Lionel H. DeRemer
Lionel H. DeRemer
Collection of Rolland DeRemer - 12-8-03

Early Wright Exhibition Pilot - Instructor
by Harold E. Morehouse
Collection of Rolland DeRemer - 12-8-03
     Lionel H. DeRemer was born in in Harrison, Michigan, February 21, 1889, son of a professional musician. The family moved to Bay City when Lionel was about one year old. He attended schools there and during his youth developed natural musical talents, becoming an accomplished pianist, which was to be of continued service and much comfort to him throughout his lifetime.
     During this period he joined his father and younger brother as a member of the DeRemer Orchestra. At age 17 he became a member of a SHOWBOAT troupe for a time, then became interested in wireless telegraphy and started working for the Clark Wireless Company in the Great Lakes area. After a short time with them DeRemer returned to Bay City where he and a former pal, George McBride, bought a small movie theatre and started in show business together, with DeRemer playing the musical accompaniment.
     The early developments of flying also began interesting him at this time and he studied everything obtainable on the subject. In late 1910, his interest in aviation reached a new high point when he read in AERO magazine of the wonderful exhibition flights of THE THREE MUSKETEERS. They were Brookins, Hoxsey and Johnstone, whose great flights made notable headlines in several public demonstrations that fall. DeRemer had his first sight of an aeroplane in flight on May 29- 31, 1911 when he, Don McGee and Joe Bazie saw Wright pilot Howard Gill fly at Riverside Park in nearby Saginaw, and there he was convinced he wanted to learn to fly. Following this he visited the Brooks Aeroplane Company there where he was allowed on the field to watch their testing.
Lionel H. DeRemer
Curtiss Type Biplane
Collection of Rolland DeRemer - 12-8-03
       Shortly after this DeRemer induced McBride to go in with him to buy a used single-surfaced Curtiss-type biplane, less engine, from the Aeronautic Supply Company of St. Louis, Mo. This plane was originally built and flown by Howard Gill, who sold it to Tom Benoist of the St. Louis firm, and with it, Benoist had taught himself to fly. After the plane arrived, DeRemer and McBride intstalled a locally built two-cycle Pierce-Budd motor with great expectations of soon teaching themselves fo fly. Intending to proceed cautiously DeRemer over-anxiously started taxying practice in too much wind and had a bad smashup at once, but was not injured. The plane was wrecked beyond repair, however, so DeRemer gave McBride his interest in the movie theater as payment for his loss in the plane venture.
     Still determined to learn to fly, DeRemer went to St. Louis in the late fall of 1911 to see about taking flight instruction. There he met Tom Benoist, Tony Jannus, Howard Gill and Max Lillie at Kinloch Field, and Jannus gave him his first aeroplane ride in a Benoist machine. While there DeRemer also met George Beatty of New York, who had been flying there, but was ready to return east. This trip and his meeting with aviators, added to DeRemer's enthusiasm, but apparently he decided to wait until spring to take flying lessons.
     Having made the acquaintance of George Beatty, and favoring the Wright plane, DeRemer decided on the Beatty School the following spring and arrived at the Nassau Boulevard, L.I. flying field for instruction on February 9th, 1912. Also training there at that time were Charles Horton, Dr. A. G. Belden, Clarke Thompson, William Reid, Marshall Reid, Clifford Prodger, Wilbur Andrews, William Piceller and F. W. Kemper. DeRemer was an apt pupil and made his first solo flight on April 13th after only two and one-half hours of instruction time. Fellow student and wealthy sportsman, Marshall Reid furnished DeRemer's bond for possible accidental damage for his solo flight. On Friday, April 19th, 1912 DeRemer obtained Pilot License No. 115, flying a Beatty Wright, and broke the local record for his flight tests by completing them in 19 minutes and flying to 700 feet. This was 5 minutes less than the nearest previous time. Beatty regarded this as phenominal and asked DeRemer to remain with him as assistant insturctor, which was declined because he wished to return to Bay City and start his aviation career in his home town.
     Several noteworthy incidents occurred during DeRemer's instruction period and his stay on Long Island. One day in March Beatty and DeRemer landed on the Jericho turnpike and had dinner at a Hotel in New Hyde Park and then took off from the roadway and returned to Nassau. On another flight they landed in Central Park, Manhattan, and were promptly arrested, but returned to Nassau the following day. He also assisted im making some moving pictures from the air. DeRemer was the main attraction when he made the valedictory flight from Nassau Flying Field as it was abandoned and received an ovation upon landing.
Lionel H. DeRemer
Wright Model B
Collection of Rolland DeRemer - 12-8-03
       Meantime his father had formed a Company in Bay City to purchase a plane, and after DeRemer's return from New York they went to Dayton and purchased a second-hand Model B from the Wright Company . There DeRemer met the Wright Brothers who offered him a position as an instructor at their school, but again he declined. The plane they purchased was Model B, No. 15, and had previously been flown by Arch Hoxsey. Since it was to be some time before the Wright Company could deliver this plane, DeRemer returned to Bay City and took a temporary position as test pilot for the Brooks Company.
     After his Wright Plane arrived DeRemer started flying exhibitions immediately, touring the fairs of the middle west. He had his first minor accident on July 5th at Alpena, Michigan, but was not injured. DeRemer made formal arrangements to enter the Chicago Meet to be held September 12th through the 22nd, 1912 and took time out to check and overhaul his plane for the occasion, with the help of two of his former fellow students from the Beatty School in New York, but was disappointedly prevented from actually getting to Chicago due to a last minute shipping difficulty on the railroads. One of his more important dates that season was a one-week engagement at his own Michigan State Fair, starting on September 20th, where he was the star attraction. There he introduced an innovation when he took a phonograph aloft and played records so the crowds could hear it below. DeRemer had another accident at Angola, Indiana where he was booked to fly October 8th, 9th and 10th, 1912. In attempting to take off from a very small field on soft ground after a heavy rain he struck a tree and three buggies to avoid the crowd, but fortunately he was not injured.
