Friday, June 10, 2011

Soverel Field Jet Fighter

[East Orange] "was THE first in the nation to secure surplus military equipment for its playgrounds. The present director, Graham M. Skea, asked the Navy for a surplus fighter plane. It was granted, if he could  remove it from the depot in Philadelphia. He secured a truck and, with the aid of some of the department’s maintenance men, brought the plane to Soverel Field, where it became the cynosure of eyes all over the United States." (From 1964 Centennial History of East Orange)*

Caption above: "Flying their very own jet plane, East Orange, NJ youngsters swarm over the US Navy jet plane. Cargo net at cockpit helps 'pilots' get aboard."

Caption above: "Coveted spot is the plane's cockpit, where a boy sits working dummy controls. Astride fuselage, another 'pilot' awaits his turn."

Caption above: "Exhaust tube is a fine place to hide, even though it's a close squeeze. The engine housing was removed to permit play inside."

Even though we had almost everything we needed in the Stockton neighborhood, my best friend, Robert Cunliffe, and I made occasional bike trips to other areas including Soverel Field. Since Soverel had a Korean War era jet fighter ( a Panther** jet) on its grounds, it was well worth the mile bike ride to play on it in the late 1950's. We had no problems with the Soverel kids, but I'm told that the kids there started getting defensive about "their" jet in later years when non-neighborhood kids showed up.

Newspaper article above is on Google News and listed as from a 1958 edition of The Modesto Bee but the word Parade is also at the bottom of the page, so might be Parade magazine.

A short video of the jet by Tony Monica is here on Youtube.

Article below is from a 1959 Montreal newspaper article on Google news 

                                                Above: Graham M Skea from a 1963/64 photo

*This information had to appear as a quote to give me the opportunity to have the word "cynosure" in the blog (cynosureSomething that is the center of attention; an object that serves as a focal point of attraction and admiration).

**Panther was that model's nickname; officially, it was a blue Grumman F9F-5 Panther. The Panther was the first jet used by the Blue Angels flight team (1949-1954) and was the most widely used jet of the Korean War.

Soverel Field was also referred to as Soverel Park and Soverel Playground and was also often misspelled as Soveral Field, Soveral Park, and Soveral Playground.

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