"Da Lindboigh Line (1930 1938)"
By Wes Bunker
This undated, typed document was found among the personal papers of the late John Corris, TWA public relations/corporate communications executive in CHI, NYC and DCA (1947-1983). It appears to be a collection of early-day memories by Wes Bunker who worked in station operations. Anyone having more background on Wes and his association with TWA should e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org
These pages are dedicated to the more than 70 TWA flying guys who flew the first schedules Ford, Fokker, etc. Of Standard, Maddux, TAT and Western Air Express that became TWA on 15 October 1930. These pioneers could be compared to the early day engineers and firemen who out-raced the Comanche and the Cheyenne down those rickety iron tracks back then. However, the fly guys had more to worry about; such as ground fog, thunderstorms, erratic radio if any crappy runways, temperamental WASPS and Hornets and Cyclones, who they prayed would keep turning. As they sang "Bless them all, the long and the short and the tall."
Bob Montgomery and I were in on the beginning back in the old KayCee April 30, 1930. Bob now lives on a mountain top in the Carmel Valley with his own memories of forty years plus with TWA me, I had only that first twelve 1930-1942 before going other places. Those twelve years, however, represent a high moment in my life; when one is young and itchy these memories remain. Hence this rundown.
There must be 65 or so names of TWA fly guys on following pages; I apologize for neglecting to include Doc Mesker, Chick Fredericks and Paul Fredrickson or is it Frederickson? Am damn sure before this is over I will recall others but to do it properly would take months of pondering and research. So be it.
A page or so will include my memories of my fellow ground-guys from LA to Newark. I hope you fly guys and others who get this will get a chuckle here and there over some of the zany doings along the "middle" Route, the Air Mail AM2 of years ago. What we called it "Da Lindboigh Line." We pointed with pride that our route was not as cold as United in winter (ho-ho) or as hot as American in summer (ho-ho and ho).
Many a Hollywood doll and handsome lad tried both UAL and AAL but always came back to old TWA mainly because of the beautiful poise, the witty chit chat, and vibrant personalities of our pilots and copilots. This always back-fired, though, when we had to train them Albuquerque to KC on the Santa Fe Super Chief. I hated to go to the Union station in old KayCee to meet these cats -- hated it as much as the devil hates holy water. Here are a few memories.
Ted Peaso (PAYso not PEAso) skinny, wiry and positive character down in Amarillo station manager, cook and bottle washer. Had a voice like a fog horn and could, if in the mood, be heard as far as Woodward, Okla., if the wind right and humidity fair. I would love to meet him again.
Battle Joyner, down in Wichita at first; Mitchell Dickens and his wife, Louise, in Albuquerque way out west of town on that mesa. Remember? Mitchell, more of a cowboy type than an agent, but a good agent. Louise pretty and petite and with many cats lusting for her.
Ted Baker, believe it was Ted, that character out in Kingman; always turning down assignments elsewhere. He loved that area. You know, I feel today, he had something.
Joe Kasualitis, believe that the spelling. Perennial standby at Winslow. Loved to deer hunt - wonder what they did during deer season when Joe (was) away?
Matt Essig and Irv Greenwald in old Glendale airport. Matt looked like a retired bank clerk - but never made a mistake in his mail forms. Irv came to Addis Ababa - either with Swede Golien or later. I had lunch with him in 1964 when down there with the 322nd Combat Cargo boys for a day or so.
Walt Harris - sang like Crosby and damn it, looked a bit like him. Had a flair for easy of handling things - Irish charm and a wonderful guy. Would I love to see Walt once more. Walt broke in at KC as a radio clerk when old WAE had a radio shack north of KC in the Fokker days. Came to Bob and me later as an agent - and a good one.
Johnny C. Graves - that father of us all. Johnny passed along, I hear, at age of 95 or so. A wonderful World War I record DSM and all. Wounded several times - and a Missouri Pacific railroader when going to TAT. All of us loved that Johnny. He had a zest for life and love for his fellow man that was unexcelled. Remember when he had that throat operation in late thirties and had to talk through his "trumpet" from then on? Most of us would have given up - he didnt - Johnny was a saint.
Fred McLeod. Remember? At Albuquerque for long time - as station manager, and then did traveling work along system - checking up on stations operations. Scottish to his shoe soles - and a wonderful guy.
Ed Minser, that great weather man in old KayCee ex-Navy and along with Lee Flanagin and Parky Parkinson chief worrier about weather on the system.
Cant recall this flying cats name - but startled the natives in Winslow with his theatrical make-up, costumes - yelling and prancing along the roof of that Fred Harvey hotel in Winslow. Are the police there still looking for him?
