Wednesday, July 29, 2015

9.2 Hours & Counting

When you ask Jellystone Air Park neighbor, Rick Maury, how things are going with his new baby, he'll nod his head a little and then stuff his hands in his pockets and say: "Oh, pretty good," which is an extreme understatement because his humongous grin says things are going way better than just "Oh, pretty good."  A normal person would probably say: "Fantastic!"  But RV builders are not normal people (just ask any Vans Air Force member) and Rick has never been one to brag---but certainly has every right to do so. His RV-7 is beautiful!  I can't wait to see it painted.

See what I mean about the grin?  9.2 hours under wing so far.  Only 30.8 more and I can have a ride!  Somebody needs to pick up the pace. . .

Another reason for the grin:  Rick's Experimental Aircraft Builder/Repairman certificate for RV-7, serial number 73161, arrived in the mail this week.  No, that's not Rick on the back of the certificate.  It's Charles Taylor, mechanic and engine builder for the Wright Brothers.  I'd say Rick is in good company. . .

Thursday, July 16, 2015

National Air Mail Week 1938

Click on image to enlarge.

My father in law, Rod Anderson, found this old 2 X 3 inch black and white in a box of family photographs.  The sign on the letter carrier's car reads: 1st AIR MAIL FLIGHT FROM HOQUIAM, WN (Washington) MAY 19, 1938.  When I asked Rod about the photograph he said all he knew was that it was taken at the Moon Island Airport (now Bowerman Field) in Hoquiam, Washington.  Rod grew up in Aberdeen, which is just east of Hoquiam on the northeast shore of Grays Harbor, on the Pacific Coast eighty miles west of Olympia.  (More about the geography later.)  When I saw the photo I thought: There's a story here, I just don't know what it is.  But I had an idea. . .  The first thing I had to do was get a better look at the photograph.

The Air Mail Detective:

I scanned the photo and saved the image on my computer.  When viewed in full screen mode I could easily read the reverse image on the sign taped to the left rear side window: NATIONAL AIR MAIL WEEK.

In 1938 Postmaster General James A. Farley organized National Air Mail Week to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Air Mail Service in the United States.  In an effort to boost national spirit (and help struggling air carriers) all citizens were encouraged to send an air mail letter during the third week of May.  Cities and towns across the nation were invited to create commemorative designs, called cachets, that would be printed on envelopes to be carried on special one-day-only National Air Mail Week flights on May 19, 1938.  Obviously the citizens of Hoquiam, Washington participated in National Air Mail Week.  Rod's seventy-seven year old photograph validates the fact.  I wondered if there were any Hoquiam First Flight Cachet Covers floating around. . .

eBay To The Rescue!

It was time to evoke Brother Hogan's Law of the Internet:  If it's out there; someone is trying to sell it on eBay.  I logged on to the eBay web site and typed 1st Air Mail Flight from Hoquiam, Washington, May 19, 1938 in the search window, and mashed the Enter key. . .

Click on image to enlarge.

. . . and Brother Hogan's Law of the Internet was validated!  How cool was that?  I was the only bidder!

Geography Lesson:

I wrote earlier that Rod grew up in Aberdeen, Washington---which is just east of Hoquiam on the northeast shore of Grays Harbor.  The cachet map on the envelope is an accurate representation of the area.  Rod told me that during World War II the Army had four P-38 Lightnings sitting 24 hour alert at the Moon Island Airport.  He said they flew quite often, and he would never forget the sound of the twin turbo-supercharged Allison engines echoing around town.  Rod has a funny story from back in the day:

"In 1942 our scoutmaster, Mr. Rice, was teaching us Morse Code.  We were in the school yard at A. J. West Grade School.  It was after dark, and Mr. Rice said:  "Rod, grab a flashlight and take three of the guys up to the 8th Street Water Tower.  When you get up there, flash your light at the school yard and we'll exchange messages." Now A. J. West School sits on a perfect line between the 8th Street Water Tower and the entrance to Grays Harbor on the Pacific Ocean.  We were up on the water tower, flashing our light down at the school yard when all of a sudden, in the darkness below, we hear in a deep voice:  "OK MEN, WE'VE GOT-UM SURROUNDED!"  We scampered down the ladder and the next thing we know, we're face to face with the Army---and I'm staring down the barrel of a Thompson Submachine Gun!  The soldier says:  "What were you guys doing up there?"  I was twelve years old and all I could manage was: "Um . . . um . . . Mr. Rice . . .  sent us . . . um . . . Morse code . . .  school yard . . ."  We all went down to the school yard where the guy just about choked Mr. Rice!  Said they thought we were trying to signal the Japanese."