The Spokane Valley Heritage Museum is planning a notable exhibit in July featuring documents and photos from the late Spokane aviator Nick Mamer.
Spokane Valley Heritage Museum Director Jayne Singleton met with Mamer’s granddaughter, Georgia Fariss, last week. Fariss, along with her brothers, Steve and David Lee, agreed to donate an extensive collection of photos and documents unseen by the public and preserved by the family as far back as 1914.
“It is basically Nick Mamer’s personal collection on his life as an aviator from the beginning to the end of his flight career,” Singleton said. “He is Spokane’s local aviation hero.”
The exhibit will also honor the 90th anniversary of the Spokane Sun God flight, led by Mamer and co-piloted by Art Walker in 1929. The Spokane Sun God became the first airplane to make a nonstop transcontinental round-trip flight without touching the ground to refuel.
The Sun God – a Buhl Airsedan biplane – traveled the continent from Spokane to San Francisco, then to New York and back to Spokane, logging more than 10,000 air miles during five days and refueling midair using a hose lowered from another plane.
Because two-way radios weren’t available, navigation was done by map and compass. Mamer communicated through dropping weighted notes at predetermined places along the route.
“The notes are part of the collection, so we can see his handwritten experience of what it was like being in the air for five days,” Singleton said.
The collection also features Mamer’s military records and photos of him from the 1927 National Air Races held in Spokane Valley.
“It’s the most historically significant collection we’ve ever been given,” Singleton said. “Nick’s time was spent in the Valley, so his family felt his personal archives should be here. We are just beyond excited about it.”
Mamer began flying in 1916 after joining the U.S. Army Signal Air Corps Service. After Mamer served in World War I, he barnstormed around the county and eventually settled in Spokane.
Mamer taught Air National Guard pilots to fly at Felts Field and logged more than a million miles of flying by 1936. He was also a pilot with Northwest Airlines on the Seattle-Minneapolis route and owned Mamer Air Transport, Mamer-Shreck flying service and Northwest Transcontinental Airways – all of which were based at Felts Field.
Mamer died in 1938 while piloting a Lockheed Super Electra, which crashed near Bozeman. An investigation revealed the tail structure on the plane failed and, as a result, rudders on all Super Electras received modifications.
A 40-foot-tall, art-deco style clock was built at Felts Field in 1939 to honor Mamer.
Author J.B. Rivard wrote a book, “Low on Gas – High on Sky,” which details the story of the 1929 Spokane Sun God flight. Rivard said research for the book was aided by exclusive access to Mamer’s collection.
Rivard visited Spokane Valley Heritage Museum in an effort to obtain more information about Mamer, and that’s where he met Singleton.
After the book was completed in March, Singleton and Rivard discussed the possibility of bringing Mamer’s collection to Spokane Valley. Singleton wrote an email to Mamer’s grandson inquiring about bringing the collection to the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, and he agreed.
The collection will be immediately preserved and digitally archived into the museum’s searchable database, Singleton said.
Singleton said the Mamer collection will remain at the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum for at least six months with potential to become a permanent exhibit.
Singleton added that she’s always admired Mamer and his accomplishments.
“After seeing this collection and reading the book, I am in awe,” she said. “This man was born to fly.”
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