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Alice Eakle Marks

Alice Josephine Eakle was born on May 2, 1921 in Des Moines, Iowa to Paul and Mary Eakle. 

On June 20, 1924, Alice's lifelong interest in aviation was sparked when her father became the caretaker at the McGirr Emergency Air Mail Field in McGirr, Afton Township, Dekalb County, Illinois.  In 1929 operations were moved to the new Waterman Airport, where he also became the weather obsever.

When she was very small, she and her siblings enjoyed riding along with her father in his big old Packard, as he drove around the landing field, lighting the kerosene farm lanterns, which outlined the emergency field. Planes occasionally needed to use the field, according to newspaper accounts of emergency landings made at McGirr Field.  Over the course of time, many different pilots stopped at the emergency fields and airports where she played, lived and worked.  She met many pilots some famous or infamous as the case may be, among whom were:

"Lee"                E. Hamilton Lee
"Biffel"             Ira O. Biffle  (Paul spelled it wrong)  
"Johnson"       Ralph Johnson
"Lee"               E.H.L.
"Hopson"       William "Wild Bill" Hopson (one of Paul's favorites)
"Biff"               I.O.B.
"Wag"             Ruben "Rube" Wagner 

Alice loved to sketch and draw, and was a very accomplished artist.  Thanks to her memories and sketches there are many interesting works portraying the McGirr and Waterman landing fields.

Alice never lost the joy she felt as a child, watching the planes fly over the McGirr Emergency Station as the family waved the pilots on and they waved back by tipping their wings back and forth.  One pilot was looked forward to with joy, when Rube (Ruben) Wagner would fly over the McGirr Field, on some days when Alice and sister Mavis and brother John would be there and run out to wave at him, Rube would throw out little parachutes he made from handkerchiefs with candy tied on  them.  A very big deal for poor kids in those days!

Alice was certified by the US Weather Bureau as a teenager. She gave weather reports from her observations and teletype reports on the current state of the weather.

These reports included the barometric pressure, amount, kind and direction of clouds, and wind direction and force at the surface and at various levels in the upper air. In general, a synopsis of general weather conditions.

This is Alice, at the Waterman Airport, taking down the anemometer to be cleaned. 


Music was an important part of her growing up years, she was a member of the“Eakle Family Band”, a marching and dance troupe that her parents created.

Alice played the Sousaphone and bugle as well as singing and dancing with her siblings.

The band accompanied a float her father built depicting a battleship he christened the “U.S.S. Illinois” and performed across the U.S. and in Toronto, Canada.

Alice Eakle met her husband to be, Henry Marks, at the Waterman Airport. He started as a "line boy" in the mid '30's. 

His military career was detailed in The Daily Chronicle (De Kalb, Illinois) · 05 Nov 1945, Mon · Page 5.

After Henry and Alice married in 1943, she traveled with him to air bases around the United States, and later Henry was a licensed aviation mechanic and pilot at the newly formed Rochelle Airport, Inc in the late '40's.

Shady Lady

During WWII, Alice drew beautiful young women, known as “Shady Lady”, on roll-down window shades, which she mailed to G.I.'s on duty around the world to boost their morale.

Close to 60 of these masterpieces are known to have existed. If you have one please contact us and tell us about it. Someday we plan a "Shady Lady" site, showing these amazing drawings and the history of who owned them and where they were.

She is showing off 2 shades, the shade on the left, a co-ed, was drawn for newspaper staff at Northern Illinois State Teachers College (now NIU) in DeKalb, IL. One on right is believed to have been made for a Marine, Donald Risley, black and white do not do these amazing creations justice.

She copyrighted the name "Shady Lady" on August 17, 1943.

In the background of this picture you can see the weather observation platform, and part of the float Paul Eakle made, "USS Illinois". (a scale model battleship)

In aviation history, she worked to preserve the history of U.S. Air Mail and was a member of the Air Mail Pioneers.

"Air Mail Trails Memorial"-Alice Eakle Marks-Personal Dream

A memorial at each of the emergency landing fields across the U.S., complete with lights, which would flash on at 6:30 p.m. and remain on until 7:30 p.m., and would commemorate the hour when the nation's night mail took off into the gathering dusk, was a personal dream of Alice Eakle Marks.  We are trying to create her dream here on these pages, and maybe one day there will be plaques at the actual sites, until then we have placed this logo on sites that were used by the airmail planes.

Alice created a logo for her memorial plaques

This sketch is what she invisioned on each plaque to be set at the landing field.  She wanted this plaque placed on the Airmail Fields used by the Post Office Department (P.O.D.) and on the Contract Air Mail (C.A.M.) routes. We are doing this virtually. We have also added her daughter's logo to show that it was contributed by Melissa Marks Van Drew and our logo to show permission for use on our site. So throughout these various webpages when ever you see this symbol, you will know that it was part of the airmail system.

Alice did a lot of research on the early airmail routes and landing fields in her attempt to find the specific location for a memorial plaque and or beacon, to remind the public of the Air Mail Service's contribution to aviation.  Without the hard work of the men and women working on the ground along the airways, pilots would have not made it very far.  As the daughter of one of these airfield's custodian, and someone who spent time as an employee, reporting the weather conditions, this project was very close to her heart. 

Some of her research includes:

Her personal journals, notes, and photos, kept while employed as a weather observer at Waterman Airport while still in high school.

In the National Archives in 1960's she was able to find:

3x5 cards detailing the owners of the fields and the rental that they recieved and the years that they recieved it.

Beacon and Field Locations showing milage between each between Cheyenne and Chicago-the first segment of the transcontinental airway which was lighted for night flying.

A list of Emergency Landing Fields showing the "Official Number" designition and owners name

Blue print drawings done of North Aurora Field and of McGirr Field (only the North Aurora Field has been found to date)

Portion of a 1962 correspondence from Gerald Eakle to his niece Alice Eakle Marks

Now for the information that you would like to have, your sketch is just about A ok as I recall, of course this is the second field at McGirr.  The first field was about a mile south of this with nothing but a shed to house the generator set.  This only operated the beacon nothing else.  Your father and I used to hang kerosene farm lanterns on the fence post for boundary lights.  Later wet cell batteries for each individual light was used such as you have shown in your sketch.  This of course eliminated the lanterns.  As I recall your father took over the first field late in 1923 or early 1924. The only airmail pilot names I remember were Gilbert and the guy Buck was named after. 

"A string of lights across the transcontinental, it's a living memorial, right in the spirit of the Air Mail," she says.


Goodies From Alice Eakle Marks Collection

Photo of Alice in the arms of her mother, Mary (Mercer) Eakles, abt. 1922.



Waterman Airport Beacon, August 1939

First photo:

Alice is standing near the base of the beacon tower.  She had climbed that tower many times in the 10 years it had been there when this was taken.  She used to go to the top and hang by her knees, just to prove to herself she was "brave".  She was 8 years old at the time it was built.

Second photo:

Caption says the two men are pilot's who climbed it, but got dizzy on the way up.





This is a photo of Alice reading the teletype.  She is doing a weather report at Progress Corner Waterman Airport.  She was certified by the US Weather Bureau as a teenager.


Sketch of McGirr Emergency Air Mail Landing Field-Second Location

Sketch of Waterman Intermediate Landing Field


Alice J. Marks 1921-2017-Unger-Horner Funeral Home

Henry Thomas Marks 1920-2001

  · Mon, Nov 5, 1945 – Page 5 · The Daily Chronicle (De Kalb, Illinois) · Newspapers.com


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