How did you know??
By Harold Hyne
Shortly after the Maintenance Department at LAX moved to the new hangar at the west end of the field in 1959, my boss, Homer Curfman called me in and ask me to find a special type of switch. It had to be a single pole, single-throw switch, spring-loaded in the closed position. To the uninitiated, this is a switch like a doorbell switch, but shuts the doorbell off when it is pushed.
I dove into wiring diagrams and finally found a switch that seemed to meet his specifications. I brought it from stores for him to look over, and only then did he tell me why he wanted it.
At that time the flight operations offices were still on the second floor in the old hanger, and the main entrance consisted of a hallway that led to the hangar floor and a stairway up to the second floor. When the crews would check in for flights, they would leave their bags at the foot of the stairs so they wouldn't have to carry them up and back down again. But it seemed a problem had developed -- at night some of the bags would turn up missing and later be found rifled out in the dark, unmanned hanger.
Homer and a company security man had come up with a plan to put a hostess bag, properly weighted, in the area and arranging a concealed switch so it would close and activate a light when the bag was picked up. The light was to be placed in a window visible from the parking lot where the security man could see it from his car. I had been selected to put it in operation.
I went home at the end of my shift and got some tools and stuff together and changed into an old pair of TWA mechanics coveralls. (The IAM frowned on “Blue Suiters” wielding tools) and waited until I thought the traffic through the hall had quieted down and went back to the hangar. I drilled a small hole about 4 inches above the floor through the wall into the old radio shop next door. I mounted the switch in the radio shop in line with the hole and put a piece of welding rod in the hole. Now I could put the “bait” bag on the entrance area side of the wall and against the rod and depress (open) the switch. When the bag was removed the switch would close. From the switch in the radio shop I connected a battery and a light with enough wire to put the light in the window. I showed the security man how it worked and he seemed satisfied that the system would serve his
The next day Homer told me the scheme had worked beautifully. That night, from his car, the security man saw the light and dashed down the hallway and into the dark hanger, catching the clown who was tampering with the bags. Later they said the thief kept saying, "How did you know I had the bag … how did you know?!
He was a TWA employee and that was the end of his job.
Harold Hyne served TWA from 1946 as an Instrument Mechanic and as an Electrical / Instrument Speciality Foreman. He retired at LAX in 1986.