TheBARTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Museum and Village, 85 S. Highway 281, Great Bend, Kansas

ARCHIVES


SALUTING KERMIT THOMPSON & ALL-KANSAS FLY-IN

ImageThe Barton County Historical Society was pleased to salute the contributions of Kermit K. Thompson, former Stearman and Boeing employee, on April 3, 2008. In addition, the festivities coincided with the All-Kansas Fly-In at the Great Bend Municipal Airport, allowing the participating pilots to meet Mr. Thompson and visit the Museum to see the Thompson Collection.


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Kermit Karl Thompson was born in Wichita in 1916 and spent his childhood in several cities in Kansas. He showed an early interest in flight, making model airplanes and kites to fly. He was eleven years old when Lindberg made his famous flight and Kermit says there was much excitement about planes and flying as a result and that's when he became an airplane "nut." After secondary school in Wichita, he attended Kansas State College (now University), graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. During college, he joined the Glider Club, which was short-lived because the only glider they built crashed on the first run. During "Engineering Week," he arranged for a plane to fly from Wichita and land on campus, which made a huge impression. Through a friend and mentor, he had a summer job with the Stearman Airplane Company in Wichita, resulting in a request to return after graduation.

This young man, with Badge Number 321, signifying how many employees they had, held a variety of positions those first few years at Stearman, which provided a broad understanding of the industry and a good background for the following years. Then Stearman created a Sales and Service Department and put Kermit in charge. As the business evolved, they added salvage as well. So Kermit had multiple responsibilities in the Sales, Service and Salvage Department. He taught a nomenclature class and a blueprint reading class. At this time, they were making primary trainers for the U.S. Army Air Corps, purchasing for both the Air Corps and the Navy. Their starting order for three soon turned into an order for a thousand planes.

The original plant was Plant One-Stearman Airplane Company. Plant Two was built across the street, a much larger three-story building and soon thereafter, Boeing absorbed the old company. The B-29 was beginning to be developed and Kermit's office coordinated top secret policy, engineering, and service. Before the war, the military wanted a plane developed to fly high, go a distance and return, and carry specific pounds of bombs, and Boeing had the expertise. The Wichita location was vital, because these planes would be utilized in four locations in Kansas. And they wanted this done in a hurry. Employees grew from Kermit's Badge #321 to 33,000 dedicated workers in Wichita. Kermit's gold star badge gave him complete access to anywhere in the plant and he travelled a great deal, as well. He also was the man to see if you needed a part for a B-29 without proper paperwork!

At the end of WWII, Kermit left Boeing in the late Fall of 1945 for civilian life in the construction business, settling in Ellinwood, Kansas. Kermit retired in 1988 and lives with memories, mementos, and many fascinating stories to tell. His collection, in part, is now displayed at the Barton County Historical Society Museum to honor him and the thousands of others who have provided our freedom today.

Kermit was also a member of the B-29 Memorial Plaza Committee, where he consulted with engineering, raised funds, and joined fellow members in seeing the project through to completion.

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HOURS & ADMISSION:Summer Hours (April-October)

Tuesday through Friday
10 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday
1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

Winter Hours (November-March)

Tuesday through Friday
10 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Admission $4 for non-members 16 & older

Barton County Historical Society
P.O. Box 1091
85 S. Hwy. 281
Great Bend, KS 67530-1091
(620) 793-5125