Honey, would you park up my P-51D Mustang and help me with the shopping…?

25 May

Ikea, here we come…!

Summer has arrived and Roadwax wants to feed you with a funny little anecdote that is both utterly stupid and completely true. You won’t easily believe this story, but there is an awful lot of written evidence that supports it.

First, I must transport you back to 1945 and England, Europe. To help you get into the atmosphere of those times, I suggest that before you continue reading, you complete the following simple tasks so that you get into the mood for what follows.

Firstly, take everything out of your refrigerator and let it warm up on the kitchen table. Cover yourself in subway dust and comb low-fat spread through your hair. Rub a mixture of cheese and brown paint over your teeth and put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea…

Now, we can begin.

The war against Hitler had just ended. Germany and England lay in smoking ruins and France looked like it had accidentally posted it’s home address on Facebook and invited everyone round for a free Jack Daniels tasting session.

Without wasting a moment of time, English town planners sat around a big mahogany table and came up with ideas for how England would rebuild itself. This was not very difficult to start off, since almost everyone had been issued with a pair of Army boots and there were also an awful lot of half-bricks lying around.

A plan to build this “New England” emerged pretty quickly. All the obvious and sensible stuff was done first. A free National Health Service was set up to stop the working population from lynching the ruling elite. The State School system was encouraged to educate children with the skills needed for industry rather than simply beating them to within an inch of their lives for forgetting the second verse of that hit song: “God Save The King”.

But then it started to get wacky and kooky. Possibly because there was too much sugar in the biscuits during afternoon tea, the ideas began to reflect some pretty startling visions of a future world of mass high-speed travel.

It was decided that each major town in England should set aside space for a Municipal Aerodrome and prepare to welcome society arriving from the air.

Why?

Because the war had resulted in fantastic advances in flight, aeronautical technology and manufacturing techniques!

So what?

Well, if you remove the eight Browning machine guns from a Hawker Hurricane, you get a rather dashing little conveyance for the weekend! The Spitfire is ideal for visiting the seaside once you nail another seat inside. The American P-51D is a “must-have” toy for the Gentleman Sportsman or weekend enthusiast.

But…we already have cars to drive in…! Isn’t this a bit excessive?

Not at all. In the “New England”, men in pin-stripe suits and bowler hats will be so busy making important decisions that they shall need to rush from meeting to meeting, unhindered by the common man in his 1933 12 BHP Austin. Each town shall build an aerodrome, right next to the shops and the golf course!

Are you sure about this?

Absolutely! And stand up straight when you salute me…and straighten your tie!

(And so it was that throughout England, the Town Plans that were drawn up in the period 1944-1946 show provision for “municipal aerodromes” – built to cater for the many light aircraft that the many English middle class shakers and movers would soon own and fly. Provision was made for what would become, without doubt, the fast-moving new world where society’s decision-makers would transport themselves in one of these new, easily-affordable light aeroplanes as a matter of daily routine).

Once the town planners across England had set aside the necessary fields and used their best wooden rulers to draw a runway and a   small car park where chauffeurs could polish the Bentley and stand in deference, a strange thing happened.

Maybe it was because the Automobile Association of Great Britain pointed out that they already spent far too much of their time  pouring gasoline into the tanks of stranded cars whose owners were too dumb to read a map or understand a simple fuel gauge…

Maybe it was because the Police pointed to the number of dented or missing railings and lamp posts on the road that led away from the local golf course club-house…

Maybe it was because it was remembered how, during the war, many bombers had taken off and then crashed within the first minute because their pilots had been so drunk that they were incapable of standing, let alone focusing on an instrument panel…

…but it was decided to quietly drop these plans.

Our “Brave New World” would be a much safer one if we pin-heads were instead firmly anchored to the ground with four rubber tyres and given a shiny chrome grille where the propeller would otherwise be. As a compromise, American cars were given tail-fins.  British cars were given tail-feathers.

And nothing more was said about this brilliant idea to allow everyone to just hop in a plane and fly to the shops in the next town. Those among us who actually had the intellect and reaction speed to fly an aircraft were sold a Cessna or a Beachcraft Bonanza. The rest of us would learn to say the words “Business Class” and “check-in queue”. The town planners erased all their pencil lines and the ‘aerodromes’ were no more.

But many of the original plans are still there on the dusty shelves of local councils and occasionally can be found hiding in old book shops.

Testimony to a brief moment in society’s evolution where, in an act of delightfully misjudged lunacy, we were all to be offered our own pair of wings.

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