For more than 100 years aviation has played a significant role in shaping North Texas. From the 1950s, 12 or more landing strips, most of them grass, allowed pilots young and old to take to the skies over then-rural Southlake.
Since 1964 when the U.S. Civil Aeronautical Board ordered Dallas and Fort Worth city leaders to come up with an agreed upon location for a joint airport, Dallas Fort Worth Regional Airport (today’s D/FW International Airport) has had an impact on the city of Southlake, its businesses and residents.
Those topics will be explored August 15 in a panel discussion that’s part of the exhibit “Taking Flight: How aviation changed North Texas and Southlake” on display in Southlake Town Hall, 1400 Main Street, through Aug. 20.
The exhibit features colorful panels on loan from the Tarrant County Archives that chronicle area-wide aviation events from 1911 into the 21st century. Other panels tell the story of Southlake families and their grass airstrips, popular from 1950s through the 1990s.
Honorary co-chairs are Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes, Southlake Mayor Laura Hill, former Southlake Mayor John Terrell, and longtime Southlake resident and private pilot Zena Rucker.
The Main exhibit is in the lobby of Town hall. Photographs, maps and aviator memorabilia from the Tarrant County Archives are being displayed with the main exhibit as well as in the Southlake Library, on the first floor of Town Hall.
An opening reception and a paper airplane event for children have been held.
A panel discussion on Aug. 1 will focus on the grass airstrips in Southlake and feature stories about a time when it was commonplace to see small airplanes flying around the area. Panelists will include Zena Rucker and her son Dooley Rucker; Kathy Kasper Frank, whose parents owned the Lazy K airstrip where Carroll High School is now; and commercial airline pilots Steve White and David “Rusty” Rhodes, who began flying as teenagers. It will take place from 6:30-8 p.m., in the Southlake Town Hall City Council chamber.
A second panel discussion, Monday, Aug. 15, explores the impact of D/FW International Airport on the city of Southlake, its businesses and residents. John Terrell, VP of Commercial Developement DFW International Airport and former Southlake mayor will moderate. Panelists will include Southlake Mayor Laura Hill, former Southlake mayor and now Tarrant County Commisioner Gary Fickes, Cooper and Stebbins (developers of Town Square) president Frank Bliss, Greg Last, former Southlake economic development director and longtime Realtor Lou Hillman. It will take place from 6:30-8 p.m., Monday, Aug. 15, City Council chamber, also in Southlake Town Hall.
All events are free and open to the public. The exhibit in the lobby of Town Hall and the Southlake Library will be open to the public 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The library is closed on Sunday.
Watch www.SouthlakeHistory.org for any new information. Questions? Contact Connie Cooley at 817-223-9606.
(The photo featured at the top of the article shows Ted Kasper posing with his son Gary next to their antique Waco UPF-7 airplane. The Kasper family built two grass airstrips on their property in Southlake in the 1960s.)