Answer Man: Memories of the monster hanger

News-DemocratJune 6, 2014 

I was in that monster airship hangar they built at Scott Field in the early '20s. Then, in 1943, I was stationed at Port of Spain, Trinidad, as a member of the 83rd Seabee battalion. We unloaded ship after ship of huge timbers. We were told they were from the hangar at Lakehurst, N.J. They were going to use them to build a hangar for airships to combat the Nazi U-boats in the area. However, the soil would not support the hangar, so we had to send them all back. Could this have been Scott's hangar instead of Lakehurst's? -- H.C., of Breese

Wouldn't that be something to tell your grandkids? I handled the timbers of the building near where the mighty Hindenburg went up in flames in 1937.

Sorry, it just didn't happen, according to Carl Jablonski, president of the Navy Lake Historical Society. Since 1919, seven hangars have been erected at Lakehurst, and they're all still standing and in use.

The most famous was the first. Built from 1919 to 1921, Hangar No. 1 housed every active American rigid airship (Shenandoah, Akron, et al.), the Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg, several Army airships and every type of non-rigid airship constructed for the Navy from 1922 to 1960.

As the U.S. prepared for World War II, hangars 2 and 3 were begun, the first airship hangars to be built since 1933. After the airship program ended, they were used to build and test the catapult systems on aircraft carriers.

Hangar No. 4 was brought up from Virginia, a corrugated structure that is still being used by the New Jersey urban rescue team used in building collapses. Finally, for storage and support of the airships, they built hangars 5 and 6 in 1943, both from wood from the forests of Oregon.

"All hangars are standing and in use today," Jablonski said proudly.

But those timbers probably didn't come from Scott, either. While researching the murder of Cornell Lengfelder for another recent column, I stumbled across a story on July 7, 1938, that announced the razing of that mammoth hangar.

After Scott's airship era ended in June 1937, the hangar was no longer needed and would have require at least $250,000 in repairs. The hangar came tumbling down in August 1938 to make way for a $5.5 million improvement program that included an airplane hangar and eight runways along with new barracks, hospital, firehouse, gymnasium, mess hall, theater and service club. So unless they kept the refuse for five years, it's unlikely they shipped it to Trinidad in 1943.

Jablonski, however, welcomes anyone interested to take a tour of Lakehurst, including Hangar No. 1 and the Hindenburg crash site, if you're ever out East. See www.nlhs.com for more information and a detailed history of the naval station.

One final clarification from my previous Scott column: While Scott Field had been chosen to become the new home to the General Headquarters Air Force in 1938, the move was canceled when World War II broke out. Instead, headquarters remained at Langley Field, where it had been established in 1935. (Thanks to Bob Brunkow.)

No joke: When Betty Estes, of Belleville, was looking for information about Creotina Oil, she mused that, considering its name and its rank smell, it probably has creosote in it.

Turns out she was on the money.

After an initial Google search left me high and dry, a nudge from Ned Randle, an attorney with Polster Lieder, finally led me to sniff out the ingredients in the stinky stuff.

As it turns out, it appears the Germ-Elim and the Creotina Chemical companies were just two more companies Belleville's J. Edward Yoch tried to turn around in the 1930s.

Way back in 1920, the Creotina Chemical Co. was headquartered at the 512 Granite Building in St. Louis, according to The Medical Herald and Electro-Therapist.

And according to an ad in the publication, the active ingredients were "neutralized acid-free preparation of USP creosote" (3 percent), sodium hypophosphite (3 percent), and alcohol (1 percent) along with syrup and water.

Before you turn up your nose, wood-tar creosote oils and other derivatives have been used for centuries in medicinal concoctions around the world. In fact, guaifenesin is still used in Mucinex, Robitussin and others.

Besides, according to the 1920 ad, Creotina could cure just about anything, including flu, pneumonia, tuberculosis and bronchial cough. No stomach irritation, and you could mix it in milk or cocoa for a perfect bedtime nightcap. The wholesale cost? Just $8 for a dozen 10-ounce bottles. No wonder Yoch brought the company to South 29th Street for a short time around 1940.

Today's trivia

How many women were among the first settlers at Jamestown in 1607?

Answer to Thursday's trivia: Charles Vivian, a 25-year-old English-born singer, arrived in New York City on Nov. 15, 1867. Two days later, he faced a big problem: Blue laws prevented him buying a drink on Sunday. So, within a month, he and a dozen other new-found entertainment friends were meeting on Sundays at his boarding house, making sure it was well-stocked with bubbly. They called themselves the Jolly Corks. When one of their friends died a couple of months later, they became on Feb. 16, 1868, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, which is now 850,000 members strong. Don't fall prey to the Jolly Cork trick; see www.elks.org -- or ask Mark Bauer, of Millstadt.)

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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