In the beginning it was just a Little Quonset hut behind the castle and it was called the National Air Museum.

Then it grew, through the years, to take its place on the Mall as the National Air and Space Museum.

Much of that growth can be attributed to one man who's been called the "grand patriarch of American flight" and a "walking encyclopedia" of flight history. He is Dr. Paul E. Garber, the first curator of the National Air and Space Museum.

"I was right at the very beginning," Garber, 83, said recently, before attending a reception in his honor. A group called "The Friends of Paul E. Garber" decided it was time his name took a permanent place in the hall, so they presented a bas-relief of Garber, done by his friend and sculptor Felix de Weldon, to the museum.

Garber remembers many of the historic moments of flight, including when, in 1909, he watched the Wright Brothers take off from Fort Myer. He wasn't quite 10 years old then.

He also remembers when, in 1920, he took his first job at the museum. "I only had a temporary appointment for three months. My boss went on vacation and I finished everything I was supposed to do. But I wanted to leave something as evidence that I had been there. So I made a scale model of da Vinci's 1490 idea for an aircraft. The secretary came back, gave me an extension, and it lasted 62 Vears."

Now, he bears the title "historian emeritus," goes to work every day and lectures frequently for local groups. With a good-natured chuckle, he'll tell you his place in the museum: "I'm the oldest thing there except the mummies in the cases."