The Liberty Gazette
January 5, 2016Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: When traffic makes the map on my smart phone turn red I search for alternative routes home from Hobby Airport. It was on one such sojourn while driving down Genoa-Red Bluff Road shortly after crossing Highway 3 that I spied the rusting roof of a dilapidated hangar hidden among heavy brush and tall trees. They say the cure for boredom is curiosity; and there is no cure for curiosity - I had to investigate, because surely there would not be a building that was clearly once a hangar without there once having been an airport as its neighborhood.
Linda: To put some character to what Mike found, go back with us to the year 1892, when the world welcomed future aeronautical pioneers Bessie Coleman and Lawrence Sperry. One would grow up to be a world-famous aerobatic pilot, skydiver, and air show celebrity, and the first black female to earn a pilot license, and the other would invent the auto pilot, and a compact personal parachute that pilots could fit in a seat pack, and design retractable landing gear, among many other inventions.
The same year those two future inspirational aviators were born, J. H. Burnett was in south Texas establishing a very small town southeast of Houston. The climate reminded him of a place he knew of in Italy, so he made his new settlement its namesake - Genoa.
Not far from Genoa Dr. Willis King had already been busy promoting his community, which he named for his daughter, Almeda. The road connecting the two important railroad towns is still known as Almeda-Genoa Road. Genoa must have been an important enough place to reference, as Allen-Genoa and Genoa-Red Bluff roads came into existence.
The population grew in Genoa, Texas in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s, and Charlie Emmett opened up for business with Emmett’s Flying Service at Genoa Airport.
It is Genoa-Red Bluff Road that one would travel to get from the Genoa Airport to the Red Bluff Army Auxiliary Airfield, one of three auxiliary airfields built near Ellington, supporting Army Air Corps flight training activities.
Mike’s discovery is what physically remains of Genoa Airport, which isn’t much. When evidence of past eras begins to be erased, when only a couple of original hangars and some old photos and maps exist, there will still be stories to remind us of intriguing people and fascinating adventures.
One lady whose family was close friends of the Emmett aviation family, recalls a pond on the property where the airport sat behind the family home. In that pond lived Charlie the six-foot alligator. Many children's birthday parties were held by the pond and Charlie received his share of hot dogs. However, she says, they wouldn’t have dreamed of trying to pet Charlie; they didn’t want him to come too close, and throwing their hot dogs kept him at a safe distance.
Mike: Opening for business not long after WWII, Genoa Airport had as many as three different runways at one time, and several hangars lining the south and west sides. It existed, even thrived for a time under the busy traffic pattern of Ellington Air Force Base.
With the drop-off in flying activity in the late 1980’s the airport property was sold to the City of South Houston. And though it’s but a phantom existence today, no runways and a couple of corroded old hangars, I’d rather like to think of the days when would-be pilots learned to fly there. I’m sure it lives on in their memories.