My name is William Ausley. I was born in 1924 in a small town in Arkansas.
At a very young age my father moved the family down to Tallahassee Florida because that’s where his work carried us. He worked for the power company and where the work went we went.
When we got to Tallahassee I was only a few years old. There wasn’t much to the town at that time. The asphalt wasn’t nearly as abundant as it is today. The interstate wasn’t even an idea yet. There was only one high school. Leon High. There were only two main highways heading in or out of Tallahassee; highway 90, and I believe highway 27.
In 1929 the city of Tallahassee bought land and built the Dale Mabry Airfield, named after Captain Dale Mabry. It started out as a civilian airport. When the airfield first opened there was a big airshow. Ivan Munroe the manager of the airfield was there with his daughter Theresa. I can remember this because I went to school with her. I was only a small child but I remember their being a large crowd of people, several planes on the field and also two large dirigibles (zepplin’s) that flew over the field the Akron, and the Decatur. Named after cities in the state of Ohio where they were built. They were so high I could barely see them. My father said it was so no little boys could shoot at them as they flew over.
For years the air field was used for civilian flights. I can remember the planes flying over our house as a kid. I remember it being a big day when the Douglas DC-3 and the Lockheed-14 first made it to the airfield. They were the largest and most advanced aircraft that a lot of people had seen at the time. The bi-planes were a little more common. I can recall one evening when a bi-plane was attempting a night landing. The plane ended up torn up on its roof and somehow the pilot walked away.
In the early 1940’s The Army Air Force came in, made it a base and started building onto the little airfield. It grew in size pretty quickly. The army was training pilots there. I remember one afternoon when I watched a Continental P-30 wear down 3 grown men trying to get it started. They eventually gave up on it.
I was told by my father that there were Chinese pilots being trained there. I never saw any, but a lot of the girls said they did. One afternoon while watching the military planes come and go on their exercises I saw one crash. It seemed like it just fell out of the sky. When it hit the ground I could feel it shake. I was told it was one of the Chinese pilots.
In 1943 I Joined the Army Air Force and was shipped out to Texas. I never made it into combat. I don’t know if that was a blessing or a curse. After my time in the military I stayed in Texas for a while but eventually moved back to Tallahassee. By the time I returned The Tallahassee regional airport was being built and Dale Mabry air field was on its way down. A lot of the buildings were torn down. Many were sold and moved to new locations. When the new airport opened the old airfield was pretty much forgotten and disappeared. Highways were paved over the runways and new buildings were built all around them.
Today very little is left from the field. That includes in memory. It may not be very important in the history books, but it was definitely an important part of the history of Tallahassee.
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