Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, November 27, 1994, pg. 5
Albion is unfortunate for a city its size not to have a small community airport. It has meant that business persons have had to drive to and from Battle Creek, Marshall, Kalamazoo, and Jackson airports to get here, resulting in more driving time. And time is money. Albion once had its own airport, however, which was just in the stages of being developed following World War II and into the early 1950s.
East of Albion on M-99 and old U.S.12 sits Amberton Village, a residential area developed in the 1960s. Also in the area is a bowling alley, and nearby a former miniature golf course, now obliterated. Once however, this was the site of Albionís airfield, called Morgan Field. If you look at the southwest corner intersection, you will discover that the welding shop that now sits there was once part of the airport complex. The airportís main office and hanger was located on Finley Road.
Albionís airport once consisted of a 40-acre site, developed by Stanley B. Morgan in June, 1946. A licensed pilot and instructor from Eaton Rapids, he leased the land from farmer Etril R. Haggit for approximately $1,500 a year. Morgan gave flying lessons, and promoted the sport in the Albion area. There were two runways. The main one ran northeast to southwest, and the secondary one north to south. The western edge of the property was where the County Lanes bowling alley sits today.
There even was a local flying club called the Skyrangers, consisting of about 20 flying enthusiasts. The group owned a 1946 Piper Cub, a two-seat plane. President of the club was Albion postmaster Frank G. Sibal. Secretary was William Bunn, with Hubert Gaskell as treasurer.
There were eight planes based at Morgan Field, which included two light craft assigned to the Michigan National Guardís 943rd Field Artillery Battalion under the command of Lt. Colonel Noble O. Moore. The guard paid $480 annually in rent to use the facilities, which helped in the overall rent costs of the land.
In March, 1950, Mr. Morgan was unable to individually bear the burden of the rent costs for the land, then amounting to $1,500 a year. So the local Skyrangers began a subscription drive and raised the money themselves. Albionís five major industries donated funds, as well as numerous merchants. Mr. Morgan continued to operate the facility as its manager on a sub-lease basis.
On year later however in March 1951, it was announced that the Skyrangers were unable to raise all the funds to rent the land for another year, and that the Morgan Field would be closed. The club announced it was selling its plane to pay off a $300 indebtedness on its lease. Apparently, local industries were able to pay their share of the $1,500 annual rental price, but donations from merchants fell short. The Skyrangers also announced that they were disbanding their club at the time.
Plea's by the city to keep the field open failed. The National Guard planes were moved to Brooks Field in Marshall. Skyranger officials remarked at the time that few people realized the extent to which Morgan Field had been used by industrial executives and salesmen coming to visit Albion manufacturing plant offices. At least two planes a day were arriving for that purpose during the spring, summer, and fall seasons.
Now Albion sits today without an airport, unless you mean that cornfield across from Babcock School southwest of town. With I-94 built in the late 1950s, having an Albion airport close nearby at Morgan Field would have been an excellent location and advantage in attracting industry to our town. Instead, Amberton village, the Bowling Alley, and other enterprises were built on the former airport site, and this unique opportunity was lost forever. Industrialists coming to Albion now have to fly into other airports and make a half hour drive to get here.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of the Morgan Field office on Finley Road, and a hanger being erected to the right. A plan flies majestically overhead. Special thanks to Frank Sibal, Hubert Gaskell, and Bruce Jacobs for supplying information for this story.
The Morgan Field office on Finley Road
Next: RICE CREEK
All text copyright, 2014 © all rights reserved Frank Passic