Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Frank Tappan and the Aircraft Spotter Staions


Frank Webster Tappan (1892- 1958) was born on the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Frank M. and Elizabeth Tappan.   He worked for the Railroad in Parksley and Cape Charles as a brakeman.

He would marry in 1913  Iva Celeste Beachboard.  He would go off to War and serve in France with the 314th Field Artillery 80th Division Battery F.  He would be awarded a Purple Heart.  He would get a divorce from her in 1922.  They would have one son Harry Truitt Tappan.  He would marry next Edna Miriam Cole (1899-2003).   They would be transferred to Delmar.  Edna and Frank had two daughters, Katherine and Miriam. 

He was one of the movers and shakers in Delmar, involved in various organizations from Masons, to Church, to The American Legion.  He would retire from the railroad and live in Delmar until 1958, when he died.  His wife, Edna, would live to be 104, and she passed away in 2003.

During World War Two he was in charge of the aircraft spotter station at Wards store. There were four aircraft Spotter stations located on the Delaware side.  One was in Delmar at the High School. One was in Columbia. One was in Gumboro.  The fourth was located at Ward's Store. It is unknown what these spotter stations looked like, but they were mostly just a tiny shack or cabin on the ground not mounted on a tower.  At one point during the War, they were manned 24-hours a day.  It took great difficulty to find enough volunteers who would operate the stations for two-hour shifts.

The spotter stations in Delmar and Gumboro could be manned 24 hours a day because there was enough population for people to walk to the station and do their shift.  Out in Columbia and wards store there was more difficulty finding the people to man these stations.  The problem centered around gasoline.  A spotter who worked in Columbia or ward Store would drive to the station and they would have to use their rationed gasoline to do so.  Since gasoline was limited just for normal household/work use to subject the gasoline used to go to and from the spotter station each day would leave them very little gas.  Eventually the government decided if a spotter used gasoline that equated to 90 miles of driving a month to go to the spotter station they would receive a supplement gas ration.  Obviously the 90 mile threshold was a high threshold to meet.  The holder of an “A” ration book would receive four gallons of gas a week (16 gallons a month) and the government figured it was for 150 miles to drive to work and 90 miles of pleasure driving. This would say they were getting 15 miles to the gallon.

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