Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Early Bird, Part 2

(David Lloyd, left, and Clyde Jackson Thompson in 1891)

Sara Thompson gave birth to her second son on Jan. 21, 1889, at the family's home in Coffey's Crossing, just west of Washington in Buffalo Township. She and her husband, Samuel, named the child David Lloyd Thompson, in honor of her father, Capt. David Haggerty.

The family moved to Kansas when David and older brother Clyde Jackson were still not in school. However, Sara and the boys returned to Washington several years later to live with her father. Sometime while attending Seventh Ward School on Shirls Avenue, David picked up the nickname "Dutch." A little later on, he would abandon his first name and start calling himself DeLloyd.

By the time the Wright brothers achieved the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903, Dutch was nearing his 15th birthday and already fascinated by the automobile and the speed of these new machines. School was not much to his liking, and when David H. Swart opened the first automobile garage in Washington County in 1905, in an old factory building on West Maiden Street in Washington, Dutch went to work for him as an apprentice. Swart went on to become a prominent auto dealer, selling Packards and other makes until his death at 81 in 1947, and his young apprentice, having learned to be a mechanic, graduated to racing autos.

But for Dutch, racing cars on dirt tracks and over rutted roads and fields was not thrilling enough. Orville and Wilbur Wright, and now many other mechanics, were designing flying machines that were more reliable, sturdy and could cover longer distances at higher altitude and greater speed.

And so, making what would become the most important decision of his life, in the summer of 1910, DeLloyd Thompson headed west, for St. Louis, to find a man named Walter Brookins.

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