Helen Evans was there in March 1928 when Charles Lindbergh took off from Lexington's Halley Field, and she was on hand Monday to help unveil a historical marker commemorating the city's first municipal airport.
The marker stands in the median of Boiling Springs Drive at Leestown Road, near where Halley Field was. Indeed, Boiling Springs Drive is said to have formed the airfield's runway.
Evans was 7 in 1928 when her father took her to the airport for a glimpse of "Lucky Lindy," the world famous aviator who had completed the first solo flight from New York to Paris the previous May.
Evans, now 94, remembers the excitement that filled the air.
"Mr. Lindbergh had stopped in Lexington to see Dr. Scott Breckinridge, who was a personal friend," Evans recalled. "It really was somewhat of a secret. But the word got out, and 2,000 or 3,000 people went out to Halley Field to see him take off."
Evans noted that Lindbergh was flying an exact replica of the tiny single-engine plane that he flew across the Atlantic to Paris. The original plane, The Spirit of St. Louis, is on display at the Smithsonian in Washington.
"I really don't remember much about Mr. Lindbergh," Evans admitted. "I do remember seeing the plane and thinking it was hard to believe that anything so small and fragile looking could have flown all that distance."
Halley Field was on Meadow thorpe Farm and was named for Dr. Samuel Halley, who owned the property. Planes landed there as early as 1921, but the airfield didn't officially open until May 28, 1927 — seven days after Lindbergh landed in Paris. It was dedicated in June 1927, and now is officially recognized as Lexington's first airport.
There was a second airport — at Cool Meadow on Newtown Pike — before today's Blue Grass Airport opened in 1946.
During its brief heyday, Halley Field offered air shows, flight training, sightseeing tours and a small air taxi service that flew passengers to Louisville, Cincinnati and other towns. The site reverted to farmland in 1934.
Officials say the idea of placing a marker to commemorate the airfield grew out of the publication this year of Blue Grass Airport: An American Aviation Story, a book detailing the history of aviation here.
A small crowd braved Monday morning's heavy winds to attend the unveiling of the marker. In addition to folks from the Meadowthorpe Neighborhood Association, a contingent of students from Meadowthorpe Elementary School attended. Samuel Halley's grandson Sam Halley and his great-granddaughter Lyssa Halley helped Evans unveil the marker.
Evans remembers that when Lindbergh took off from Halley Field in 1928, many in the crowd thought his plane was going to hit some trees at the end of the airport.
Apparently, she said, a sudden wind gust caught Lindbergh's plane and almost caused it to crash.