mr. Murphy in the squadron known as the Linco Flying Aces, performing and advertising for the Ohio Oil Co. As we continued to discover more, we realized that Mike Murphy happened to be the Mike Murphy who led 400 Waco gliders to start the D-Day invasion in those early morning hours. He miraculously survived a crash, avoided the Germans, and came home to continue his passion in aviation.

As a World War II teacher, I found this connection to be deep. I never had a family member who was in the service, but Mike’s connection with Cream Soda and WWII brought more meaning of WWII to me. When we found this amazing historical connection, we shared this with an elderly friend, Dale, who coincidently grew up at Mr. Murphy’s home airport. It brought tears to his eyes as he remembered and shared with us seeing Mr. Murphy as a young child showing off his skills in a Waco, possibly our Cream Soda.

Seeing Dale light up, reminiscing about a time gone by, telling stories that he hadn’t shared to anyone in decades was something special. Then having Dale come to our hangar to see the Taperwing in person was a moment that we knew not many caretakers of vintage planes witness — a plane’s first audience from an era when Wacos were seen as the best of the best. It was as if time stood still.

After our Taperwing’s remarkable time in Indiana during the 1930s, we learned that other parts of the country were where she called home. These states included Rhode Island and Florida.

Time passed and took its toll on the Waco. However, my story of what grew from paperwork and buckets didn’t start in Indiana, but in Ohio. You see, I was born in Ohio. The buckets were purchased in Ohio. I grew and Cream Soda, our 1929 Taperwing, grew in Ohio. Then she, like any sibling, came along for my family’s move from Ohio, to Illinois, and then to Indiana in 1994. Amazingly, until last year, we never knew that her current home is a mere stone’s throw away from where she was in the 1930s with Mr. Murphy. Somehow through time, being privileged to be caretakers, and unbeknownst to my family until last year, we brought this historical 1929 Taperwing Waco back home again to Indiana.

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