My Story
"Moncla Memories"

Life in Madison

Note: Unless otherwise noted, these are purely my "memory recalls" that I experienced like they were my own memories, even though I know they could not be my memories. I have no way of knowing if any of these were experienced by pilot Gene Moncla.

The Car

Monclas Car1950 Chevrolet Bel Air

As best as I can recall, this is the car that Gene Moncla drove (or a similar looking model). My first recollection I had of this was in the fall of 2001, when I was driving NE from Madison towards Oshkosh. On the road before Fond du Lac, I had a sudden recall of having been there on a car trip with my wife. I was looking at the road signs for Fond du Lac, and she was looking at the road map because we needed to take a turnoff. At first my recollections of the car we were in was very vague, but over the next year, images of the car slowly emerged in my mind. First it was things like the overall shape of the back, roof and hood. When I finally started looking at pictures of 1950 cars on the Internet, this one really got my attention. Some things I remembered were the two-tone paint job and the covered rear fender that gave the vehicle a more "stream-lined" and "modern" look. Note, that I think that Gene was somewhat obsessed by things that were "modern" and "stream-lined".

I am not sure of the color, but I think it might have been yellow and white or something not dramatically different, perhaps tan or light green.

In another memory flashback, I could remember that Gene had driven his car to his future wife's house in Waco one evening. I just recall that Gene was a bit anxious. I figured from this memory that Gene had probably bought the car soon after he went into the Air Force, when he was in Dallas, or maybe when he was in Waco doing his basic flight training.

Note: I did get confirmation from Gene's daughter that she had seen a photo of her family in a car, but she didn't know what model it was.

Driving to Work

Madison East High SchoolMadison East High School

As I drove back and forth down East Washington Street on recent visits, I was always drawn to this high school. I recall that Gene would drive past this high school on his way to work at Truax Field. It is quite likely that Gene would have driven past this high school every day, and it would no doubt have been a "landmark" he was aware of. East Washington is the most logical route to take to the Air Force Base from Gene's home at Sherman Terrace.

Going to the Bank

Madison BankMadison Bank on Capital Square in Madison

I used to have pictures of the State Capital Building on my computer's screen saver. One day, while glancing at the picture, I had a memory of looking at the statues high up on the fa├žade, below the roof. I remembered that I used to walk through Capital Square and would stop and admire the statues. I did this when I had business to do at the bank. I think that I parked the car near State Street and would walk through Capital Square on my way to and from the bank. There are several banks that currently are located around Capital Square. This one is on the opposite side from State Street and I am quite sure it is the one that Gene did his banking. I went inside the bank to take a picture, but unfortunately, the interior has been completely remodeled and doesn't look at all like it did in 1953.

Capital City BankCapital City Bank, on King Street from Wisconsin Historical Society Archives

I was browsing through the Wisconsin Historical Society's Website, and I found these photographs of the Capital City Bank, which also sits on Capital Square. One thing that seemed familiar to me was the interior with the two story atrium. When I went into the Madison Bank, the interior looked all wrong to me, and I assumed this might be because it had been remodelled. It is possible that the bank I remember was the Capital City Bank, although I am not sure about this.

Capitol Sculptural FriezeSculptural Frieze on Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison

This is an example of the beautiful sculptures that are beneath the roofs at the ends of the four wings of the Wisconsin State Capital building. These are the sculptures that I remember fascinated Gene Moncla. He would spend much time admiring them when he did his trips to the bank. His wife wondered why he took so long to get his business done. Gene would deliberately park on the opposite side of the square, so he had a reason to walk past the Capital.

Update June 5th, 2008

When I was checking back through my research material I noticed that the head office for the Paul E. Stark Company was 1 West Main Street. The Paul E. Stark Company owned Sherman Terrace Apartments where the Monclas lived. The address 1 West Main Street just happens to be the present day location for Madison Bank, shown on the top of this page. To the best I can determine there might therefore be an explanation for the confusion in my memory recollection relating to Gene's regular routine for depositing his Air Force paycheck. My determination is that he would drive downtown and park on Capital Square by State Street. He would then cross the square, walking around the Capital Building to the Capital City Bank on King Street, where he would deposit his paycheck. He would then walk a block west on Main Street to the offices of the Paul E. Stark Company at 1 West Main Street where he would drop off a check to cover rent for the Sherman Terrace Apartment. After doing this he would slowly walk back across the square, pausing to admire the beautiful sculptures in the tympanum's at the ends of each wing of the Capital Building. I definitely think this was a time that Gene would have treasured - at least if these memories have any basis in reality.

High Noon

Monclas CarHigh Noon advertisement

I had rented a video of the movie, High Noon, because I had thought that maybe it might trigger a memory since it was made in 1952. What surprised me was that as soon as the opening credits for the movie started, I suddenly was swept up in the strongest emotional sense of a sort of melancholy nostalgia. It was like I was in the movie theatre watching it for the first time but the song and music "Do not forsake me oh my darling" were already completely familiar to me.

In a flash, I could remember sitting in the Orpheum theatre and Bobbie sitting on my left side as we watched the movie. I think that Gene was very fond of westerns, and had probably imagined himself as a cowboy when he used to go out riding horses with Bitsy Mayeux when he was in high school and junior high, back in Moreauville, Louisiana.

The theme song for the movie had been a big hit on the radio from the summer and fall of 1952, so Gene would have been familiar with it before going to the movie (if he did indeed see the movie with his wife as I seem to recall).