• What’s in a name?

    Posted on September 4th, 2009 John Dorcey 4 comments

    Last week the Waukesha Freeman editorial staff suggested renaming the Waukesha County Airport as a way to honor Waukesha native Les Paul. The August 26 article states: “Crites Field could be renamed Les Paul International Airport. Rock stars might fly in here just to land their private jets at a really cool airport.” Folks involved in Wisconsin aviation already consider Waukesha airport as “really cool” and that its name – Crites Field – is most appropriate. The idea does lead one to ponder Wisconsin’s airports and their names.

    Today there are 133 public-use airports in Wisconsin – 97 are publically owned and 36 are privately owned. There are another 437 privately owned facilities that are restricted use. You can search the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Master Record database.

    Names of the publically owned facilities typically reflect their owners or location. Wisconsin has 35 airports with municipal in their name, 16 that have county in their name, and 19 with a general location name. Regional is in the name of 10 Wisconsin airports. The 17 remaining airports have names of historic interest.

    Alexander Field South Wood County Airport is better known as Wisconsin Rapids. John Alexander donated land for the airport and is remembered for the gift. Lawrence J. Timmerman was Chairman of the Milwaukee County Board for 33 years. Upon his death in 1959, the Curtiss-Wright Airport was renamed in his honor. The Brown County Airport is named for Austin Straubel, the first military aviator from Green Bay to lose his life in World War II. Middleton Municipal is also known as Morey Field after Howard Morey, the airport’s founder. Richard I. Bong Field in Superior is named for “Ace of Aces” Dick Bong. Hillsboro’s airport is named after Joshua Sanford, a Native American who flew in Chennault’s 14th Air Force. General Mitchell International Airport is named after Milwaukeean General Billy Mitchell. The Lakeland-area airport is also known as Noble F Lee Memorial. Lee was a pilot, flight instructor, and longtime airport manager.

    It is the private airports where we find some interesting, creative names. Wisconsin is known for its beer so we shouldn’t be surprised to find Beer Airport in St. Croix County. Too many beers and it is said you have gone on a Bender – an airport in Marathon County.

    Aircraft related names abound – Funk Aerodrome (Kewaunee), J-3 Cub Field (Jefferson), Plows and Props (Walworth), Rag Wing (Langlade), Wag-Aero (Walworth), Weedhopper Meadow (Walworth), and finally, Broken Prop (Waushara), hopefully not named for some pilot’s misfortune.

    Wisconsin’s natural resources are reflected in a number of airport names – Bark River (Waukesha), Battle Creek (Waukesha), Eagle Ridge (Dunn), Blair Lake (Iron), Bogus Creek (Pepin), Black Otter (Outagamie), and Lake Ell (Portage).

    While Able doesn’t have an airport in Wisconsin, Cain’s Field is (Oconto). Don’t land poorly at Heckler’s Strip (Dane) – you’ll probably hear about it. Larson Airport (Winnebago) is on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Finally, my favorites – Bucky’s (Waushara), Dinnerbell (Fond du Lac), Kitty Wompus (Sawyer), Mount Fuji (Walworth), Polish Paradise (Adams), Uff-da (Dane), Will-be-gon (Washburn), Whoopy Hollow (Lafayette), and With-Wings-and-a-Halo (Winnebago).

    There is much in an airport’s name – history, pride, creativity, and some humor. The Waukesha County Airport is named after two brothers – Dean and Dale Crites, who made an enormous impact on Wisconsin aviation. Changing the name to salute Les Paul, or anyone else, would be a mistake.


    3 responses to “What’s in a name?” RSS icon

    • WAHF,
      The contribution of the Dean and Dale Crites to aviation throughout Wisconsin and to their home community of Waukesha should not be erased. I suppose, on the scale of celebrity, Dean and Dale do not score as highly as Les Paul. But, if we follow this logic to its conclusion, Waukesha should name the airport after someone even more famous than Les Paul. How about MIchael Jackson?

      It’s good that the Freeman wants to memorialize a native son as talented as Les Paul. But there are better ways to do it than repainting some signs. How about launching a movement to maintain and increase music education programs in Wisconsin schools? Or, since Les Paul was as talented an inventor as a guitarist, working to improve programs that teach science and technology. That is more likely to produce another Les Paul than renaming the airport.

    • I concur with guitarlover and would point out that the City of Waukesha has already recognized the native son by naming a parkway after the gifted Les Paul. Crites Field was named for the historic and gifted aviation indiviuals that helped make UES what it is today. Renaming it after a non-aviation individual would be a slap in the face of Wisconsin aviation history.

    • A horrible idea from the Waukesha Freeman staff. As much as Les Paul did for the music industry, renaming Crites Field would be a huge mistake. I don’t think a name is going to get rock stars to land anywhere unless it is closest to where they want to go. I’ll admit it though, I’d love to tell people about taking off from Beer airport and landing at Uff-da.

      Discovery World museum already has a “Les Paul’s House of Sound” in Milwaukee as well as the Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum’s exhibit that will be opening soon.

      I like that airports are named in honor of those important to Wisconsin’s aviation history. At this rate who knows, they might honor me in 60 years and take away from our Ace of Aces, Richard Bong. Not by my choice, instead by a few editorial staff with bad ideas.



    1 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

    Leave a reply