A homeowner in Waukesha for 20 years, Steve is president of the Waukesha Dog Parks Organization and enjoys motorcycling, fishing and staying on top of politics.
In the 1960's I had unforgettable years of working as a teenager at Capital Drive Airport. One of the early memories that I had was helping to disassemble a WWII trainer, an AT6 that a co-owner of it had hit the engine of a Cessna 140 with it's prop damaging the Cessna and the engine of the AT6. What stays with me is that I had to hold up a wing tip as it was unbolted from the fuselage and that it was very heavy.
I had shortly before met Alex Herbst, the other owner of it. In my mind, I recall that Alex always and I emphasize always, had a wide friendly smile and seem happy as can be to make the acquaintance of anyone who loved flying as he does. Even as we took his airplane apart, that smile was quick to appear. Alex was frequently at the airport and I learned that he was one of the pioneers of Waukesha aviation. His name was in the list of those that were part of the "in-crowd". Even though I was a teenager, I was a fellow pilot and Alex always had time to talk with me, usually something about aviation or my motorcycle and sometimes about his family. Perhaps because he had a son named Steven, he mentioned him to me. Once when Steven enjoyed his Chevy Nova with a big engine a bit too much and lost his drivers license for a while, Alex would drive it to the airport and once let me drive it around. That was the most powerful car that I ever drove and I was honored to be trusted with it.
Alex didn't talk about his daytime job to me at all. It wasn't until a few years later when I was in the heating and cooling trade that I saw a head pop out of a hole in the floor of a garage and the famous smile glowed when we saw each other. It was then I found out that he was a plumber, a trade in kinship to fixing furnaces and boilers that I had ended up doing.
Raising a family and paying for a house drifted me from the airport and that was the last time I remember seeing Alex. I had heard that he went to California, something that I never confirmed. Soon crime in Milwaukee forced me to sell my house and I moved my family to Waukesha. I always kept an eye open for Alex. I remember him mentioning Barstow St hill for some reason once. Every time I drive on it, which is almost daily, it reminds me of Alex.
Tonight, while reading the newspaper, a picture of an AT6 caught my eye. The name above the plane hit me as it an electrical shock would have. A little piece of my youth died. I hope after orientation and Alex meets with family, that he and the likes of the Breechers, Crites, Bob Huggins and many others can meet together in a flight office along side of some grass runway each Saturday morning. Keep an ear on the unicom radio, Alex. Someday Aeronca 2081 Echo will be asking for winds and active. Come out to the gas pump and surprise me with your smile.