This was a reprint from the October 1997 issue of Galt Traffic – edited to reflect the current times.
Art was born in Evanston, Illinois on April 9, 1912. He received his law degree before WW II and practiced in his father’s firm for a long time. Art was a member of the elite “Black Horse Troop” of the Illinois National Guard’s 106th Cavalry. When the US entered WW2, Art’s unit was activated. He was among the last of the mounted Cavalry which soon abandoned horses for tanks and other motorized vehicles. Art went to war as a PFC and came home a Captain — he got his commission the hard way.
Art returned from Europe a man changed by his wartime experiences and, in 1949, decided to abandon the practice of law, marry Vera Chizek Davis, and move with her and her three children to the farm on Greenwood Road that became Galt Airport. Art got into aviation in the early ’50s. To avoid the long drive on the then two-lane Highway 51 to northern Wisconsin where he and Vera loved to camp and fish, Art hired a pilot and four place plane to fly them there. He got hooked on flying, began taking lessons and soon bought his first plane, a J-3 Cub. It wasn’t long before another pilot and aircraft owner, seeing Art’s Cub and landing strip, asked if he could keep his plane there at Art’s farm, too. Little by little, Art’s strip became Galt Airport.
As the plane population grew, Art and Vera’s farmhouse kitchen became the weekend hangout for the expanding gang of Galt regulars. Art’s sideline was becoming a business and it was soon time to build.
The first building was a hangar on the north side of the east-west runway. This became the shop and maintenance hangar and was used as such until it burned in 1984. The office, restaurant, and lounge building, with its attached row of hangars, was built next, and the parallel rows of pole-shed hangars followed one at a time. The east-west grass runway was excavated and paved in several stages. Art installed the runway lights himself. The beacon came from DuPage Airport. It had been the first beacon on the old lighted airway from Chicago-Midway to Minneapolis. (Another surviving beacon is the one from Boscobel, Wi, now relocated to EAA’s Pioneer Airport at Oshkosh).
After the first building (north of runway 9-27) burned, maintenance moved to the building that is on the south end of the current FBO parking lot. Nowadays the maintenance shop resides in the far easterly row of newer hangars. 1992 was a tragic year for Art. Art’s oldest son Charles died in June, and his beloved “Butchie”, Vera, passed away in September. His daughters, Barbara and Joan, lived in Hawaii and Crystal Lake, respectively. Art and Vera also raised a boy and girl, refugees from Germany who he met while stationed there. Art said, “We weren’t allowed to talk to any German adults, (during the occupation), so we talked to the kids That’s how I got to know them”.
There are many interesting stories at Galt, and Art was in just about every day to tell them. He was accessible to everyone. from the greenest newcomer to the crustiest old ‘veteran’. Art owned several planes and he flew them from Point Barrow to South America. He was full of good flying stories! Art loved kids and he was always happy to take a group of youngsters on an Airport tour.
The history of Galt Airport, and some of its principles, is the subject of a most readable book by Laurence Gonzales, One Zero Charlie, Adventures in Grass Roots Aviation, (Simon & Schuster, 1992, $20 00). It’s a great read for anyone with even a passing interest in Galt Airport. For a more in-depth biography of Art, by the same author, read The Hero’s Apprentice. (The University of Arkansas Press, 1994).
In 1998 Art retired. He sold the airport to business partners Ivan Djurin and Michael Stanard and moved out of state to New Lisbon, Wi. The airport was subsequently acquired by the late Claude Sonday and his wife, Diane in 2013. Art was inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in May 1999. Art passed away in Wisconsin in July of 2002 at the age of 90. You can read his obituary here.
Art’s father, Arthur T. Galt Sr. was a very interesting and wealthy land developer in Chicago. You can read about him here.