Aircraft As Cultural Icon?


A small town just northwest of New York City is grappling with the fate of a beloved but problematic landmark, social touchstone and nostalgia piece in one of its most prominent parks. The former National Guard F-86 has been a fixture in the Village of Monroe, N.Y., for 44 years after three local men hauled it 200 miles from Rome, N.Y., where it had been retired. In fact, the locals call the patch of greenspace where it resides Airplane Park, rather than the correct official name of Ford R. Dally Park, after the park’s superintendant who spearheaded the project in 1963. The old Sabre has served as a piece of playground equipment (the cockpit was open and kids could play inside until it was filled with cement in 1980s) and an important geographical marker for giving directions (take a left at the airplane) but more recently its main purpose has become, as the Times Herald-Record newspaper put it, a billboard for teenage pronouncements of love: “I (heart) Drew,” “I (heart) Reener,” and “Jerry (heart)’s Lisa.” Its also considered enough of a hazard that the park was closed last fall. What to do with the fighter, a predecessor of the famous century series of Cold War jet combat aircraft, has become a hot topic in Monroe. Restoration will be expensive, as will raising the aircraft safely on a pedestal, and there are mixed opinions on whether the community can, or should, afford it. “You know what? It’s beat up,” said 36-year-old Kim Zahra, a mother of two and lifelong Monroe resident. “There’s really nothing to it anymore.” But others say it will be missed. Alex Melchiorre, the village police lieutenant who has been researching options for the airplane, says many people want to see it stay. “You can’t get rid of your memories.”