Chatham Airport: One Man’s Field of Dreams
By 1936, Wilfred Berube began to envision Chatham as a destination for sportsmen, especially during Cape Cod’s off-season. Private planes had already begun to visit, so he decided to build a hangar large enough to garage five to six planes. For the roof, Whittier reports that Berube built 30 arches of seven-layered wood, and only when it came time to raise the arches did he require additional hands to assist his efforts. Amazingly, the hangar has weathered every nor’easter and hurricane since its completion in 1937. “Those are the same bows that are up there today,” Howard says. “The rest of the airport’s structures were added in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.”
Guy Berube, who owns a summer home in Brewster, has been keeping his great-uncle’s torch lit for decades. His father, Alcide Berube, was a pilot who flew with Wilfred and spent time helping out at the airport. A retired aerospace/defense engineer, Guy has contributed memorabilia to the Chatham Historical Society as well as the Chatham Airport, where Howard has set up a display case in the foyer that is open to the public. The exhibit features photographs, flight logs and other mementos. Guy also provided information to Whittier when the author was researching his book.
“Wilfred was known to many as the flying fisherman,” Guy Berube says, adding that the worst accident his great-uncle ever experienced occurred not in the sky, but in a boat. “When World War II broke out, all the small airports within 50 miles of the coast were shut down, so Wilfred took up fishing,” Guy recalls. “One time, he got broadsided [by a wave] and the boat flipped, knocking him out.” Fortunately, Wilfred awoke in an air pocket formed by the boat’s cabin; he was able to breathe until the boat ran aground at low tide, where he was then rescued. “He was never hurt flying,” Guy says, “but he takes up fishing and nearly dies.”
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