Wednesday , May 22 2019
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A Look Back: the Chair-o-Plane company of Springville

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By Jolene Hawkins

Looking back to the fun that we had as kids riding on Aeroplane Swing rides, or the chair plane, during the carnivals. The thrill of ride, the laughter and joy we felt — oh, to be young again.
We can thank a industry that we had I town, Smith and Smith. To the far ends of the earth, Smith and Smith created three amusement devices that had people mingling with the good natured crowds and forgetting their troubles, at least for a little while.
On Oct. 1, 1900, Louis A. and Joseph Smith, who were brothers, were running a sawmill and erecting a building at the Salzer Plant on Mill Street. A few years later, they undertook the building of the Circle Wave amusement device under the contract for Armitage & Guinn, then the Tonawandas, and later of Springville.
This machine was a large wooden circular platform with seats about its outer edge for as many as 80 people to sit. It was constructed so that each part of the platform rose and fell as it was turned rapidly. If you rode one you well know the sensation it would give you. Gradually the two brothers worded into making the steel parts necessary for the machine as well as the woodwork.
The firm had outgrown its modest plant by 1914, and a new location for the enlarging the business was chosen on Franklin Street and Cochran Avenue. There was an excellent loading facility onto the B.R. & P. railroad switch, which could be easily made available.
Here, five buildings were erected: a two-story frame woodworking plant and a paint shop, along with the storage quarters. All the necessary saws, planers and tools that were needed to make anything with wood were house within. Of course, also stored there were the gaudy colors, so common to amusement parks and were spread generously over the baby planes, seats and frame.
The plant also had in a separate building a 15-ton cupola and moulder floors for making iron castings along with lathes, drills, punches, shears and forge used for the metal parts being made. Ample office facilities, storage for ran materials were all available.
In 1915, the Smith brothers bought the rights and business of the Circling Wave and thereafter supplied the demands for it. When the business was flourishing in the years just after The Great War, as many as 25 men were employed during the winter season in making up the devices to be use for fun during the summer months.
The plant never shut down and worked year round, always working ahead building its machines, to be ready to ship immediately when orders came in.
It was in 1918 that the two brothers patented and put onto the market the Aeoroplane Carousels so popular with adults. The chair plane was brought out in 1924 and soon met with popular favor wherever it was shown.
A market for the machine was found largely through advertising in the Billboard, a magazine which went to the workers and carnival men, fair officials, etc. Soon inquires were coming in from countries, and sales were made in distant lands. Export houses in New York City handled the business through their channels from the Springville firm.
Mr. Sylvester Smith, Allious Schindler and Ellery H. Neff purchased the business from the Smith brothers on Oct. 1, 1926, and continued to operate it.
In 1930, the firm patented and put onto the market the Aeroplane Swing, which was so popular with little folks around here. Five miniature planes are hung in a substantial steel frame in such a manner as to travel in a circle, the motion being imparted by a small motor and propeller in each plane, making the ride seem very much like a real airplane for the kids riding the ride.
This year on June 7, 8 and 9 will be the 30th year for the Springville WNY Dairy/Agriculture Festival, where I bet we will see a ride similar to those that were built here in our local town back in the 1900s.
You will be able to hear the laughter, feel the joy and taste the many items to be found in the food court and throughout the area. If you stop by the campus of the Concord Historical Society, 17 Franklin St., you will be able to get a small bag of popcorn, walk through the Pop Warner Museum on Saturday, June 8 or the Concord Mercantile the old time store, the Heritage Building.
You can visit us here at the Lucy Bensley Center on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 23 North Buffalo St., email us at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com or call us at 592-0094. Be sure to volunteer a few hours each month to help us keep everything open for folks to come and view what we have.

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