By Wayne Flury, Chapter 878 Secretary
Each year as I arrive in Oshkosh a few days before the start of AirVenture, one of my self-indulgent pleasures is to make the EAA Aviation Museum my first stop. Admission to the museum is always free to EAA members (it’s also included with your AirVenture admission — a tip for those friends of yours who are not yet EAA members) and, since I’m by myself, I can wander the displays at leisure, not having to worry about a friend or partner that I might lead or lag. I don’t have to explain to anyone why I want to circle back to a particular display to look at it again, nor do I have to justify the time I spend in the KidVenture area playing with the educational exhibits.
One relatively lightly traveled corner of the museum is called the “Founder’s Wing.” This is a multipurpose area with some special treats. Tucked behind a wall at the far end of the second level mezzanine —and open only on a limited basis —is a recreation of Paul and Audrey’s original basement office in the Poberezny home at Hales Corners, Wisconsin, where EAA began. This is also the location of the Founder’s Library with its amazing collection of historical aviation publications and memorabilia.
Also on the mezzanine level are several general exhibitions, one of which is dedicated to EAA chapters. A large aeronautical map of the United States has marker pins showing the location of EAA chapters. Framing the map are “chapter patches,” usually an embroidered image of the related chapter’s logo, each created and donated to the museum by the respective chapter. The patches are a multicolored tribute to each chapter’s creativity and marketing (though the concept of “chapter marketing” was likely only a secondary consideration — if at all — when most of these were conceived). Many of the chapter patches are a variation of the ubiquitous embroidered EAA patches you’ll find at any EAA souvenir stand.
According to the book, Poberezny, The Story Begins…, by Chuck Parnall and Bonnie Poberezny, the original EAA logo was designed shortly after EAA was formed in 1953, though an actual date isn’t noted. That original logo (now known as the “Heritage” logo) was superseded in 1997 by the current EAA logo. I suspect the vendors who supplied caps and jackets to the early EAA also created the first EAA logo patches. Then some marketing genius realized that, since many EAA members are insatiable collectors of memorabilia, they had a readymade market for individual logo patches and yearly convention patches to be sold as souvenirs. And so it came to be that my wallet is relieved at each visit of a few dollars for the most current patches, pins, and other “must have” items before I can pass by the museum’s check-out counter. Today there are also patches for EAA divisions as well as programs and attractions such as Young Eagles, IMC Club, EAA’s B-17 Aluminum Overcast, and others. The next time you’re at AirVenture, keep your eyes open for people displaying their personal collection of patches on hats, jackets, vests, or even just on display boards. Tip: it’s easier to spot these people if you focus on those who have gray hair! For many years at the EAA convention there was even a “Jacket Patch” contest where members could submit their patch-covered jacket for judging.
The military has long had a fascination with unique logos and uniform patches (sometimes referred to as cloth badges), so with Paul Poberezny’s military background it shouldn’t be a surprise if he supported and encouraged patches for the organization he was leading. Ever since I discovered the museum’s chapter display board I’ve felt it should have an example of Chapter 878’s logo, but we’ve never had a patch to provide. Now we do. Shown here is an embroidered patch version of our logo created by a friend, Sharon Sandberg of All Star Warbirds Custom Embroidery.
Though I wasn’t a founder of Chapter 878 (other early members initiated the contact with Oshkosh to form an EAA chapter based at Maple Lake, Minnesota), I did attend the very first general meeting and became a charter member. In the years since that time, the national EAA organization and our local Chapter 878 have been a large part of my life. As a result of the contacts I’ve made and the inspiration I’ve been given, I now have friends across the country. I’ve met and associated with aviation leaders and personalities far beyond what would otherwise have been possible. Yes, I worked hard and gave generously of myself to EAA and the chapter, but I have received much more than I ever gave. So, in the spirit of a personal “thank you” to our current members of Chapter 878, and in memory of our past members, I’ll send a Chapter 878 logo patch to EAA. Look for it on the big map the next time you’re at the museum. It’s entirely possible that at some time in the future Chapter 878 may choose to update the logo again, perhaps with a more “modern” look — whatever that might be. That’s fine. Even if that happens, the logo patch souvenir here will endure as a reminder and tribute to Chapter 878’s first 35 (or more) years of history.