From Barracks to Baseball to…


Walter O’Malley and Bud Holman at the 1953 dedication of Holman Stadium

In honor of our 20-year anniversary, we’ve pulled 12 favorite stories from our archives to share with you each month. This one is excerpted from an article remembering Bud Holman, which appeared in our Summer 1998 issue. – Editor

Viewed from the perspective of 1998, it sounds crazy, but 50 years ago Vero Beach was a remote little town of 3,000 people, and developers were not exactly beating at the door.  If anyone could solve the problem, it was Bud Holman, a multi-faceted businessman — Cadillac dealer, rancher, grove owner — who had helped build the Vero Beach airport in 1929 and later became its manager.

Times changed for Bud when the United States entered World War II, and the Vero Beach airport was taken over by the U.S. Navy.  Soon, it had become a major training base for Navy pilots, and instead of a few dozen employees and a handful of planes, it was now playing host to 3,000 men and 220 aircraft.

As the war escalated, the base became a self-contained city. Extra land was acquired, more runways were opened and building proceeded at top speed on new barracks, hangars, a hospital and PX. 

And then, just as quickly as it had started, it was over. In May 1945, Germany surrendered, followed in August by Japan. With pilot-training programs terminated, the Navy didn’t need Vero Beach anymore. So they handed Bud back his airport, now nearly 10 times its original size,  and in so many words told him, “It’s yours. Do whatever you want with it.”

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