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Nostalgia takes off at Fairchild reunion

November 07, 2004|BY PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - As hundreds filtered through Faith Chapel in downtown Hagerstown Saturday to reminisce over yellowed photographs of A-10s and Fairchild Aircraft Manufacturing Corp. memorabilia, one of the workers' reunion's many impromptu exhibits, former riveter Mary Trumpower contentedly watched from her wheelchair.

Trumpower, 91, who was next to a Rosie the Riveter exhibit, worked for Fairchild between 1942 and 1953. Although Trumpower admitted she wasn't the best riveter (laughing, she said she barely knew how to piece the parts together), she said Fairchild, where she met her husband and former lead man, Harold Trumpower, brings back some of her fondest memories.

That same nostalgia brewed for some other former Fairchild workers Saturday. Following an A-10 flight demonstration at Hagerstown Regional Airport, workers and interested community members lined up for popcorn at the church and former theater to see screenings of local filmmaker John P. Seburn's documentary, "Hagerstown - Remembering Our Aviation Heritage," which follows the community's relationship with Fairchild, a company founded in 1926.

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In 1984, the 713th A-10 Thunderbolt II, nicknamed the Warthog, rolled off the production line in Hagerstown, marking the last airplane made in Maryland. The factory closed that year and was turned into an industrial park. Fairchild left the aircraft business in 1987 and later was sold to Banner Industries, which changed its name to The Fairchild Corp. Now based in McLean, Va., The Fairchild Corp. deals in protective clothing and accessories for motorcyclists and aerospace parts distribution.

James Martinez, who was a chief test pilot for A-10s at Fairchild, said, "It's just great to see some of the old faces."

Martinez, 69, of Chambersburg, Pa., said he worked for Fairchild from 1970 to 1987, at a time when about 12 A-10 planes were made a month. Martinez said he was proud to see A-10s make way in The Gulf War.

Capt. "Tex" Lesho, an active duty U.S. Air Force pilot, commended former workers Saturday for their work in making A-10s - "the only plane I wanted to fly," he said. Lesho said that A-10s have been projected to last until 2028. He said that there are about 300 A-10s left.

The church's packed audience gave Lesho a standing ovation.

Besides the A-10, a plane designed to attack and disable tanks, the Hagerstown plant produced the F-24, the PT-19 Trainer, the C-82 Packet and the C-119 Flying Boxcar, Seburn said.

Kurtis Meyers, writer for the documentary, said that there were 10,000 employees at Fairchild at its peak in the early 1950s.

It was around that time that Trumpower remembers bringing her future husband candy to try to win him over. Around that time, Edward Kendall, 71, a structural designer, remembers cigar smoke and cigarette smoke filling design rooms and a canary who was used to test the air.

Handshakes and hearty laughs were given and heard throughout the lobby as old friends exchanged old stories.

Dick Fisher, 84, of Greencastle, Pa., said he relished the event Saturday, which brought back "a lot of memories."

"We didn't make much money, but we sure had a lot of fun," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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