by: Pat Sheehan
In the closing days of 2003 we celebrated the 100th year of powered flight. Thank the Lord the Wright Brothers were great pilots for all of the attempts to duplicate their plane and flight have failed. We might still be on the ground if they were not only great mechanics and aeronautical designers but also great flyers. If you are a history buff like me, a trip to McMenamin’s Cedar Hills Pub is like a look backwards in time to the early days of flight development. The Pub sits on the sight of one of the most famous and busiest private airfields in the United States, SW Cedar Hills Boulevard and Jennings Avenue.
Bernard Airfield was built in 1930 by Charlie Bernard on a part of the family farm. It was also the home of a bustling aircraft design and assembly facility and a favorite landing spot of one of my Dad’s drinking partners, “Tex” Rankin. “Tex” was one of the most famous and colorful pilots in the early day of flight, and my Dad was one of the best known bootleggers in the Northwest. “Tex” had learned to fly from one of Orville Wright’s first students just after World War I and flew in the old Barn Storming Circus’ of the twenties. Joe Sheehan learned his trade at the Brunswick Home office, bootlegging later from Bugs Moran. “Tex” held a lot of records for crazy stunts and was recognized as a World Champion Acrobatic Ace. One of the records he sought was the Most Time in the Air. This required some very special equipment, one of which as a lightweight propeller. George Rawlings, another drinking buddy, gave him that propeller. “Tex” fell short of the record of 23 days by 20 days but that propeller hangs in the Pub thanks to Rawlings’ son along with some great photos, for George was a photo finisher by trade.
Like many of Mike McMenamin’s projects things fall together in unusual ways. I found an Anniversary 4 ½ x 9 pool table in Vancouver. Mike liked the looks of that model Brunswick table so I bought it for him to match the snooker table at the Blue Moon. Mike decided to add a Billiard Room to the Cedar Hills Pub so a small change in my plans but Mike had a dream. The room had space for two tables and he asked me to find a matching table. Since it has been over 54 years since that model table, which celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the Brunswick Balke Collender Co, you have about two chances of finding one, slim and next to none. Mike told me to take an inventory of the tables he had in storage. First stop Edgefield where I found a 6 x 12 and 5 x 10 Snooker. Next stop Ringlers, Bingo!!! There in the basement hiding under extra uniforms and restaurant equipment a 4 x 8 CI Anniversary Carom Table. I think it was the Keno table from the Second Avenue Billiards, and very rare because most carom tables made in this century were 5 x 10.
Now playing pool on a table with no pockets would be tough, but they now have diamond saber saw blades so we soon had six pockets. What to do about the castings to fit the rails. Pat Sheehan has never been known to throw away a pool table part and my shop shows it, so low and behold four CI pocket castings, but no side pocket castings. The CI did not have side pocket castings so all I had to do was find a set of CI rails. Eureka! A complete set of 4 x 8 CI Sportsman rails that we got from Fort Lewis, some Walnut veneer on the Poplar rails – viola – Anniversay rails. I love it when a great plan comes together.
It is fitting that the last year the CI was made was 1947, the year of “Tex’s” last flight. Dad was in K Falls covering the tables at the Waldorp and talked to “Tex” the night before “Tex” hit the power lines at the end of Kingsley Field. “Tex” had made a lot of unscheduled landings and his motto “any landing you can walk away from is a good one” has often been quoted. This was one “Tex” didn’t walk away from. He was headed to Bernard field where McMenamin’s Pub stands.
Plan to safely land on one of the bar stools at the Pub and share in the history of the early days of flight, some great beer and a chance to play on a part of the history of pool. My thanks to Tim Hills for some of this article is plagiarized from his voluminous files of history. I wish I had written down my history as well instead of counting on my failing memory.
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