There are a couple of things that are often left out of the story. First, there was one tiny hurdle Boise had to clear before air mail could happen. The city needed an airport. Second, the early days of air mail service along the three-city route could be kindly described as a fiasco.
Air mail service would begin in Boise on April 6, 1926. In January of that year, local citizens were just forming a committee to figure out how to build an airport. One might assume that the city council would be that committee, or designate its members, but there were issues that precluded that. The proposed airport site was south of the Boise River, just across from Julia Davis Park. That’s where BSU is today. In 1926, it wasn’t a part of the city. The city attorney advised the council that it couldn’t spend money outside the city limits, and it wasn’t clear they could spend money on an airport even if they annexed the land.
Did I mention that air mail service would begin on April 6? Somebody had to step up. The American Legion, which had engineers and builders and people used to giving orders following World War I, came forward to take on the task. The Boise Chamber of Commerce raised some money, and a call went out for volunteers—“Come with an axe and willing hands” FREE LUNCH.
The city council continued to debate the role the city would eventually play in paying for and operating the airport, but the American Legion charged ahead. When Leon D. Cuddeback, chief pilot for Varney, came to inspect the proposed airport site it had been pouring rain for almost 24 hours. Yet, the drainage looked good. He gave the project his thumbs up.
Cuddeback informed the Legion committee members that the planes his company would use for air mail could take off and land in 500 feet, but he said other planes the company would bring to the new airport would need more space. He recommended a 2,000-foot runway that would be “ample for any service.” But even before the landing strips were completed there was talk of eventually moving the airport up on the bench away from seasonal flooding and the occasional fog the river generated.
With the help of volunteers, service clubs, and the chamber of commerce, the American Legion got the job done. The airport was ready for air mail service to begin in April. Varney Airlines, as it turned out, wasn’t as ready as they thought they were. That story tomorrow.