Flying with Miss Wildwood Gables & Bill James

by Dorothy Kulisek / Meg Corcoran
Bill James on beach

bill james plane

Crest Air Port-1

Bill James-Gable hangerBill James, an industrious pilot who came to Wildwood Crest in April 1931, earned a living during those Depression Era days offering penny-a-pound rides to brave beachgoers. James kept his bi-plane, named Miss Wildwood Gables in reference to what would later be called Diamond Beach, in an airplane hangar he built on the beach near St. Paul Avenue.
An article in the Wildwood museum about James states “For most Wildwood residents, a brief flight in James’ bi-plane was their first experience in the air. Some of them decided that was enough and they never flew again.”
James, born in Sewell, NJ in 1907, holds the honor of being the first pilot to fly advertising banners over the beach. Today it is part of the summer beach experience to see banner planes flying pulling banners on suggestions of where to go for dinner in the evening. His aerial advertising business included skywriting and passenger rides up and down the east coast. After learning to fly in an OX5 Jenny at Roosevelt Field on Long Island in the late 1920s, he spent the next 10 summers in the Crest amazing locals and visitors with his exhibition flights. Newspaper stories often recalled his daredevil antics in a plane they compared to orange crates held together with wires! When Miss Wildwood Gables sadly caught fire, killing the pilot it was being flown by, he purchased another plane, named the Steel Pier.
After arriving in Wildwood, he opened a flying school and a connected business at the county airport. He went on active duty with the U.S. Army Signal Corps. in September 1941. By the summer of 1945 and the end of World War II, he went from being a second lieutenant to Major James, with an impressive 6500 flying hours. He continued his military career, traveling across the world while flying over a hundred different types of military and civilian aircraft. Following service in two wars, he retired in 1962 as a colonel.
James fondly called Wildwood Crest his home. During their retirement, he and his wife, Gladys would divide their time between Florida and their long-time residence on Aster Road, beneath a sky that remained his home away from home.

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