That interesting period in Albuquerque - summer of 1936 - when various guys and dolls of TWA - that first class of hostesses - engaged in fun and games (some of them) during the layover at that hotel. How Jack Frye had to go down there and act as a combination of Dottie-Do-Good and Simon Legree. I have often wondered how the hell it all turned out. Birds do it, too.
Enough of this. Now for you flying guys. Remember now - this only my own recall of those guys then - and those days gone by. I hope you enjoy this nostalgia. As they say - "Bless you all, the long and short and the tall."
Ted Ashford: Died of heart attack in Chicago, 30 September 1940. Ted from Boone, Iowa - TAT copilot time of TAT-WAE merger 1930. Butt of many jokes played on him by Harry Campbell and Sonny Boy Hall - when the three of them - batchelors all -- padded at the Casa Loma West - KC.
Cliff Abbott: Indian boy getting into TAT direct from Army Air Corps. Still has that trace of Hoosier idiom lives in Kansas City.
Andy Andrews: One of the two "bail outs" (from) night mail days, along with Dean Burford Alleghanies(sic) around 1933 or 1934.
George Brill: Happy, even-tempered. Believe was one of the first to be checked out on the Boeing four-motor job Globemaster? George done in by a heart attack early forties.
Harvey Bolton-Kenny Greason: Went out in that DC-2 (at) Kirksville, Mo, along (with) Senator Bronson Cutting and others. Out of fuel over Kansas City.
M.O. (MO) Bowen: Quiet, steady, Must have tons of green as he was putting his entire flight pay into savings back then in thirties.
Otis Bryan: Old Eagle Eye, as the KC station Pendergast guys called him. Did all kinds of fancy things flying Roosevelt to Casablanca, later on a head-knocker setting up the Philippine Airlines out of Manila.
Eddie Bellande: One of the original WAE pilots quite a famous name on the West coast especially squireing around some of the Hollywood dolls. Glenda Farrell, we do believe.
Dean Burford: Old timer one of the two "bailouts" with Andy Andrews as noted above. Not too generally known but was given total support, financial and comfort, by Larry Fritz during a time of Deans prolonged illness in the early thirties. Fritz had a heart big as his head.
Joe Bartles: Great guy, and a lover of Texas chili any kind of damn chili. Into TAT from Army Air Corps Bombardment at Selfridge(AFB) circa 1929.
Art Burns and Walt Ballard: Memory brings these two paired for years on the KC-NY segment or at least the old KC-CO segment. Art was not too happy being assigned the Northrop but did the job. Walt Ballard another lad who hated thunderstorms and always came back to KC if thunderheads over Marshall or Boonville. Larry Fritz constantly on his butt.
Hal Blackburn: An old pro and believe (him to be) one of the Air Corps guys, too.
Harry Campbell: Refugee from Washington University, St. Louis, Bloomfield, Iowa and 1929 class at Kelly(AFB). Was flying first when I knew him as early as fall 1930 after the TAT-WAE merger. Bon vivant, wag, sterling soul, holder of blankets over drunk pee-ers enroute to KC. We all love him.
Milo Campbell: My first trip on a F-14, Milo flying was between Amarillo and Oklahoma City. Those days immediately after the TAT-WAE merger TWA operated a St. Louis-Amarillo division via Springfield-Tulsa-Oklahoma City-Elk City-Amarillo. Soon dropping that segment AAL taking over. Milo, after many thousands of hours, killed in North Africa during the WW-2 having a joy ride with some hot shot B-23 kids. Sad Ending.
Bill Campbell: Quiet, dry wit and great guy. A lovely wife, Rene, who kept an eagle eye on William.
Bill Coyle: Big, rough and great. Trained young Air Corps pilots during WW-2 in the intricacies of the Gooney Bird C-47 (DC-3). Story by Bill chasing his mother-in-law and assorted leaches out of his Glendale home late one night when Bill came home from an Albuquerque trip. A classic.
Floyd Church: I hardly knew Floyd killed in a Fleetstar mail run crash in western Pennsylvania, I believe around 1934. Maybe an Orion.
John Collings: Stern taxmaster I recall. Original Henry Ford-Bill Stout Ford Airline pilot was the one, I think, who got Harry Campbell, Jack Zimmerman, Joe Barltes, Sonny Boy Hall etc all into TAT 1929.
Amos Collins: Quiet, likeable and professional.
Ben Dally: An original from old TAT days first, I believe, either traffic or operations, then copilot and later checked out. Lost in the damn Caribbean on contract TWA flying during early part of WW-2. Lovely guy.
Chuck Dailey: When I first met Chuck he was a motorcycle policeman for Pendergast then either field manager or station manager (City) and then into line flying. An eye for the girlies and they for him, mostly.
