Part 4 of a 6-Part Series
MILWAUKIE, Ore. - "Growing up around the plane - it was just always here, you know," said Jayson Scott, who is the grandson of the late Art Lacey, the businessman who brought the B-17 Lacey Lady to Milwaukie back in 1947. "It was a unique novelty and I never was that particularly close to it, although I loved airplanes and wanted to be a pilot and became one. But as time went on, (I learned) there's a lot more behind the plane than just the actual physical structure. It's really more about the people and their experiences and trying to do something to help preserve those memories and those life experiences."
And he's not talking just about those who fought in World War II and maybe even flew a B-17 or rode in one. He's also talking about the folks in the local community who have their own memories of the Lacey Lady.
"One situation I'll never forget - and nobody else was there and nobody else can verify the story - but I was up in the plane and my brother-in-law needed to use the ladder that I had because he was working on something," said Jayson. "So he said 'hey, do you mind if I grab the ladder?' And I said 'sure, go ahead. I'm going to be up here for quite a while so don't worry about it. Just bring it back.' And I'm up there and I'm cleaning away and whatnot on the inside of the plane and I hear this small child, a little boy, with his uncle under the plane. And he's talking about 'oh yeah, there's the propellers and there's this that and the other.' "
Young Patriots Day - June 19
Take the kids to the Bomber for a day full of live entertainment, living history, games and much more!
The event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Bomber Property at 13515 S.E. McLoughlin Blvd.
"And at that time we had fluorescent lights that were underneath the wings of the plane and it was just strictly for the gas station to light up the area - nothing to do with the plane," he said. "It was installed later. So anyhow, the little boy says 'Uncle so and so, what were those lights for?' And he says 'oh, that was really, really important. That was a really top secret thing that our government had back during World War II.' 'Oh really, well what did they use them for?' (the kid asked)."
"And he said 'well, what happened is the Americans did a lot of nighttime bombing,' which was totally inaccurate because everything was all daylight, 'and they would come in really, really low over the area that they were going to be bombing and they would flip the lights on at the very last minute and illuminate the target and drop all their bombs and then fly out of there," Jayson said with a little chuckle.
"And the little kid was oohing and ahhing and everything (and thinking) how brilliant his uncle was and all of that," he said. "And he didn't know the whole time that I was up there in the plane and could hear the entire conversation. I just cracked up and thought that was kind of funny. And there are so many tales that we hear that are along those lines."
There are sad stories, too, including the one that nearly brought tears to Jayson Scott's eyes as he told it.
"We had one woman who had been terribly abused by her spouse, and my grandparents went down there" to see if they could help her, he said. "She was sitting down there and she had just kind of a duffel bag and was sitting down there crying under the islands of the plane. And my grandfather went down and said 'Are you ok?' And she said 'No, I'm not.' She was waiting to be picked up by somebody that was coming to save her, basically. And so they (my grandparents) kind of bundled her up and got her some coffee and whatnot. And she sat there and said 'I knew if I could come and be under the wings of the plane, I'd be safe.' "
It's stories like that, the family says, that keeps them devoted to the project. They want to keep those memories alive, honor those who have served our country and be reminded of that unique period in U.S. history.
"There's a plaque in the restaurant that Art had made that says that this stands in honor of the men and women who valiantly served our country," said Terry Scott, Jayson's wife. "And that doesn't just mean military people. When we were in that predicament, our whole United States came together as one. Even if we weren't for one, we acted like we were. And we had victory gardens in our flower beds and we helped each other and we had that 'all for one, one for all' attitude. And that plane reminds us of that."
Follow the story of Art Lacey's "Lacey Lady" and his family's efforts to preserve this piece of history this week in a special 6-part series. Watch for a new installment daily at noon through June 16.