Left to right: Harold H. (Shep) Sheppard, Lyle H. Scott, ?, ?
Collection of BJ Sonstein, 8-3-05
OF HIS BARNSTORMING DAYS
By Adrian Headley
of the Mariette Times news staff
Collection of BJ Sonstein, 8-3-05
Although once a daredevil airman, Shep gives one the impression of a retiring family man now. His hair almost completely white, he enjoys sitting beside Peggy, eight, youngest of his four children, and recalling the days when he was known throughout the Ohio Valley for his wing-walking, parachute jumping and other stunts.
In recalling his imjury, Shep said that he and Scotty had returned from a flight into West Virginia and were preparing to leave again. A crew of men had been washing the plane and cleaning its engine, and unknowingly disconnected the magneto ground wire. When he and Scotty returned, Shep began winding the propeller to build up a "choke." With no ground, the magneto sparked, fired the engine, and the prop began to revolve wildly throwing Shep about 30 feet. The scar remains to show the cut in his arm.
There were other barnstormers in those days, according to Shep, and he worked for some of them. Among the prominent ones were the Mathews brothers, Christy and Tod. Christy was killed at Huntington some years ago, and Tod lives in Orlando, Fla.
Their base was Chamberlain's Field, near the old Marietta Country Club, and many of the planes they flew were designed and built by them. At one time Scotty agreed to test fly one of their new planes, and Shep said that he is still able to recall the look of horror on Christy's face when Scotty took off and flew under the bridge.
Christy was killed as a result of a foolish stunt pilot. The Marietta man had flown to Huntington with a passenger and was approaching for a landing when a pilot dived at him. Misjudging the distance, the pilot's plane struck Christy';s between the engine and wing. The Marietta pilot had his passenger died in the crash.
Although Shep bears the deep scars of his injury, he bears deper scars in his mind of the nearness of death during his years of lfying. He and Scotty once turned upside down in the plane which later killed the barnstormer at Arnettsville.
They had been flying near Clarksburg, when Scotty spotted an army camp. Never shy, the Marietta pilot began a series of stunts over the camp, and then landed with the idea of earning some money by taking passengers. He and Shep were collared and ordered out of the area by a Colonel.
Although night was fast approaching, the two took off for Arnettsville, and soon thereafter became lost in the darkness. After circling for a period of time and dodging several hills, they suddenly spotted a flashing light. Using it as a signal, Scotty nosed the plane down. It was at that point he realized the area was a ballfield but was unable to pull the plane up and hit homeplate, the backstop and turned over. The men were only slightly injured.
One of the favorite stunts Shep remembers is how he and Scotty frightened fledgling pilots. Shep would brace his back against a wing while Scotty revved up the engine, and on signal, would duck under the plane and climb on the landing gear. Scotty would take the plane into the air, and when they reached a few hundred feet in altitude, Shep would suddenly crawl up over the wing while Scotty drew the passenger's attention.
Realizing something was near, the passsenger usually turned his head, only to stare into the face of Shep, who by that time had reached the wing beside the frightened man.
It was by the last words that Shep ever heard Scotty utter that he was saved from going down in the crash that killed the barnstormer May 30, 1930. The two had been eating supper at the home of Arnholt at Arnettsville and darkness was almost upon them. Persons who had been watching their stunts had all gone home, and Scotty expressed the belief they would not set off fireworks that night.
Within a few minutes, hundreds of persons began pouring into the area, and Scotty had the plane prepared for a takeoff. Shep held the battery in preparation for going on the flight, but Scotty with a few words save the Marietta resident's life.
He said "Arnholt (speaking to Everett Arnholt)_ why don't you make this flight? Shep has set off hundreds of fireworks, and you need the experience." Shep gave the battery to Arnholt, and by that move saved his own life. Within a few minutes, the plane took its fatal dive from the air.
from Karen Bloomingdale
Harold Sheppard's daughter
One day while Scotty and Daddy were out flying they flew over the Putnam Street Bridge here in Marietta. Scotty turned to Daddy and said: "Shep, there's one thing I've been wanting to do and that is fly under that bridge." Daddy turned to him and said, "you're driving." And under the bridge they went.
Daddy used to take parachutes home for my grandmother to mend. She didn't know it then, but they were the parachutes Daddy used.
When my Father died, I had the plane that he and Scotty flew in engraved on the back of his tombstone.
If you have any more information on this pioneer aviator,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper