From Historical Fiction To History

            Not long ago I set upon a new venture. The Rochester airport, where I spent so many years of my career, is approaching its 100th birthday. Now I am in my senior years and a writer. As an employee at Rochester’s airport for 28 years it seems natural that I might tell the airport’s story.

            Much does happen in 100 years. To the average citizen it may seem that natural aging and growth are the cause and effect of our current transportation facility. A place changes and expands over time. That is just a force of nature. From my own experiences, though, I am aware of an undercurrent of events that can make an otherwise routine story come alive.

            To many, the forced memorizing of names, places and dates from our school years has left its mark. Those do not look forward to another history lesson. No doubt the facts they learned soon escaped like the leaves of a tree on a windy fall day. Some, though, discover that it can be fun to learn about the past – not kings and queens, presidents or dictators – not breakthrough scientists or social leaders.  Rather, discovery centered on the everyday souls who, generation after generation over eons of time, carry on in spite of the rise and fall of the world around them.

            Our community’s airport has a long history, expanding from a small patch of unoccupied grass where barnstormers and aerial acrobats entertained crowds, to nearly 1000 acres of land that has helped to build and sustain our local economy. There might be much to learn about the people and the forces that impacted its growth. So, my goal is to dig into the airport’s past. I want to find the interesting steps that built our modern transportation center and offer my report to the community.

            I have begun my research. Along the way others have made themselves available, shared my excitement, and helped to gather useful data. The City of Rochester’s Archive Office was my first stop. Not only did they retrieve useful records, but they also put me in touch with others. City Engineering led me to important maps, and the City’s photographer (Did you know the City of Rochester has a photographer?) led me to thousands of archived photos that will take hours to review. The library’s Local History Division is not only helpful, but genuinely interested in what can be found to tell my story. Thus far my “ace in the hole” is a 1933 study of Rochester’s airport from its beginning to 1930. This gathering of early data is a priceless gift that helps to rebuild the early years of our municipal airport.

            There is so much more to discover; I have only scratched the surface. As I continue, I am hopeful to raise awareness and a sense of curiosity among my fellow Rochesterians. I will keep you posted and encourage you to share your thoughts, your ideas, your questions. While I can’t promise to provide all the answers, I look forward to hearing from you.

            While you’re waiting, pick up a copy of House with a Heart, the story of my childhood home. Ponder its own beginnings in the mid 1800’s. Share it with friends.  Maybe even introduce it to your book club.

…and, thanks for following my Blog where random thoughts find their way into words.

About flyingwithrick

Rick Iekel, a storyteller, has held a lifelong fascination with real stories about real people in real places. “With real-life stories so available,” he muses, “why would I make the effort to create believable fiction?”
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6 Responses to From Historical Fiction To History

  1. With your background in both writing history and working at the airport you’re the perfect writer to tackle this great project.


  2. Patricia Iacuzzi says:

    Great idea, Rick…quick question: I’d wondered how they got the finances to build in 1930; the market had crashed in 1929.


    • You make a valid point, Pat. It could be that the work was largely financed by operating funds within the city’s yearly budget. Most of the work done in 1927-8 was city labor force, not hired contractors. It must have been an amazing feat that they pulled off. I’m aware that work done in the 30’s was, in part, the WPA Program.


  3. George Rollie Adams says:

    You are the right person to tackle this project, and it should be a lasting contribution to the history of our community and commercial aviation in general. I wish you great fun in the pursuit and many readers at the conclusion.
    Rollie Adams


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