The Liberty Gazette
February 23, 2016Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: The buzz and clattering sound outside were unmistakable. Distant at first, moving ever closer. Billy knew that sound and rushed outside his Friendswood home. Overhead, a yellow Piper J-3 Cub circled, the head of its pilot visible as he looked down on his pal, hollering, “Let’s go!”
Billy Faught raced out to the airport and met the plane piloted by his good friend, Chuck Emmett and the two flew on to Galveston to the Emmett family’s second home, on the bay. Chuck would deftly land the Cub on the sandy road behind the beach house and the boys would hop into a speed boat and spend the day water skiing.
Those were simpler times, Billy says today. “My dad got the flying bug and learned to fly at Genoa Airport. Most times I came with him. For me, there was no Little League; I grew up up at the airport.”
Genoa Airport? Yes, indeed. There was a Genoa Airport in Houston, and it was owned and managed by Charles Emmett, Chuck’s father. He and those who frequented the airport were like Benny Rusk, Earl Atkins, and others here in the beginning days of the Liberty Municipal Airport.
Chuck made the local TV news when he soloed four or five airplanes on one day - his 16th birthday - before getting his driver’s license. He and Billy had the run of Genoa “International” Airport, as they called it.
“But, it was expected that we would help out, too,” Billy recalls. “We were treated not quite like adults, but less like kids. We could do a lot of things, like ride a motorcycle, or the Ford tractor, or drive the boat, as long as we handled them well, the way Charles would himself.”
The Cessna 190 that smelled of leather, oil, and cigar belonged to Charles, the strong fatherly type usually seen in khaki pants and button down shirts with the top two buttons undone, hair combed and a Roi Tan cigar clamped between his teeth. He’d lecture the boys when he wanted something done. Lecture 473 meant cut the grass. One day, Charles wanted the boys to lift a low, sunken rail separating the parking lot from the rest of the airport. Billy and Chuck worked hard with a floor jack to lift it and then shore it up with bricks.
“After that,” Billy remembers, “when Charles started in on another lecture we just sighed, ‘Here we go, raising the rail again’.”
At night along the banks of the pond out back the boys went frog hunting with an old lantern. “We’d see a possum sitting on a log, and then we’d spot Charlie the alligator. Charlie would sneak up to the bank and with a flick of his tail, knock the possum into the pond - and then he’d have him.”
Stearmans, Beech Staggerwings, and Cessnas frequented Genoa “International”, and all of it made for a good growing up. But to Billy, the most magical time was Christmas Eve, when people flew in to visit family members, filling the atmosphere with happiness.
Chuck and his dad, and the airport are now gone. Mrs. Emmett tried to keep it alive but when a hurricane caused a lot of damage she finally sold it, and the fabulous growing up place became a sand pit, and later a landfill.
Billy would rather have seen it become a housing addition than a dump, and can’t drive by without shedding a tear when he sees those old rusting hangars, but his memories as the airport kid help keep Genoa International alive.