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Flagpole from WWI-era Rich Field will be preserved as Waco High School is replaced

What may be dishonorably described as a glorified stick within the floor, the flagpole behind Waco High School stands tall over a outstanding story.

In its first yr, a whole lot of Army Air Cadets saluted the flag it carried over Rich Field, the US Army’s Waco base for flight coaching throughout World War I. After the troopers left, she supported flags on the website of Waco’s fledgling air transport and starting of passenger service.

It disappeared from public view after the town’s air service shifted to what is now Waco Regional Airport, solely to reappear in 1969 at a brand new location at Richfield High School. It stood there for generations of scholars who walked to class throughout the plaza behind the principle constructing of what is now Waco High School.

More than 100 years after its erection, the battered and weather-beaten flagpole could be extending its life elsewhere, the brand new Waco High School, below building a few hundred yards away.

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The flagpole behind Waco High School, which may be unlovingly described as a glorified stick within the floor, stands tall over a outstanding historical past stretching again to Rich Field, Waco’s huge World War I base.

Brad Willis, a member of the 1971 Richfield High Class and a fan of native historical past, hopes so.

Willis has saved an eye fixed on the flagpole over time, photographing it within the Nineteen Eighties for the McLennan County Historical Commission as a World War I-era relic in Waco. With the Waco Independent School District planning to construct a brand new Waco High close to the present college, which was a part of a $355 million mortgage for the varsity’s building, he puzzled the place it might go subsequent.

“What makes this so significant to me is that it has survived for more than 100 years,” he stated. “I would hate to see it get lost over time.”

Though its paint is severely peeling and the small iron fence surrounding three sides of its concrete block is dented, the flagpole has not but come down. If it does, preparations are underway to maneuver to a brand new website close to the long run Waco High School, stated Kevin Hafer, WISD assistant director of building.

The flagpole is believed to be the one surviving artifact from Rich Field, which was a busy coaching base within the Army Air Corps’ infancy. It coated 690 acres, with the center of the operation roughly bounded by what is now Lake Air Road, New Road, Bosque Boulevard, and Cobbs Drive. It was a smaller counterpart to Camp MacArthur, the Army’s sprawling coaching base established on some 10,900 acres on the north fringe of Waco.

Rich Field flagpole

Brad Willis, a Waco historical past buff and Richfield High School graduate, says the Rich Field flagpole on Waco High School’s campus represents historical past value preserving.

Jerry Larson, Tribune Herald

It took the title of C. Perry Rich of the Philippine Army Boy Scouts, who died in a flying accident in Manila Bay, Philippines in 1913 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The base, constructed on the flat prairies exterior of Waco, opened August 24, 1917, to coach cadets in flying, images, and dropping bombs—all new expertise for the Army Air Force. At the height of its operations, it had 81 buildings and greater than 300 plane in 16 hangars.

Biplanes, singly and in formation, buzzed over McLennan County at a time when vehicles and trains coexisted with horse and mule wagons.

The subject was residence base for 3 air squadrons and supported the coaching of 339 cadets throughout its two years of service, eight of whom died in plane accidents.

Military coaching ceased in 1919 after the top of World War I, however the place Camp MacArthur appeared to vanish inside months of its decommissioning, a fledgling aviation trade used Rich Field as a base for Waco. According to Anabel Burke’s article on Rich Field at wacohistory.org, the sector was used for freight visitors within the Nineteen Twenties, with passenger visitors starting on March 30, 1929.

In the Nineteen Thirties, Texas Air Transport provided two routes with stops in Waco, a Fort Worth-Dallas-Waco-San Antonio route and a Fort Worth-Waco-Houston-Galveston route. The stone constructing that now homes the Waco Lions Club dates from Rich Field’s enterprise days.

In 1941, the town purchased land for a brand new airport close to China Spring, which turned the Blackland Army Air Field the following yr. Rich Field returned to navy service as an extra coaching subject, however the focus of Waco’s industrial and passenger air service shifted to Blackland, which turned Waco Regional Airport after the struggle.

In 1951, the Heart O’Texas Coliseum and Fairgrounds had been constructed on a part of what was previously Rich Field, and its aviation days had been quickly remembered.

Its destiny throughout this time is unclear, however an October 15, 1961 Waco Tribune-Herald article on Camp MacArthur mentions it. It was reported that Rich Field’s authentic flagpole would be given to “Joe Brownfield’s place near McLennan Crossing on the Bosque” by the Heritage Society of Waco, Historic Waco’s predecessor, for set up within the Mann House, now East Terrace ought to. after residence repairs.

This article ends with a prescient phrase: “In brief, it (the flagpole) may be the only tangible reminder of the days when there were more soldiers than civilians in Waco.”

Historic Waco has no report of whether or not the flagpole ever made it to the Mann House, Executive Director Eric Swanson stated, however its subsequent verifiable location comes eight years later, when Brownfield gave it to the Richfield High School Key Club on the new highschool introduces. which opened in 1961.

At the time of its set up within the quadrangle behind the varsity’s most important constructing, the flagpole had a marble plaque at its base that learn “The original Rich Field Army Base flagpole. Presented to the Richfield High School Key Club, May 8, 1969” and a small fence round his concrete slab.

This is the flagpole remembered by Willis and his colleague Michael Parrish, a member of the Class of ’71 and now a historical past professor at Baylor University, from their time at Richfield. Even then, they concede, few college students possible took discover and raised the highschool flag on their approach to class.

It’s nonetheless a testomony to Waco’s historical past and price preserving, Parrish stated. The flagpole is a uncommon artifact from the town’s World War I days, a pivotal time in American historical past as the nation moved from isolation to a participant on the world stage, and is an emblem of Waco’s dedication to aviation within the United States over the many years.

“It’s a miracle it’s survived all these years,” he remarked.

That’s the story Willis needs to maintain. “What (the flagpole) means is that he’s a survivor,” he stated.

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