ST. FRANCIS DAM DISASTER CREATED AN OPPORTUNITY FOR A CITY TO GAIN ACCESS TO THE SKIES!
After the St. Francis Dam disaster in 1928, local ranchers Ralph Dickenson and Dan Emmet decided some of the devastated area adjacent to the river would make a good location for an airport. Both were pilots, and had airstrips on their ranches. They knew that a single airport would greatly benefit the city of Santa Paula.
Ralph persuaded 19 local ranchers and businessmen to invest $1,000 each, and they began building Santa Paula Airport with their own hands. It opened in August 1930 with a dedication celebration that included air races, aerobatics and parachuting, a visit from the Goodyear Blimp, and featuring many famous aviators of the time such as Art Goebel, Roscoe Turner, Pancho Barnes, Jimmy Doolittle and Hawley Bowles. In 1938, with a population of 7,200, Santa Paula had more airplanes per capita than any other community in the nation.