Photo ID # H06.05.11_073_HIL_UNK_0050S_1
Car #: #73
Driver (s) : Elton Hildreth
Location: Unknown
Date: 1950's
Photographer: Unknown
Photo provided by: Russ Dodge (From the "Bridgeton Sports Hall of Fame")
Comments: Senior Moment From Russ Dodge:

Plane Stories Continue With the Wild Man

A read or re-read of the last installment of Senior Moments is suggested before you begin this edition.

One more Elton Hildreth fact, the "Wild Man" nickname came in 1957 when Elton bought the 16-J and had it repainted to orange and black, the color combination of the Williams 717 he drove in 1956. As the sign painter was applying the brush, it was suggested by the "gang at the garage" to have "Wild Man" painted over the windshield. The title then appeared on all of Elton's cars until his career went into a "hiatus", I won't say retired and catch grief again because at 93 years old Elton, says he never retired but is just waiting for his next ride to open up!

To pick up where we left off, the question was how did you land an airplane on a garage roof? Elton's response, "It was easy, all I did was jam the landing wheels through the roof!" I thought about and said, "It must have been one heck of a sudden stop!" To which he responded "It was. But what was harder was landing a plane without any wings!" So at that point I just said go ahead, this has to be good!

Grahm, a buddy of Elton's had a crop dusting business and had just purchased a couple older used airplanes which were built mostly from wood but had good engines he wanted to use as replacement in is other crop dusting planes. He got the "brain storm" if Elton could land the plane without wings, they would film it and sell it to T.V. or something and gets some good money for it. When they agreed how he would do it they went to the airport and measured the wing span of the plane. They then drove around the wooded perimeter of the airport landing field and looked at trees until they found a couple that looked the right distance apart. After careful measuring, they found a perfect match.

The plan, fly the plane in for a landing between the trees and let the trunks shear the wings off the airplane, with the plane then dropping the rest of the distance, landing with no wings!

Well how did it go I asked. "Great, it cut the wings off perfect, just like you had used a saw and you should have seen the looks on guys faces when I taxied up to the hanger with the wings off! It never hit the prop of hurt the engine."

Obviously my next question was how did you make out with the film they took? "Oh they were using some kind of movie camera and got the film messed up in it, never did get it on film!"

From the Old Bridge reunion a few years ago, Ed Duncan remembers in our comments, the interview of Elton and Pete Frazee together. Pete told of one of his flying adventures with the "Wild Man". Pete said he had come to Bridgeton at Elton's request to be a guest speaker at a Kiwanis Organization luncheon. After the meeting, Elton asked Pete if he had some time he would take him up flying. Pete having time said that sounded good so off to the airport they went.

"When we got to the airport Elton got out of the car to go inside the building and told me to get into his plane" Pete recalled, "I knew I might be getting into trouble when I asked Elton which plane is that?" To which Elton replied, "The first one you find that has a key in it!" Pete told the group at the reunion. He went on to say," I really don't remember a lot about the flight other than Elton asking me if I wanted to fly over the Vineland Speedway and I remember us flying so low there were trees tops brushing the bottom of the plane!

Elton's passion for flying equals his desire to race. I'm jumping over to one more Fact or Fiction plane question, "Did you really fly under the Delaware Memorial Bridge?" for a story about a third passion of his, Motorcycles! Fact of Fiction, did you really tear a porch off of a house with a motorcycle and side car?

"Well it wasn't exactly a side car but more of a flat platform attached to the cycle like a sidecar. The cycle was used by an appliance store in town to make deliveries. My friend wanted to sell it and put it out for sale. After no movement for a few days I told him he could put it out front of my garage on Pearl Street where more people would see it. He agreed and I told him I would run it up to my place."

I'm not familiar with which cycle had what in the 50's but I do remember that some had gear shift levers on the side of the gas tank. Maybe you can see where this is going!

"I hit a red light going up Pearl Street and pulled up alongside of my buddy driving a new Oldsmobile! Well the red light gave us a chance to rev up things a little waiting for the green. I slid my shifter forward into low and when the traffic light went green we both took off! Him forward, me backwards, flipping me over the handlebars as the cycle backed up across the street, up on a front lawn and came to rest after tearing the heck out of the front step and porch of the house on the corner!"

Elton hadn't paid attention and forgot the shift reverse position on that cycle was where 1st gear was on his own cycle.

Sometime I'll come back to Fact or Fiction and find out about riding a motorcycle non-stop from California to New Jersey or perhaps a few stories about waterskiing!!

Thanks for listening. Senior Moment by Russ Dodge

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06.07.11 George Perkins Russ, you realize this needs to be put in a book.
06.09.11 Bill Ore This is just a guess, but it could have been taken in front of his dealership on Pearl Street in Bridgeton. Like I said, it's just a guess because I was only about two years old when it was taken, but the building looks about the same today.