Could this be true? IT IS! Not only that, the Navy Bell 47 helicopter flew from the US Icebreaker GLACIER and set down on the Sibley family lawn on Walkley Hill Road in front of a Middletown Press reporter and neighbors and friends. No, it didn’t happen yesterday but at noon on Halloween, October 31st 1959, and the helicopter arrived to pick up gyrostabilized binoculars manufactured by Kenyon Laboratories, then located at the Chester Airport.
The Haddam News, May 23, 2019 issue, presented the life and Navy career of famed Higganum native Philip W. “Bud” Porter, Jr. His long and distinguished Navy service began in 1942 and continued through action in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and Pacific and later in the Philippines and Vietnam. Bud retired from the US Navy in 1973, and then continued with the US State Department in Taiwan until his final retirement from Government service in 1987.
Bud was behind this Halloween 1959 escapade to the Sibley’s lawn in Haddam. Commander Bud Porter had been assigned in July 1959 as Captain of the Glacier, then the free world’s largest icebreaker. Bud and the GLACIER and crew of 250 men were very soon to leave their home port of Boston for Antarctica and Bud needed the gyrostabilized binoculars.
The binoculars were produced by Ted Kenyon, a pilot and inventor. Among other things, Ted developed a standard marine instrument for logging a vessels speed through water and also was a master of gyroscope design. Kenyon Labs produced binoculars which were gyro stabilized for viewing and Bud wanted these special binoculars for navigating in turbulent polar ice and waters. Although located in Chester in 1959, Kenyon Labs later moved to the old D&H Scovil plant #3 near the junction of Candlewood Hill and Brainard Hill Roads in Higganum.
Bud Porter was quite a character. Longtime friends from Haddam, the Sibleys, had a spacious lawn. Bud arranged to fly in the helicopter to Haddam, pick up the binoculars and return to the GLACIER, which was immediately going to sea. The chopper set down on the lawn with an onlooking small crowd of residents and friends. Bud jumped out in full dress uniform and was taken by the arm by Belle Russell, at that time the Middletown Press Haddam reporter. A camera was set to record the scene for the newspaper. Little Jim Sibley and older sister Jane were among the group of welcomers as well as Ted Kenyon and his wife Cecily “Teddy” Kenyon, a former Grumman Test Pilot herself and daring flyer.
Commander Bud Porter was greeted by Mrs. Sibley who had prepared a buffet lunch for all. Following lunch, and a Middletown PRESS photo of Bud and his parents, Bud drove the Kenyon’s auto to the Chester airport and met the helicopter, which had left Haddam with Ted Kenyon in the passenger seat. Bud then received the binoculars and the helicopter returned to the GLACIER.
This might well seem to be a tall story, embellished by decades of local gossip, however the story is verified by Jim Sibley and by Ben Koether, the navigator officer on the GLACIER for the entire two years of Bud Porter’s command. Even better, Jim Sibley recently located a remembered but misplaced color movie film of the helicopter visit to the Sibley lawn. Readers can view this event for themselves as a portion of the film is viewable online HERE.
The story of the helicopter itself doesn’t end so well. The following Spring the GLACIER, while enroute back to Boston, was called to help in flood relief on the northeast coast of Brazil. The GLACIER normally carried two helicopters, the smaller Bell 47 and a larger Sikorsky. On April 6, 1960, the little Bell copter, heading to the flood disaster with Bud onboard, struck a telegraph cable, plunged into the muddy waters of the Parnaiba River and burst into flames. Bud Porter was burned on his head, face and arms and the copter was lost. Bud recuperated on the return voyage. Bud and the GLACIER were commended by the President of Brazil, by Vice President Nixon, and by Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations. Philip W. (Bud) Porter, Jr., passed away in 2011.
Related story can be located HERE.
Thanks for valuable help and information go to Jim Sibley, Ben Koether, Bud Porter’s nephew Attorney Charles E Rounds, Jr. (Bud Porter’s nephew), John Nork, and the Middletown, Connecticut Russell Library.
Written by Stew Gillmor.