     DeRemer continued to fly exhibitions throughout the fall season, and in November accepted an offer as Chief Instructor of the Mills School of Aviation at Corpus Christi, Texas for the winter months, flying his Wright on floats over the Gulf of Mexico. There, on Christmas Day, 1912, DeRemer made his FIRST flight from the water in the State of Texas, flying over Corpus Christi and vicinity for 30 minutes. In addition to his school work he also engaged to carry passengers and make frequent local exhiti9ons. These arrangements were under the auspices of the local Board of Trade. Hundreds of persons visited the beach on Sundays to watch his exhibitions. By mid-December he had some students and daily school operations got under way. On December 31st he carried members of the Commercial Club of the city and newspaper men for flights over the beach.
     On January 3rd, 1913, DeRemer carried Miss Buena Vista Hill, the first woman in Texas to ride in a hydro-aeroplane. Throughout January and February he made almost daily flights in his school and passenger work. On February 17th he set up a new Hydro-aeroplane passenger carrying record of 2 hours, 41 minutes, with J. G. Curran of Saginaw, Michigan as his passenger. At this time he was doing a good pasenger carrying business, some days making twelve to fifteen flights, totalling four to five hours in the air. On March 12th he made the necessary official arrangements with the Postal Department to carry mail daily until March 30th, from Corpus Christi to Port Arkansas. On March 30th he had an accident when he lost one propeller on take-off, but was not injured. While at Corpus Christi, as a stunt, at one time he made a flight carrying three passengers.
     As DeRemer finished his work in Texas he made plans to attempt to fly to Chicago in easy stages, but this had to be given up due to lack of cooperation and proper facilities in refueling arrangements along the route. After returning to Bay City in the spring of 1913 DeRemer planned to start a flying school and completely overhauled his plane for the activities of the summer season. On this work he had the assistance of a local engine man and mechanic, Henry Dora, and in payment for his sevices DeRemer later taught him to fly. Dora soloed in 1914 and later became Manager of the Bay City Airport. While setting up his school plans and building a hangar DeRemer accepted some exhibition dates, his first being at Tetoskey, Michigan on June 26th. He continued some exhibition work until August 14th when trouble forced him down in Saginaw Bay and a bad smash-up resulted, but he was rescued unhurt. The winter was spent rebuilding his plane and just as it was finished a spring tornado destroyed both the plane and hangar. This time it was a total loss and only a small part of the plane was ever found.
     About this time wealthy Detroit Howard E. Coffin presented his Wright Model B to the Aero Club of Michigan. An inexperiencd club member attempted to fly it and had a smash-up. Upon learning that the Club was without funds to make repairs DeRemer offered to do the work and was given the privilege of using it for one year in payment of his services. This was a Hydro aeroplane and when the rebuilding was completed and attempts were made to fly it, he discovered the pontoons were so heavy the plane was very underpowered. As a result DeRemer installed a higher powered Gyro Rotary Motor and with this plane did considerable flying in 1914. He housed and operated it from land owned by the North American Chemical Company which had formerly been the Curtiss Farm. This same site later became the James Clements Airport which is still in use today.
Lionel H. DeRemer
L. H. DeRemer     T. J. Harrison     A. A. McCabe      A. V. Burger     L. M. Peterson      J. E. Dion
Collection of William Ballard, D.D.S. - 5-30-07
       DeRemer then formed the Northern Aviation Company and built a Hydro hangar at Winona Beach, Bay City, to operate a school and passenger service. On August 2nd, 1914 while flying along over the City his plane caught fire in the air, but he was able to bring it down safely on the Saginaw River. After trying in vain to extinguish the fire, DeRemer was forced to swim ashore and watch the plane burn completely. He was unable to salvage any part of it, and this ended his flying as a pilot. For some time he had believed Winona Beach held a jinx for him. Financially unable to obtain another plane, he went back to the field of music, first in teaching, then playing in theatre and dance orchestras in Bay City and neighboring towns.
     During World War I DeRemer put his former aviation experience to good use becoming a foreman with the Wilson Body Company of Bay City, who were engaged in building parts for DeHavilland military planes. Even while working there he played nights in theatre orchestras, and after the war continued his regular orchestral activities until the early 1930's when the movies put an end to music in the theatres. DeRemer then became Annoucer and Musical Program Director for Bay City Radio Station WBCM, where he remained until his retirement in August, 1958. While there he sponsored various Children and Youth programs, some of which also developed into stage productions,. On occasion DeRemer also lectured on his early experiences in aviation. During his active days in the theatre he met and played for many of the greatest stage actors and actresses of the era.
     DeRemer, who during his later years continued to play with local musical groups, and conducted studio orchestras at civic functions, passed away suddenly at Bay City on his birthday, February 21, 1962, at age 73. He was survived by his wife, Annette, and one son by a former marriage. Burial was in Elm Lawn Cemetery, Bay City, Michigan. He was to have been honored with a special "Lionel DeRemer Day" at Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Oscoda, Michigan, in April on the 50th anniversary of winning his pilot license, and later to be presented the 50th Year Early Bird Plaque at Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C. Mrs. DeRemer was present and accepted his Plaque in Washington on April 16, 1962.
     Early Birds and Flying Pioneer, Lionel DeRemer deserves great credit for the part he planed in helping to lay the early foundation of aviation progress. His name will long remain among that exclusive early group who, with their pioneering, experimenting, foresight and courage, gave the world the wonderful air travel facilities we enjoy today.
     Due credit is given Mrs. DeRemer for her major contribution and assistance in preparing this biography.
Collection of Rolland DeRemer - 12-18-03

