The intersection of South Bent Avenue and San Marcos Boulevard is home today to a Fry’s Electronics store as well as other commercial and retail development. But from 1945 until the early 1960s the site was the location of McCormick Field, a privately-owned and operated airport that included a flight school, Almand Air Academy.
The airport and school were the dream of George Almand. On his discharge from the Navy in August, 1944, Almand, who had run training programs for pilots and mechanics as part of the war effort, returned to his then-home in Carlsbad and began looking for land on which to build an airport. He found what he was looking for at the intersection of what was then Encinitas Avenue and Bent Avenue in San Marcos, purchasing 60 acres.
The airport was a family project between Almand, his wife Jane, and his mother-in-law Faith McCormick, for whom the airport was named. Their application for a permit from the federal Civil Aeronautics Administration was granted on November 5, 1945. McCormick Field opened for business on November 11, 1945.
In the beginning the airport consisted of just a runway without any buildings and one war surplus airplane. A Plymouth coupe served as the office and maintenance shop. Gradually more planes were acquired and a 50-by-90-foot hanger was erected with a 40-by-40 foot quonset hut attached.
Almand Air Academy taught flying, aircraft maintenance and other ground crew functions. In the years immediately after the war, a number of students took courses under the GI Bill. The academy also flew charter flights and offered sales and maintenance services to local and out-of-area flyers.
Almand also founded a flying club, the Palomar District Flyers, which among other activities did a cross-formation flyover each year at local Easter sunrise services, as well as charity work.
Over the years the airport was also host to a Civil Air patrol unit and the San Marcos Sky Divers, a group of Camp Pendleton Marines who came out to sky-dive in their spare time.
Among the pilots who utilized McCormick Field in the 1950s was TV and movie star Bob Cummings. Cummings, whose comedy series “Love That Bob” ran from 1955 to 1959, frequently visited an Escondido health spa. Cummings used an Aerocar, a plane with foldable wings which could also be driven like a car.
The opening of Palomar Airport in 1959 drew business away from McCormick Field, and its operations were gradually phased out in the early 1960s. George Almand eventually subdivided and sold off the land for development. In 1989 he moved to the state of Washington, where he died in 2006 at the age of 93.
Sources for this post include the archives of the San Marcos Historical Society and a 2006 interview with an Almand family member.
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History Happenings-Upcoming Events in the Local History Community
The San Marcos Historical Society offers tours of the historic Cox and Bidwell houses Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 2 and 3 p.m. or by appointment. For further info visit http://www.smhistory.org/historic-home-tours .
Vista Historical Society is holding an Ice Cream Social Saturday, July 19 from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. at the Vista Historical Society Museum. $5 for adults, $3 for children under 10 gets you unlimited ice cream, root beer floats and drinks. Please R.S.V.P. by calling the museum at 760-630-0444 or email Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Escondido History Center and the City of Escondido Recreation Department present summer Movies in the Park at Grape Day Park on Saturdays. Next up: The Lego Movie, July 26. For further info, visit http://www.escondidohistory.org/movies_2014_flyer.pdf .
There’s more to the story of actor Bob Cummings, the Escondido health spa and a sad end to his life.