April 14, 2021, 01:13:04 pm

Cadet Irene Francis Church

Started by ironputts, September 25, 2020, 04:19:37 pm

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September 25, 2020, 04:19:37 pm Last Edit: September 25, 2020, 06:36:04 pm by ironputts

September 25, 2020

Cadet Irene Francis Church
Former cadet
Michigan Wing

Irene Frances Purdy Church's Story (shortened for just CAP info see full version link below)

September 24, 1936 - September 21, 2020

Born September 24, 1936 at Providence Hospital in Detroit, Irene was the first child of Milton Francis Purdy

In December 1941 while I was in kindergarten the Japanese struck Peal Harbor Hawaii and the World War II began which really changed our lives. So many things were rations. We could only have new shoes once per year so we either wore hand me downs or around the neighborhood we went barefoot. We would take our shoes off and toughen our feet and we soon could walk on the gravel roads. We would get new shoes for school in the fall. Once when I wanted to take tap dance classes at the recreation building on Jim Daly I needed shoes with metal taps on them. My mother and some of her sister's took me to Canada where leather was not rationed and got me new shoes and had taps put on them. I then had to walk around to dirty them so we could get back across the bridge to the United States without them seeing we bought shoes.  The recreation building was put up during the war as a place for kids to play. We had a lot of parties, classes and just plain fun in this building. It is still there in 2011 but is used for other things now.

My father was exempt from the war because he was a tool and die maker and his skills were needed for the war effort. He was made fun of because he didn't serve.  My uncle Bill (US Army), Herb, and Eddie Schaarschmidt (US Navy) and Dad's brother Arthur (Navy and Merchant Marines) all served. Grandma Schaarschmidt had a banner in the window with stars on it for her sons in the war.  The windows had black or dark green shades on them so when it got dark light from the house would not show up to the enemy, when we had air raid warnings my grandfathers put on white helmets and went around making sure no light was showing from the houses.

While at McNair I joined the Girl Scouts that met at Westwood School on Jim Daly and Michigan Ave. My aunt Margaret took me to Hudson's downtown and bought the complete uniform for me. I have my Girl Scout hand book and it is dated 1946. I stayed in Girl Scouts until I became 16 years old and went to the State Fair by bus and trolley with one of my friend Jannette Hussan. It was there that we saw a display for the Civil Air Patrol and wanted to join. They met at the Wayne County Airport and wore WAC uniforms. Our unit was the Flying Squadron and we got to ride in L-4's and L-16's as observers.  I had a log book and logged in over 200 hours flying.  Sometimes I even got to fly the plane. We used to play war games as the cold war with Russia was taking place. We would go out in the field and hide and try not to be found by others. Dave McDermott, Mike Brom and many others were in the squad with me.  I was called a Cadet. Sometimes when we flew we would go over auto race tracks near Pontiac. I was even allowed to fly the plane as few times. The plane had the pilot in the front seat and passenger in the back seat. There was a stick between our legs that was the steering mechanism for flying. We did not have a radio in the plane and to land we flew near the tower ant they would give us a flash of light to signal the landing.  It was in one of this flights that Jim Reynolds took me up and did a loop in the air. There was a brick on the floor of the plane and it stayed in place while we went around upside down. One incident I remember was having fluid drip on me and Jim Reynolds said it was just a little gasoline from the wing tank... Oh to remember how dangerous that was.  My father never knew that the group was co-ed and that there were boys involved until we had a bivouac at the airport and dad found out about the mixed group I was involved in. I was not allowed to say out overnight, especially with boys and men there.  I had gotten my driver's license and took dad's truck out every Saturday for meetings. We flew in in a C-45 to Selfridge Airbase to get our WAC uniforms. The dress ones where blue pin striped and look real cute.  It was here that I met Warrant Officer Miles A Church Jr we was out there to get in a little boot leg flying time as he was taking lessons at Shobe Flying school.

Irene's Full version with pictures:


Special Note and thanks:

I met Irene through the newspaper I work for, which serves the community of Taylor where Irene and Miles lived together for many years. One day I posted an article about the Civil Air Patrol, and was surprised to get a message on Facebook from Irene, filled with photos from her days with CAP. She was very well known and involved in her community, very involved with Boy Scouts and well known in that organization, a frequent traveler who loved going on cruises, and very proud of the time she spent in the Civil Air Patrol, where she met her future husband!

I spoke with Irene only a few weeks ago regarding the Aeronca pictured. While on a flight in the early 50's, it was forced to make an emergency landing on a local football field. The police showed up, and told them the plane would have to have the wings removed and be hauled out on a trailer. Irene's Squadron Commander, a former WWI aviator, waited until after dark to sneak back onto the field, make the necessary repairs to the issue that required the emergency landing, and then performed a short field takeoff from the football field to bring the plane back to Wayne County Airport (present day Detroit Metropolitan) where the rest of the Squadron was waiting for it's return. The CAP history community helped identify the plane and track it down, and I was able to send Irene a photo of the plane with it's current paintjob, which currently resides in Virginia and is still flying today.

Irene was always full of stories about her time in CAP, and I regret that due to COVID I wasn't able to sit down for a proper oral history. She was well loved in our community, and will be greatly missed!

Capt Matthew Thompson
Monroe Composite Squadron Historian
Greg Putnam, Lt. Col., CAP