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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Smoke Rise Retired Men's Club Dines at 94th Bomb Group Restaurant

Smoke Rise Retired Men's Club at 94th Bomb Group RestaurantWere you aware of the Smoke Rise Retired Men's Club? Herb O. Fisher Jr., who contributed The Early Days of Smoke Rise, forwarded me a copy of the following article detailing the club's outing to the 94th Bomb Group restaurant at the Essex County Airport.

"Members dine military-style"

Suburban Trends
March 6, 1988

Kinnelon -- The weekly luncheon group of retired executives of Smoke Rise went military recently at the 94th Bomb Group military theme restaurant, at the Essex County Airport in Fairfield, formerly Caldwell Wright Airport.

The group ate in the Mess Hall at the restaurant, which is decorated throughout with memorabilia and pictures of the pilots and support personnel of that famous 94th Bomb Group of World War II.

Major Hal Kowal of Smoke Rise flew 25 missions as a pilot with the 94th Bomb Group and assisted in the dedication ceremonies of the facility on Dec. 16, 1985.

The Smoke Rise executives have met for many years at the North Gate each Thursday at 12:30pm.

At these meetings, the member with a birthday closest to the meeting day must buy a round of drinks for the occasion. At this recent meeting, John Zimmer and Herb Fisher celebrated their big days.

Each of these World War-type restaurants, located in 25 major airports around the country, is a $2 million French Farm house. They are typical of the type of legendary surroundings Capt. Eddie Rickenbacher and the pilots of that era departed from for aerial combat.

David Tallichet, president of Specialty Restaurants Corporation, Anaheim, Calif., is in the process of re-dedicating most of the 94th Aero Squadron facilities by honoring and recognizing World War II fighter and bomber groups.

Smoke Rise Men's Club in Suburban Trends
Herb Fisher, a member of the Smoke Rise group, is assistant to Tallichet and is handling the promotion and press for him in the rededication ceremonies of these restaurants around the country.

Tallichet operates an additional 50 restaurants with such names as The Castaways, Rusty Pelican, Baby Dows Matchless Mines and the Shanghai Reds, one of which is located on the Hudson River in Weehawken.

All retired men of Smoke Rise are welcome to meet and join the group every Thursday at 12:30pm at the North Gate.  There are no dues and no requirements.

Photo Caption:
The Retiring Type -- Members of the Smoke Rise Retirement Men's Club pose for a photo after a luncheon at the 94th Bomb Group Restaurant recently.  Standing left to right in the back row are Bill Luthy, Phil Richtenscheidt, Henry Lange, John LaPlante, Bill Schaefer and Herman Knuppel.  Front row left to right are Herb Fisher, Bob Gaiser, John Zimmer, Les Gill, John Sperger, Henry Knuppel, Fred Seebinger and Charlie Dangelmajer.  Missing from photo is Merrill Little.

Merrill Little Photo.

After reading the article, I asked Herb a question.

CB:  Herb, what is the connection between French farm houses and airplanes? What is the significance?

HOF:  This is my understanding of the connection between French farm houses and airports/airplanes. The 94th Aero Squadron was actually formed somewhere here in Texas back in 1916 or so. Very beginnings of an Air Force. The 94th was shipped over to France in maybe 1917 to help the French fight the Germans in the air/WWI.

You might have heard the name Eddie Rickenbacker. He was one of several Aces from the USA to serve in France. Instead of using airports which were easily spotted targets from the air, airstrips were actually mowed fields on the French countryside. Airplanes could be parked under trees, or hidden in barnes or covered with hay. Much more difficult to spot. So, farm houses were commandeered as headquarters, bunkhouses, brothels, "watering holes/gin mills" and Operations Centers. I suspect several of the nicer ones would remind you of the original Smoke Rise Inn.

Have you ever been to the 94th at Essex County Airport? Is it still there? Back in the late 40s and 50s that airport was called Caldwell Wright. It was home for the Curtiss Wright propellor division. Curtiss props were on many military and commercial aircraft. My dad did numerous test flights with various types of propellors over a period of four or 5 years at that airport....but that's another story.

Thank you, Herb! 

Have you been to the 94th Bomb Group Restaurant at Essex County Airport?

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