Airport Sends Veteran Flier Packing
For 39 years, Cliff Fraizer has been a fixture at John Wayne Airport. A former barnstormer and veteran of World War II, the 86-year-old airplane buff has operated a small-plane maintenance yard at the airport for much of a lifetime.
He also has been a thorn in the side of airport officials, with whom he has been feuding for years.
All of which is about to come to a head. Armed with an eviction notice, county marshals are expected Monday to evict Fraizer and his A&E; Inspection Service from the building he has occupied since 1957.
“We are sorry to see it come to this, but he has left us no choice,” said Pat Ware, an airport spokeswoman. “We have sincerely tried our best to work with him.”
Said Fraizer: “They will find that I’m no shrinking violet. I learned survival in a war zone.”
Nobody seems to remember exactly when or how the argument began, but at its heart is a dispute over about $9,000 that county officials maintain Fraizer owes in back rent and penalties. Fraizer denies owing the money, pointing to what he regards as numerous breaches of his contract with the county.
“I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong,” he said.
In 1989, Fraizer, who had experienced frequent disagreements with the county, refused to pay a rent increase that he contended was unwarranted. An instrument repairman who subleased a shop from Fraizer and wanted to keep his business going stepped in to pay the difference, about $300 a month.
Early last year, however, the repairman, saying that he was “fed up” with the situation, stopped paying the extra money. County officials began drawing the monthly difference from Fraizer’s $2,000 security deposit. Then last June, after receiving notice that the deposit had been depleted and needed to be replenished, Fraizer stopped paying his rent altogether.
“These guys think they’re gods,” he said, referring to the officials who were demanding the rent. “Things got out of hand; they wrote the contract and then kept changing it.”
County officials have given him until 5 p.m. today to clear out the hundreds of aviation artifacts, historical photos and personal relics that clutter the dusty office he has occupied for more than three decades.
“We’ve done everything possible to give him ample opportunity to cure the default,” Ware said.
Fraizer says he will not meet that deadline. But he appeared resigned last week to his inevitable encounter with the marshals.
“This isn’t Guadalcanal,” Fraizer said, glancing at his World War II showcase with, among other things, a Japanese mortar, a samurai sword and 1930s-style aviator’s hat and scarf. “I will go peacefully,” he said. “I’ve got enough brains to take care of myself.”