Nowhere else can you stand on a street corner and wave to a pilot as his plane taxis by, with a one-of-a-kind water tower in the background!
“The water tower is the only working wooden water tower in the United States,” said Jeanne Squier, general manager of the Beaumont Hotel across the street.
The water tower used to fill up steam locomotives that once ran through Beaumont and supplied water to the cattle being shipped.
In 1879, the Beaumont Hotel opened, first called “The Summit Hotel.” A grass airstrip was added in 1953.
“We had cattlemen from Texas here,” said Squier. “They didn’t want to fly into Wichita or drive the long ride to check on their cattle so my grandfather said, ‘Use our hay field,’ and it took off.”
Literally! But nowadays, small planes fly in for fun, not business.
One day in April, when the hotel had planned a fly-in and bike-in, there was a powerful crosswind. It turned one aircraft sideways on takeoff.
Not surprisingly, only two pilots and one motorcyclist braved the conditions to attend the benefit.
“It was a little exciting!” said Bret Chilcott, a pilot from Neodesha. “But we got it done in one piece! We didn’t knock any parts off. It was a good landing.”
Chilcott didn’t just come for the good breakfast in Beaumont. The hotel is raising money for Kansas Honor Flights, a program close to his heart.
“My dad had the opportunity to go on an Honor Flight, and it means a lot to me,” said Chilcott, getting choked up as he spoke.
Squier had the same reaction when asked why she wants to send 15 veterans to Washington D.C. to see the war monuments they inspired.
“Because they fought for us,” said Squier, wiping tears from her eyes. “It’s our freedom.”
Her own mother was an Army nurse in World War II.
“In some small way, this is how I can repay it,” said Squier.
She’s already paid for four veterans to take an Honor Flight May 21.
“I really didn’t think I’d live long enough to go,” said Richard McLean, an 85-year-old veteran.
For the other vets whose time is running out, the Beaumont Hotel will keep raising money, $700 a person to cover the costs of a trip of a lifetime.
If you’d like to donate, call Jeanne Squier at the Beaumont Hotel or drop by when they’re open, Thursday through Sunday.