Mar 23, 2016
By Carolyn Roman and Al Vannoy
Evergreen Museum Docent:
Paul Payne, You’re in the Army Now
When we look up and see the Spruce Goose we should be reminded of the men who were responsible for helping to bring this this masterpiece of aircraft history to life. One of those individuals was Paul Payne, who played a key role in restoring this enormous ship. The painstaking work of restoring the Goose began in 1992 and ran through 2001. With a background in paint formulation and varnish removing solutions, Paul understood the process and ramifications of restoring wood finishes. He realized very quickly that there would be an environmental disposal problem in using solvents to remove the plane’s existing finishing. So the decision was made to hand scrape and sand 49,000 square feet of paint from the Goose.
It was 1934 when Paul took his first flight in a Great Lakes biplane piloted by a female aerobatic pilot. Paul’s recollection: “this is pretty neat”. That experience, along with years of making model airplanes and the love of aviation, intensified Paul’s desire of flying. He asked his father to take him to the old Swan Island Airport in Portland to take flights, including in a Ford Trimotor.
Growing up in Hillsboro, Oregon, Paul decided to go to the University of Oregon to study Architecture and “get down to the business of going to school”. After enrolling in college Paul decided to join the Army ROTC and as it happened, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese soon there after. Just beginning his winter term in college, the Army came with a Command Order that declared “you are now in the Army”. After a short stay at Fort Lewis, Washington, he was sent to Camp Walters, Texas, for training. He “pounded the ground day after day” carrying backpacks, radios and M1 rifles; so, when he saw a sign: ‘Aviation Cadets Wanted’, Paul immediately signed up.
Paul was sent back to college for eight months in Grand Forks, North Dakota-a prerequisite to flight training. He was then sent to a Classification Center in California. Paul remembers being tested in a high altitude pressure container where he first experienced hypoxia. Paul had the opportunity to decide between being either a navigator, bombardier, or pilot. Choosing to become a bombardier was an easy choice for Paul because it meant he could graduate early and get home to his high school sweetheart. The bombardier course consisted of six months of bombing targets in the Mojave Desert. Upon completion, Paul was made a flight officer. Taking a 10-day leave, he went home and married his “young lady”. After a short honeymoon, Paul was sent for radar-bomber training and subsequently assigned to a B-24 where they were to conduct operations against Japanese shipping in the Pacific, but during the unit’s transfer to the Pacific the war ended.
Move forward some 45 years; Paul: “One day I found out there was an Oregon First Aviation convention at the Portland Convention Center. I went up there and they had a lot of aviation artifacts…, [there] was a table with a model of a great big flying boat… I asked about it and they said, ‘We’re bringing the Spruce Goose up from southern California to McMinnville, to a museum.’ That sold me.
Paul has been a docent since 1992.