Solensky to Present History of Air Mail

DUBOIS – Seventy-five years ago, DuBois and Clearfield counties were a part of history. On May 14, 1939, DuBois and Clearfield were both stops on the newly conceived air mail pickup route, one where the planes did not land but snagged the mail while in flight.

The DuBois Area Historical Society will recall this event when Mike Solensky presents the program “History of Air Mail in DuBois,” on April 23, at 7 p.m. at the E. D. Reitz Museum, 30 W. Long Ave., DuBois. The program is free and open to all.

Solensky, a retired U.S. Air pilot lives in Treasure Lake. He grew up in Houtzdale and has spent most of his life in Clearfield County.

The first mail pick up of this type was May 12, 1939, involving Pittsburgh and Latrobe. Two days later, the inaugural flight through Clearfield County originated in Philadelphia with pickups in Gettysburg, Clearfield and DuBois.

“It was express mail,” explained Solensky. “It is like FedEx today, well ahead of its time. Pickups were made twice a day.”

Instead of landing at airports, the airplane flew over and snagged a container of mail suspended between two poles on a nylon line. Once it was snagged, the bag was reeled into the plane with a wench by the flight mechanic, one of a two-man crew. A container of mail to be delivered was dropped off at the same time. The pickup was made at the old DuBois Airport at Spider Lake.

The service continued through 1949. All-American Aviation’s Clifford “Chip” Barraclough in a Stenson Reliant airplane with a 260 horsepower, nine-cylinder engine, flew the last pickup. Solensky co-piloted with Barraclough during his career.

Solensky reported that a replication of the inaugural flight will be held on May 17 between Clearfield and DuBois.

Upcoming DuBois Area Historical Society events include:

  • April 27 – fundraiser at Luigi’s Ristorante, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Society will receive a percentage of the day’s profits.
  • May 10 – Sixth Annual Spring Walk, Soldier, led by Betty Anderson, 10 a.m., free. Participants meet at Soldier Wesleyan Church on the Reynoldsville-Sykesville Road.
  • May 16 – fundraiser Italian Oven, DuBois, all day. Get a voucher from any board member or print one from the society’s Web site.
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