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Halifax aviation history on display at Heritage Fest

SoVaNow.com / April 29, 2013
A new and very interesting exhibit will debut at the Halifax County Heritage and Antique Machinery Festival. The new exhibit is a tribute to aviation and its history in Halifax County.

Edwin Conner, member of the Heritage Festival Committee and one of the leaders in presenting the aviation display, said the idea took root over a year ago when he and several other committee members were discussing what Halifax County is noted for, “We were all sitting around talking and everybody said Halifax County is known for tobacco, farming, racing, hogs and maybe a little moonshine.”

Buster D’Amato, also a member of the Heritage Festival Committee, asked the group about the historical importance of aviation and the role it played in the county. For Conner, this sparked an interest and also conjured up a few personal memories, “I told D’Amato I once saw a pilot by the name of Frank Sadler from Clover land a plane on a pick-up truck, and of course, Buster thought I was crazy.”

Conner says Tommy Epps and Tom Hundley, plane owners, pilots and members of the Heritage Festival Committee, encouraged him to pursue his interest. “They told me they knew of a man in Scottsburg who had the pick-up Frank Sadler landed the plane on and I should try to buy it and create a display for the festival as a tribute to Halifax County’s history in aviation.”

Recalling his interest in aviation, Conner said the bug bit him when he was a teenager, “I was about 15 years old and I went to the Clover Airport, which Frank Sadler was operating at the time, to take flying lessons. Of course, I made a few mistakes. First of all, I didn’t get permission from my parents. The second mistake I made, I didn’t realize until many years later.”

According to Conner, what he did not know when he took flying lessons from the late Frank Sadler, was Sadler’s uncle, Woodrow Edmondson, founder of the Clover Airport, had years before dated his mother’s sister. “My aunt, Mae Neal, worked in Danville and every Friday evening after work she would meet Woodrow Edmondson at the Danville airport. Woodrow would fly her home to Mount Laurel for the weekend on his plane. What I didn’t know until probably 20 years ago is that Woodrow Edmondson was quite a dare-devil pilot and my grandparents did not especially approve of him dating their daughter.”

Nevertheless, Conner’s fascination with aviation and the late Frank Sadler, a well- known local crop sprayer/stunt pilot, spurred his interest in locating, purchasing and restoring the old truck. As he recalls, “The old truck was in Scottsburg and belonged to Gary ‘Popcorn’ Snead.”

After months of work, Edwin has restored the old ’56 Ford pick-up and it, along with Mark Stevens’ replica of the plane that once landed on the truck, will be on display in the Exhibit Hall at the tenth annual Halifax County Heritage Festival and Antique Machinery Festival May 3-5 at the Halifax County Fairgrounds. The exhibit will also include other local aviation memorabilia.

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