The Liberty Gazette
August 2, 2011Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: On the dusty, dry western edge of the Texas Hill Country sits the city of Menard, and a significant place of Texas history, the Spanish Presidio San Sabá. Built in 1757, the presidio served a three-fold purpose: to protect the nearby Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá, to find the silver they’d heard about, and to guard the Spanish frontier. The Presidio is one of nine forts along the Texas Forts Trail, a recommended driving trail.
Linda: Surely you realize we’re not history experts, so this must have something to do with airplanes. We thank Elizabeth Cooper who, as a Texas Tech anthropology grad student wrote a fantastic piece on the reconstruction efforts she was involved with at the time (www.texasbeyondhistory.net/presidio). Since publication of her informative online exhibit there has been more restoration work. What caught our attention was that it’s being promoted as a “Fly-In.”
During a Liberty-Dayton Chamber luncheon we explained to local business folks how valuable our airport is and inventive ways it can be used to bring people to town. Similar to our suggestions about advertising events in Liberty as fly-in destinations, like-minded advocates in Menard posted this: “Wing your way to the Frontier Fly-In, to Menard, Texas to see the restoration of the Spanish Presidio San Saba in progress.” Great marketing for the town, the restoration project, and the airport!
Mike: The presidio, located 300 yards south of Menard County Airport, was at the time of its occupation the only Spanish stronghold on an otherwise unoccupied frontier. It was the largest and most important military installation in Texas at that time, home to more than 300 Spanish soldiers and civilians. Some call it "the ruin of ruins." Elizabeth Cooper wrote, “The story of Presidio San Sabá is the story of Texas,” and invites readers to imagine soldiers practicing drills in the courtyard while herders tend cattle and farmers work nearby fields, to catch a whiff of fresh-baked bread and meat roasting on a spit, or hear children playing in the courtyard.
Those involved in the present restoration project are offering free transportation to fly-ins, inviting you to call (325-456-5994) for a private guided tour, observe the ruins as they are restored to original beauty, and see the authentic Jim “Bouie” signature carved in stone. Their fly-in invitation boasts of excellent area restaurants and sounds just downright friendly. It’s a superb example of what we encourage Liberty area businesses to do: make good use of your community airport; it’s an asset.
Linda: Another Texas history fly-in is “Flights of Our Fathers Fly-In” sponsored by the British Flying Training School Museum at Terrell Municipal Airport, September 16-18. I was there in June for an air race and can say, that museum is well worth the trip. In this year’s theme a salute to veterans honors the valor of our fallen heroes, including the ultimate sacrifice of five men from Terrell. The weekend events occur within a reunion of the men who were trained there. On September 16 there’s a hanger/dinner dance. September 17 is the fly-in with talks by Tom Killebrew, author of “The Royal Air Force in Texas,” and Dr. Calvin Spann, WWII Tuskegee Airman, static displays, and plane rides. The weekend will conclude with a Memorial Service September 18. Open to the public, drive-ins encouraged. Contact Beverly Mardis 972-524-1714, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website: http://www.bftsmuseum.org.