March 18, 1967 from the Mt. Vernon Democrat

Dave Alldredge Leader in Local Aviation

by Posey Bach

With a few robins bravely hopping about and a few crocuses timidly putting forth bloom, Mr. and Mrs. David Alldredge, as fresh as springtime, told of their many experiences that are a part of this community

Mr. Alldredge has been, first of all, a highly successful man in the automobile industry. Within this framework have been the colorful interests of a person brimming with vitality put to use such as his abililty to steer Mt. Vernon, a refugee center, through the 1937 flood, one of Indiana's greatest disasters. Dave Alldredge was able to foresee, almost 50 years ago, the importance of flying and its impact on the future, and as a teacher, was able to love, memorize and keep the haunting, rewarding beauty of poetry.

He was born and reared on a farm in the Grafton community 83 years ago. With his health and enthusiasm, it could have been yesterday. He is a direct descendant of the McFaddens, settlers of McFadden's Bluff, which is now Mt. Vernon. His grandfather, David, was a cousin of Alexander McFadden, the original settler, and David Alexander Alldredge is named for both of these Hoosier pioneers.

Long-Time Pilot

He is one of the oldest airplane pilots in Indiana and is a member of the original Board of Aviation Commission. He is the first licensed pilot in Mt. Vernon with 33 years as an active pilot. Last year, at the age of 82, he sold his airplane. However, he still maintains his license.

His first instructor, back in 1922 was Roderick Wright, a cousin of Orville and Wilbur Wright, outstanding pioneers of aviation. The plane he learned to fly was a Curtis Jenny. Mr. Alldredge recalls that it had no brakes, bamboo struts under the wing, and with nothing but a straight skid stick on the ground dragging in place of a tail wheel. His solo was in a field that now belongs to Frank Harlem on the Tile Factory Road. He did it all alone--there was no one below waiting to "catch" him.

Later, with Dave Hasting and Mayor Frank Fessenden, he got permission from the city council for the establishment and location of the Mt. Vernon Airport. Mr. Alldredge managed it for several years.

Taught School

In 1904 or 1905 he began teaching school and taught for 12 years as a principal in the grade schools of Black Township. He earned $45 a month, and when he and Mrs. Alldredge were married, his salary was $85 a month. The both laughed together and said, "We were able to save money, too." For several years in the summer he worked on the farms as a steam engineer for threshing.

One summer, he ran a threshing outfit. This was contract threshing and he and Mrs. Alldredge, along with Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Alldredge, ran the operation. Edgar and Dave were cousins, the two Mrs. Alldredges were sisters and together did the cooking. They used a cook wagon (wagon shack) that was similar to a big covered wagon. The two sides came down, like table ledges, and the food would be placed on the ledges, for the crew, at meal times. They had a big stove in the wagon and Mr. Alldredge said with justifiable pride, "They were such good cooks that we had a crew all the time." He added, "Some of the other threshing contracts had difficulty keeping a crew, but we always had one." Edgar Alldredge's job was to separate the wheat from the chaff, and Dave was the engineer. With the four of them working together, it was about a 22-day operation.

New Career

He was interested also in mechanics and automobiles and this led to selling a few cars while he was still teaching. Judge Herman, a car dealer on Main Street, offered him a full-time job at $125 a month as bookkeeper and salesman, as he gave up teaching and started a new career.

In 1918, his interest in flying led to a still different occupation. He and a group of men formed Hurst's Airplane Company. They were to manufacture airplanes of their own design and had several planes almost completed for sale. Stock was sold, the plant was located beyond the Evansville State Hospital, straight out Division Street. this was an actuality, and one wonders how big an industry it might have been for this area had not a sudden cyclone completely wiped out the whole operation.

Mr. Alldredge was without a job, had about $800 left to his name and a wife and baby to take care of. He went to the Keck-Gonnerman Company (auto dealer), and asked for a job, but they didn't need any more help at that time. Mr. Alldredge said, "I am going to work for you anyway." He went back in the shop, picked up tools, joined the other mechanics, and began to work. For two weeks, he worked without pay and he explained, "It was better than to sit around doing nothing, and I like working with mechanics." A lot of his friends came in to see him and after two weeks, the management told him, "We don't want you in the shop, we want you on the sales force."

Agency President

He worked for some time with the firm. The business then became Keck Motor Company and the Gonnerman Auto Company was formed with Mr. Alldredge as president and manager. He continued in this capacity for 31 years until his retirement 12 years ago. The agency is now Dave Morris Chevrolet.

He has served as president of the Chamber of Commerce and was chairman for eight or 10 years of its annual fall festival. He scoured the countryside to get outstanding acts for entertainment, handled all the festival committees, and served as master of ceremonies. His many fraternal affiliations include: Odd Fellows, Modern Woodmen, Masons and Elks. He was the the chairman of the Red Cross during our major flood in 1937.

In the 1937 flood disaster, Mr. Alldredge was so busy that he didn't see his office for 20 days. Mt. Vernon took care of 90 miles of riverfront, and there were approximately 500 families in the county that were in need of help. He worked with the rescue crews, and remembers many stories of that emergency among them about a family that was evacuated and taken to the Coast Guard boat at nightfall. It then too dark to continue on to Mt. Vernon.

