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Flight Plans and Path of ‘Birdman’ Earle Ovington All Over South Coast

Goleta Valley Historical Society lecture to explore legendary aviator's presence and legacy

Have you ever heard of Earle Ovington?

Ovington, for whom the Santa Barbara Airport terminal is named, was an inventor and aviation pioneer who spent much of his influential life on the South Coast.

Before moving to Santa Barbara, Ovington’s diverse career included working for Thomas Edison as an X-ray technician, earning his electrical engineering degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and much more. Ovington made history in 1911 as the first American air mail pilot, flying a load of 640 letters and 1,280 postcards in a mail bag.

Ovington’s local connections run deep. He operated Casa Loma Airfield, one of the South Coast’s first flying fields, now the site of Santa Barbara Golf Club, 3500 McCaw Ave. (Did you know that legendary pilots Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh were known to fly into Casa Loma Airfield?) One of Ovington’s hangers was moved to Old Town Goleta and today serves as Santa Cruz Market, 5757 Hollister Ave. (Check out the historical marker on the front of the building).

In 1941, Ovington’s wife, Adelaide, purchased Cold Spring Tavern, 5995 Stagecoach Road, for $2,000 and, along with her daughter, Audrey, founded and operated the tavern for more than 60 years. It was their life’s work to preserve the restaurant and it remains in the family today. And another bit of trivia about Ovington: he was the first “commodore” of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club.

The Goleta Valley Historical Society invites you to learn more about Ovington at a lecture by Robert D. Campbell, author of Reminiscences of a Birdman. In a compelling presentation, Campbell will chronicle the exploits of the legendary pilot and aviation pioneer. In the words of the author, “He was a showman, a multienterprising entrepreneur, inventor and fearless pioneer aviator. Virtually forgotten today, Earle Ovington lived a life of which most people can only dream.”

The lecture begins at 6 p.m. Monday at the Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Ave. Tickets are $10 for GVHS members and $15 general admission. Click here to purchase tickets online. Reminiscences of a Birdman will be available for purchase at the lecture or in the Rancho La Patera Museum Store, 304 N. Los Carneros Road.

— Dacia Harwood is events and marketing coordinator for the Goleta Valley Historical Society, Rancho La Patera and Stow House.

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