Way Back When: Nowhere to Park It

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Way Back When: Nowhere to Park It
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A Curtis biplane from World War I (Image: Wikimedia)

By Betsy J. Green

Airplanes were swooping in the skies over Santa Barbara, but we didn't have an airport yet. Some planes landed at the former boys' school on the Riviera where the Samarkand Retirement Center is now. Others landed at the “Bonnymede” estate in Montecito.

The city leaders were ready to put out the welcome mat. “It is suggested that a permanent committee be named to promote in every way possible, interest in the flying machine … to attract fliers to the city and provide them with landing places.”


Betsy's Way Back When book -- 1918 -- is now available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. This is the fifth book in my series of the history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time.

Learn more about me at my website: betsyjgreen.com

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Flicka Dec 16, 2018 09:30 AM
Way Back When: Nowhere to Park It

The first time I ever rode in a plane, I was 10, was in George Hammond's Beechcraft he kept on his mother's estate, Bonnymede. His daughter was my best friend. We taxied over to the back of the Coral Casino, then took off across the lawn and turned over to fly over the ocean to Long Beach. Early 1950s but I can remember it like it was yesterday. Through the 50s and early 60s George was still flying off the estate. Then he got a jet so had to keep it at the airport.

MicroDOC Dec 16, 2018 08:45 AM
Way Back When: Nowhere to Park It

I remember planes and helicopters landing on Hammond’s lawn as late as the 50’s and 60’s. I also remember diving for lobster off Hammond’s reef back then.

bjgreen Dec 16, 2018 07:17 AM
Way Back When: Nowhere to Park It

If you are interested in early aviation in Santa Barbara, there is a good article in the current issue of "Montecito Magazine." (The magazine has a painting of biplane on the cover.)

oceandrew Dec 15, 2018 08:04 PM
Way Back When: Nowhere to Park It

Didn't Earle Ovington, an early Samarkand resident and airmail pilot, fly out of what is now the municipal golf course?

bjgreen Dec 15, 2018 05:15 PM
Way Back When: Nowhere to Park It

Oops! Correction - The Samarkand site is not on the Riviera. The first Boyland was on the Riviera, which is what had me confused. Michael Redmond wrote a good article about the boys' school and its two locations in The Independent a couple of year ago: https://www.independent.com/news/2016/feb/16/samarkand-boyland-retirement-complex/

REX OF SB Dec 15, 2018 11:40 AM
Way Back When: Nowhere to Park It

Great article, Betsy. (As usual). You mention the Samarkand Retirement Center being on the Riviera, but hasn't it always been in the Samarkand district, above Oak Park? Offhand, I can't think of anyplace on the Riviera that would be long and flat enough to act as an impromptu runway.

Mas Gaviota Dec 15, 2018 01:18 PM
Way Back When: Nowhere to Park It

There is a relatively flat spot at the top of the Riviera in the vicinity of the Boyland school site that is abot 800 ft long. That is plenty of room for a 1915 era airplane to land and take off.

Mas Gaviota Dec 15, 2018 11:01 AM
Way Back When: Nowhere to Park It

Great article Betsy. One correction, Boyland school was located at Las Tunas and Tremonto on the Riviera untill 1916 when it moved to the Samarkand location.

Flicka Dec 15, 2018 10:07 AM
Way Back When: Nowhere to Park It

About planes on Bonnymede: During WWI Gardner Hammond was a military flyer, stationed down south of here. He'd invite his friends to fly up to Montecito to visit his mother, Esther Hammond. They would park their planes on the (10 acre) lawn at Bonnymede and Mom (she was 4 or 5) said Montecito residents would walk along the beach to see "the flying machines", only about a dozen years or so after the Wright's initial flight so very "new and different". There are photos of the planes, 4 or 5, I think, lined up on the lawn with the Hammond family and fliers lined up in front of them.

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