The farmer stayed behind with his livestock and Mr. Alldredge recalls the still vivid scene, "He had mules standing on a straw pile, and the mules' heads were just above the water." The rescue team stopped at Dave's farm which the tenants had already left. It was freezing cold and the evacuated family was hungry and in shock. Mr. Alldredge built a fire, searched aand found the remains of a hambone, some potatoes, onions and some catsup ... the rescued lady cooked them and he laughingly added, "It was a combination between a stew and a soup." Later, in this same house, a 300-pound hog was found in the bathroom. It swam through a window, was trapped and died there.

The Coliseum was the concentration center with 300 to 400 people eating three meals a day there. People were quartered at the Coliseum, lodges, homes and churches. Different civic organizations, in shifts, worked every day. "The cooperation of all the people was wonderful," Mr. Alldredge emphasized. Food, from the Red Cross, was brought in by carloads. This state of emergency lasted over a month. The Red Cross headquarters was located where the present A&P store is now ... cots, equipment, everything were first brought there.

The territory involved the Wabash and Ohio Rivers, and people across the river in Kentucky. Then a rehabilitation program was required so that homes would be ready when the people returned, wells purified and buildings rebuilt. Clothes and groceries were made available for the people that had to start rebuilding their lives.

Surveys Area

His flying has been a service to the community in that he could survey the rising river levels, which he has done for many years, and to see who were in danger along its borders. Some of these people would refuse to leave their homes, the roads were not level, the water would rise, and then they would be marooned. Mr. Alldredge worked with the State of Indiana to have the roads leveled, and since that time no people have been hemmed in by flooding.

In one of the later floods, a family was marooned in the back waters. The family did not want to leave, but the mother was expecting and the time was near. Mr. Alldredge flew over every day to check on the family. If a white flag was out, Mr. Alldredge told them, then all was well, if a red flag was out, a pontoon boat would be sent immediately. He kept his vigil during the high water and fortunately, only the white flag flew.

It hasn't all been easy. His mother died when he was a year old and growing up, he sometimes wondered where his next pair of shoes would come from. He learned early, he said, "that people don't give you things or owe you a living. When I was about 16 or 17, I had the first overcoat that I ever owned. I swapped a pig for it." He continued, happily remembering, "It was a pretty overcoat but the plaid lining was prettier ... anytime I went anyplace, I would fold that coat so the lining would show."

Near Miss

While he was in his teens, he and a friend went to Texas and Oklahoma, still part of the Indian Territory. The two teenagers worked in a rock quarry. Dynamite used in the quarry exploded prematurely. Rocks went everywhere, a worker an arm's length from Dave Alldredge was killed

The jobs were few and far between. He traveled from house to house to beg for food. "Like a hobo," Dave said, "That was when I definitely made up my mind that you have to have something in your head, instead of muscles, if you want to make life easier." He rode the rails, worked on farms through Kansas and Nebraska persisting until he had enough money to come home again. "I also worked in a hotel in Mangrum, Okla., carrying coal, wood, anything that had to be done. I was a lackey boy ... well, you might say," he added, "a janitor."

At about 20, he finished his schooling in Posey County and enrolled at Oakland City College. Dave Alldredge was also a hoedown fiddler, for $2 a night, and would play all night. While the violin was his first interest, he also took piano lessons at Oakland City. Early one morning, while practicing his lessons on the chapel piano, he suddenly switched to ragtime. The dean, Mrs. Wheatley, came in unexpectedly. She chased the ragtime musician out of the chapel. "I'll never forget that," he said respectfully.

On the 26th of June, he and the former Augusta M. Starken will have been married 58 years. Her hobby is needlework, flowers and the yard. "There is something blooming every day of the growing season," Mr. Alldredge said, and added with pleasure, "She has a green thumb, everything that she plants, grows."

There is a closeness between these two and a strong touch of reality in their activities and outlooks. This strength, this keeness of reality, one realizes as they speak of their son, Jack, who lost his life in World War II at Metz, France. He was never officially listed as dead. For a long time, the Alldredges followed every lead available, talked with soldiers who had served with him, found the proof, and stopped searching for their son.

One had heard from others of Jack's love of life, his joyousness and what an outstanding person he was. His wife is Marjorie Black Alldredge. Mr. Alldredge said simply that "we don't talk much about him, we try to do other things. Since then my wife and I have traveled a lot." And Mrs. Alldredge spoke briefly of what happy person Jack was. The had been married quite a while before he was born, and all the poignancy, of loss was there, when Mrs. Alldredge said, "We waited 11 years before we got him." Little more was said, there were pictures of him in about every room and on Mr. Alldredge's desk, a picture of a lovely, dark-eyed mother, holding a laughing baby.

Fishing is a Hobby

For the last 20 years, Mr. and Mrs. Alldredge have spent the major part of the winters in Florida, and have just returned from there. Fishing is a hobby of his and he has fished in almost all the lakes and rivers near here, in Canada, and in Florida. For 17 years, Mr. Alldredge has gone big-game hunting in the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado.

The Alldredges did not tell of another facet of his accomplishments, but one of their friends told of his great storehouse of poetry. He memorized the Greats of Poetry while teaching school, and has at his command and his pleasure a cathedral of knowledge.

Mr. Alldredge, at 83, is the present co-chairman of the disaster committee of the Red Cross. One hopes that no disaster will ever come again to Posey County, but if one should, we can rest assured ... everything will be all right.

Text copied from Mt. Vernon Democrat - March 18, 1967 Edition

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