When my Dad went to work at Beechcraft, he looked at the proximity of the house on Byrd Street to the Beechcraft Plant Number 1 and bought a one bedroom house on a 1/4 acre lot. If you stood on the front edge of the driveway, you could see the gate where most of the people used to enter the plant. If you looked east, you could see about 1/4 mile square of parking lot where the employees parked. For about 1/2 hour in the morning and 1/2 hour at 3:30 PM you weren't safe out on the streets near our house. In fact, the school got out at 3:15 to give us a chance to get home safely.
Add a 2 story addition on the back and add four children and you have the house my parents owned until they finally moved to the Lake by Rodgers, Arkansas in the 70's. Dad even made the concrete blocks the addition sat on. He bought a block maker and mixed the concrete in a portable mixer to make a couple of blocks at a time. I know that a neighbor had a block maker and I'm pretty sure that he bought one of two that dad owned. Dad built to the standards of the day and by today's requirements that house was pretty primitive. No central air or heat, linoleum floors and hard pressed asbestos impregnated siding. There wasn't anything like a storm door on most of the windows and wooden porches adorned the outside.
A lot of my neighborhood had BeechCraft workers through the 40's and most of it went to hell in the 50's as the newly affluent workers moved to new suburbs springing up around Wichita. I'm pretty sure that there were more mobile homes than houses and after they moved the salvaged Beechwood houses in, there were more apartments than mobile homes. There were a few people that had bought early in the neighborhood that held on to their first homes like they were on a life raft of Oakies and Arkies. At the first hint of prosperity, even they would flee like rats off a sinking ship.
On the south end of Byrd street, there were two teachers, two custodians for schools, and a whole host of people either in or in a related job to the Aircraft industry. The street as always filled to capacity with the children of the Baby Boom. Born in the era of no television, we all played outside and there were fewer shoes on a ball field than ball gloves.
One of these days I am going to put all the pieces of the story together and write about Ronny, Denny, MUD, NewGene (Eugene), Assie, Harvey, Gary, Larry, Wayne, John and Whitney. Sadly, three of these guys went early in life and not because of the Vietnam War. One of my friends in this list served as a rifleman for three tours in Nam and died in a traffic accident in Southern California.
More to come...