Biographical Notes
     CENTRALIA'S FIRST AVIATOR WAS C. A. BERLIN, local business man, who purchased a plane following his graduation from the Curtiss Flying School in California. During a Hub City Festival in 1912, the new depot, postoffice and library were dedicated and he aimed bottles of champagne at the roofs of each from the air, missing the postoffice and library but smashing several tiles on the depot roof. Later Mr. Berlin toured the country giving exhibitions, the late C. M. Carter accompanying him as mechanic. When he sold the plane in 1912, the Centralian was the only member of the Curtiss school graduating class still alvie. During World War 1, Mr. Berlin was manager of the Boeing airplane plant in Seattle. He later joined the Pacific Fruit and Produce company and was living in Minneapolis when he passed away several years ago. A sister, Mrs V. B. Noel, still resides in Centralia.
Newsclipping from the Centralia News-Examiner, June 6, 1953
Courtesy of Karen L. Johnson

via email from Colleen Berlin-Timmons,
Grandaughter of Claude Berlin, 9-20-06
Dear Mr. Cooper,
     I have been searching for information regarding my family history to complete a scrap book for my grand daughter. Although I had already found information about my grandfather on a Boeing Aircraft site, I was delighted to find your article. Thank you for writing about him. You stated that you were not sure Claude Berlin from Centralia, Washington was the same early aviator as the Claude Berlin with Boeing Aircraft. Yes, it is the same person.
      My grandfather was born 14 May 1884. I do not know the exact day of his death but I believe it was in 1937. I will attempt to obtain a copy of his death certificate. He died in Hennepin County, Minnesota. I have a copy of his Aviatorís license issued by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale dated 10 April 1912. I also have many old photos of the original Boeing Factory.
     Many years ago I was told by my parents that my grandfather left the Boeing Company to join Pacific Fruit and Produce Company about the time of the WWI.
     Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Colleen Berlin-Timmons

First Airplanes Arrive in Lewis County
by Vic Kucera and Karen L. Johnson
     In 1903, the nation celebrated the Wright Brothers' first airplane flight on the East Coast. The excitement of flight caught the attention of adventurous men and women all over the country, and Lewis County was no exception.
     The county's first entry in the flying game was made by John F. Brown, according to an article in the Lewis County Advocate of June 17, 1910. Brown, "a young husky man" and a laborer, was busy contructing a flying machine in a building on the corner of Chehalis Avenue and Main Street in Chehalis. (This building would have been the old Tynan Opera House, built by Eliza Saunders; the site is now occupied by the county's Justice Center.) The reporter, taking a philosophical view of the endeavor, wrote "this city will get more free advertising...all because we have an airship which will be flying over the city and surrounding country, or the aviator will get killed and in any event it will get the city on the airmap."
     Brown had a local financial backer, and claimed that no money would be spared in reaching his goal. The biplane, built on the Wright pattern but constructed of fir rather than the more commonly used spruce, was awaiting the arrival of a 35-horsepower motor from Denver. Unfortunately, no follow-up news articles could be found to tell us the fate of this first air venture. We can only wonder if Brown ever got his ship off the ground.
     The county's first successful aviator was a young gentleman by the name of Claude Berlin. Berlin came to Centralia from Raymond where he owned a grocry store. He bought a grocery store in Centralia, too, but after sefveral years decided on a new career as a pilot. Centralia's Evening News-Examiner of March 16, 1912, stated that Berlin had gone on a trip to California, informing floks that he was "taking a course." His friends assumed he was taking a business course, but instead he was getting instructions in the art of flying. "The first week Mr. Berlin took lessons he was put into a thirty-horse machine and allowed to travel up and down the field without leaving the ground and practicing the steering part of the machine. After a week of thi excercise Mr. Berlin was allowed to go ten feet in the air and prqadtice the art of making a correcdt landing. Mr. Berlin stated that this is the hardest part of the game and is the cause of more accidents, as a bad landing is where most of the aviators come to grief. Mr. Berlin was next given a forty-horse power machine and was allowed to go up 100 feet for the first week and after that as far as 700 feet. At an elevation of 350 feet he had to stop his engine and practice gliding to the earth with the engine stopped. In gliding to the earth a mark was set to aim at and the aviator was to cut figure eights on the way down"
from The Lewis County Historian
599 N.W. Front Way, Chelais, Washington
Volume 26 - No. 4           December 2004

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