l Herbert A. Munter
Herbert A. Munter
  On June 27, 1919 the Chehalis Bee-Nugget ran this advertisement for Munter's flying exhibition in conjunction with the July Fourth celebration..
From the Museum's collection.
First Airplanes Arrive in Lewis County
by Vic Kucera and Karen L. Johnson
     At the same time, Herbert A. Munter, a "pioneer Seattle aviator", offered flights as part of Centralia's Fourth of July celebration (which included baseball games, a first aid contest, and music provided by Foley's San Francisco Jazz Maniacs). During Munter's private flying career, he used a unique method of transporting his plane from exhibition to exhibition in the Northwest. According to a Seattle Times article of September 25, 1960, he would "take the wings off the plane (with the help of a mechanic he took with him), ship the parts by train in a baggage car, reassemble the plane for the demonstration, then move on to another town". Munter had also become the Boeing Airplane Company's first test pilot in 1915.
     Later in 1919, U.S. Army pilots began landing planes in Chehalis to refuel while flying a mission from Camp Lewis (now Fort Lewis) to Salem, Oregon. The biplanes carreid two passengers, Captain Owen Summers of Camp Lewis and Mae Norton, a reporter for the Portland Telegram. On August 1, 1919, the Chehalis Bee-Nugget reported that "The machine with Captain Summers made a number of swoops and side-sweeps as it left the field, but the one with Miss Norton kept an even keel. Miss Norton was slightly ill from her trip from Portland here, but not so indisposed but that she could finish the journey." On the return trip, the biplanes again stopped to take on more oil and gas. After departing, one flyer returned, having become lost in the clouds, then finding "the white spot" which marked the Chehalis landing area.
     A few months later, government aviators began to thorougly inspect Lewis County and other western Washington counties for potential landing field sites. Aviation had indeed arrived.
     Vic Kucera is a member of the Lewis County Historical Society, and is researching and writing a book about Alpha Prairie, a small community that once existed just east of Onalaska.
     If you have any new information pertaining to the individuals or events described in this article, please contact Karen at the Museum. We would appreciate any updates.
     To learn more about pioneer aviators from all over the country, visit www.earlyaviators.com.
from The Lewis County Historian
599 N.W. Front Way, Chelais, Washington
Volume 26 - No. 4           December 2004

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