Administration Building
Administration Building at Bay City's
James Clements Memorial Airport

614 River Road, Bay City, Mi. 48708
(Doug Dodge, Manager)
Courtesy of Geraldine Higgs, 1-20-04

JULY 23, 1883 -
SEPTEMBER 21, 1938
This is one example of about 135 photos of Bay County Military Pilots, from WW I to Desert Storm, which are in arranged in two rows around the circumference of the main room in the Administration building.
Geraldine Higgs

     If you search for "Lionel H. DeRemer +aviation", using the Google search engine, (12-9-03), you will find seven links. Among the most helpful are the following.
     "From this field in 1912, Bay County's first pilot, Lionel DeRemer (FAI License No. 115), flew his Wright "B" Pusher plane, the fifteenth built by Orville and Wilbur Wright."
     For the full story, which includes information on early aviation and aviators in the area, click on the title above.
     One of Lionel's students was Henry Dora, another Early Bird. You can visit his page by clicking on:
Henry Dora

& AIRFIELDS 1912-1962

Product Details
Hard Cover: 220 pages
List Price: $18.87
       In addition to stories about Lionel DeRemer, you will find vignettes of other local figures including Henry Dora, Hulda Mueller and ex-World War II pilot Harry Smiley.
     The book is published by the Bay County Historical Society and may be obtained directly from Museum Store of the Historical Museum of Bay County by clicking on the name. To find the book entry, you can scroll down to nearly the bottom of the page. Ordering instructions will be found near the top.

via email from Geraldine Higgs, 12,11,03
Dear Ralph,
I am so IMPRESSED with your web site! Imagine getting all that information available to the public. Thanks so much for doing it.
     You wil be interested to know that we have an audio tape that was made on the 50th anniversary of flight. It is an interview with Lionel in which he describes, among other things, buying his plane from Orville and Wilbur in Dayton. We have also made a video tape about the history of James Clements with some film clips in it. There are several pictures of Henry Dora. Any discrepencies with your history are too minor to mention. Keep up the good work.
     There is at the airport my collection of 125 8X10 framed photos of Bay County Military Pilots- from WW I to Desert Storm, plus artifacts of Henry, and Lionel. Just thought you'd like to know!
Best wishes,
Lionel H. DeRemer died in 1962
From The Early Birds of Aviation
Roster of Members
January 1, 1993

Editor's Note:
If you have any more information on this Early Bird,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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