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News / Life / Clark County Life

Images From the Attic: Youth gets own air show

By Martin Middlewood, Columbian freelance contributor
Published: February 17, 2024, 6:27am

In 1929, newspapers from Honolulu to Boston published the name and photo of a 19-year-old Vancouver boy, Louis Proctor. Proctor had won first place in the National Airplane Model League of America contest.

By then, Proctor had already placed second in a Tacoma “Lindy” model plane contest and met legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh. Weeks later, Proctor’s national win gained him a six-week tour of Europe, where he met famous fliers including Louis Bleriot and Orville Wright. When he returned, the local chamber of commerce produced an air show bearing his name.

Proctor built a model Vought Corsair and beat 200 others for the prize, which in addition to the trip included $200 cash, a $100 gold cup and a medal. He traveled to Europe, all expenses paid, with two other winners: Joseph Culver and Donald Burnham. Proctor spent his $200 cash prize on an accordion.

Proctor liked to hang around Pearson Field and work on planes in the repair shop. He learned the details he’d add to his models. He also earned a pilot’s license.

While the smiling teen toured Europe and the nation showing off his model, the Vancouver chamber worked to promote its slowly emerging municipal airport. For them it was a matter of civic pride and a means to bring commercial contracts and businesses to Vancouver.

The Vancouver chamber planned an air derby for mid-August, after Proctor returned from Europe. By then, the airfield was enlarged, with some old hangers moved and new hangers constructed.

After his Europe tour, Proctor flew to Pearson for the Louis Proctor Air Jubilee. In anticipation, enthusiastic businesses downtown went so far as to create aviation displays in their windows. On Jubilee Day, more than 18,000 cars crossed the Interstate Bridge, a new record. After the Jubilee, the J.C. Penney store on Main Street displayed Proctor’s winning model.

The ad noted children under 12 and anyone carrying an airplane model attended free, while others paid 50 cents. Proctor showed his award-winning model and judged a model-building contest. As usual for any air show, the Jubilee featured stunt flying, parachute jumping, balloon bursting, aerial relay races and wing walking. The Seventh Infantry 40-piece band from the Vancouver Barracks provided music all afternoon.

For a while, the chamber considered the Jubilee as the opening of the municipal airport. In the end, the dedication of the field would not happen until 1930.

Shortly afterward, Proctor worked as a model builder for Boeing in Seattle and later for Ryan Aeronautics in San Diego. In 1964, he quit to create radio-controlled model kits of early aircraft with wingspans of 7 feet, eventually forming Proctor Enterprises Corp. The detailed models took customers 300-400 hours to assemble. In 1982, Proctor sold his company and retired. His models are so accurate that some were used in a 1995 made-for-television movie, “Flight of the Hawkmen.”

Today, Joe Topper is the company’s third owner and sells Proctor’s kits in his shop in Sandy, Ore.


Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the location where Joe Topper sells kits. 

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Columbian freelance contributor