Charles Walsh, an aviator from San Diego, California, introduced La Grande to the miracle of flight on July 9, 1911, by making a trip from La Grande to Island City and back. The flight was took place just two days after a failed attempt in La Grande almost claimed his life.
On July 7, Walsh got about 50 feet off the ground before his plane crashed. He was not injured, a story in the July 10, 1911, Observer reported.
Two days later, thousands gathered near a La Grande baseball field to watch Walsh attempt again to make history. He did not disappoint, flying his repaired biplane on a round trip to Island City with no apparent problems. The flight thrilled onlookers.
“Throughout there was a cheer from thousands which must have been heard for miles,” the July 10 Observer article said.
The early evening flight made history not only in La Grande but all of Eastern Oregon. The Observer reported this was the first time a plane had been flown anywhere in Eastern or Central Oregon.
“These who saw Fulton’s steamboat for the first time, those who witnessed the first locomotive could not have been more elated than were the people who gathered yesterday to see the flight,” an editorial in the July 10, 1911, Observer stated.
Walsh remained about 200 feet off the ground throughout his exhibition flight in order to be easily seen. The thousands who watched included 400 who paid admission to be at the site of Walsh’s takeoff and landing.
Read the full story in Monday's edition of The Observer.