Phil Wait and His Balloon
From The Colon Express newspaper, June 11, 1975; by Monk Watson: ”I think we all have idols to look back on, and my great idol was Phil Wait. I remember his first balloon ascension, and how anxious we all were to see his chute open, high in the sky.
Phil’s brother, Will, had been making balloon ascensions for some time. I believe he lived in Burr Oak. When I first saw Will Wait make his ascension he landed in Palmer Lake. Many boats were there to fish him out. As he neared the water he swung away from the parachute, and dove into the water.
So Phil figured he’d try it. He filled his balloon in the street in front of where the Davis Agency is now located (The “A” frame on North Blackstone across from the Village Hall). Will’s advice to Phil was, “When you get high enough, I’ll fire this gun. That means you should cut loose.”
In those days the parachute was not folded into a pack, but hung below the balloon. So, as soon as it was cut loose, it started to open. Not like today, when we have the delayed jumps.
So, Phil went up and when he reached the peak of his flight, Will shot the gun, and in a few seconds Phil cut loose. He was headed for the lower lake, but the wind caught him and he landed near the pickle factory, or just below the lumberyard on the railroad tracks.
From that day on it was a weekly event to see the balloon ascension. The storekeepers gave Phil a check for $5.00 and the factory gave him the wood to burn to make the hot air that filled the balloon. For a long time the trench and poles stood at the northeast corner of the Lamb Knit Company yard.
My mother had made me a parachute out of burlap bags, and I had made a hoop and trapeze, and with long ropes had it attached to the burlap parachute. Phil had promised me that he’d take me along on his next ascension. I took the chute to the little park, where Dr. Lawrence’s office is located (Now Dr. Smolarz). When the bag was filled Phil took hold of the top of my chute, and asked me if I was ready. I was so thrilled at the thought that I would soon be up there high in the sky and ready for him to drop me. When he yelled “Everyone Let Go!” I was ready, but only to see him drop my chute on the ground. I cried for a month. I was eight years old.”