Jim Eischeid: When I think of Jim always put him with Sonny Boy Hall as Jim must have flown copilot for Sonny Boy for years. Looked like a football line back(er).
Bob Fry-Jess Mathias: Always put them together as they went out with Rockne in TWAs first crash Fokker F-10 wing coming off at 500 feet over Kansas 31 March 1931. How well we recall that terrible day. Rockne bullied Bob into trying for Wichita that morning I know, I was there.
Jack Frye: An Oklahoma original quarter Cherokee and a planner ahead of his time Brought old No. 300 (the one and only DC-1) February 1934 LA to NY via Albuquerque-Kansas City-Columbus-NY etc. Eddie Rickenbacker riding copilot but I noticed other TWA captains on board, too. Jack got shafted by Hughes and that crowd of jerks Houston types. Later killed in or near Phoenix in a car crash. Have wondered often whether Jack was suicidal.
Lee Flanigan: Lee dates from 1927 with old Standard Airlines Frye, Richter, etc. I knew him well and have always admired that quiet dry Irish humor Here is to you, Lee God bless.
Larry Fritz: Many memories of Lawrence G. Fritz, scion of the Lake Ontario, NY lake sailors stocky, direct and with a very short fuse. Usually cooled just as fast. Always recall Larry running from KC operations to the Ford eastbound around 8 a.m. when he saw me trying to get Jack Wade, then a copilot, into the Ford and the door shut. Jack, for some reason, a bit slow in all but suddenly galvanized when he saw Larry storming up the ramp. Larry got there just as Jack slammed the door but did get a word in about "You dumb son-of-a-bitch or such like. Jack was one of Larrys boys and perhaps Larry more prone to cuss his own. Have often wondered what those four to five paying passengers thought about that parting shot when the Ford pulled away.
Earl Fleet: One of our favorite guys. Am told by many that Earl passed on just this summer 1981. Often think of Earl telling me around 1941 or so he was buying a Johnson County farm and would call it "Dun-Roven." Well, old buddie Earl you have now quit Dun-Roven, or at least roving. God bless you.
Otto Ferguson: "Fergie" was initially one of the Kansas City airport flying guys bucking for a TWA spot. He made it- and sometime after making that left hand seat crashed near Uniontown, Penna in, I believe, a DC2. Nellie Granger, you will recall, was the little hostess who got help for those still alive by wandering down that mountainside.
Ken Fairchild: Tall, lanky and happy go lucky. Had been at Barksdale prior to joining the company circa 1934
Lew Goss: One of the originals, too. Hardly ever spent time away from LA and liked by all. Flight dispatcher par excellence.
Hal George: Hal destined to be trapped by fate in that Northrop crash where he had a lady doctor aboard hurrying to Philadelphia on emergency and Hal could not get her to bail out ice, ice, ice. He had to stay and they both went.
Swede Golien: First knew Swede as a copilot for WAE and almost immediately he (was) on the Northrops KC to Albuquerque. A natural pilot and a gentleman. I was at his wedding circa 1933 or so. Swede did the initial work shaping up Ethiopian Airlines and incurred a lingering illness in doing so. Am told that Swede joined our guys upstairs not too long ago. God bless.
Big and Little "GUG" Gugliametti: I cannot resist line about these cats. They were flying the old WAE west coast trips and perhaps may have continued with TWA after the merger. Some of you guys will recall them.
Johnny Graves: Slender, fine looking and good guy. Mostly on Eastern region and then going out in that Chicago (I believe Chicago) DC-3 crash 1936??
Howard E Hall (Sonny Boy, universally): An original if ever one, first in initial TAT pilots. I doubt if Howard ever flew copilot, my recall of that lovely serious professional guy when he took me on my first flight. A KC night test hop of that thundering beast the Ford. I feel sure from his letters that Howard is happy, content and relaxed down there at Cape Coral, Florida. Bless you, lad, and yours.
Dutch Holloway: An old-timer believe a WAE guy but to me, at 20 or so back then must have looked like Moses. Dutch, however, fooled them all and did a bang-up job flying mail LA-Albuquerque. He was known for his camping outfit, food and such along with his chute when he flew that run. Dont think Dutch ever had to use the gear, though.
Ted Hereford: An Adonis, if ever was one. Curly blond hair and a lady killer by far. Ted played the field. First knew him as a copilot with WAE and the Fokkers then after the merger he blossomed out as a dashing hell-for-leather Northrop mail guy. I can smell that perfume yet he put in, around and over his flying suit the oil and stink kept at bay.
Harlan Hull: Believe originally from WAE and sometime after the merger Jack Frye made him Chief Pilot. To me Hull recalls a cross between Ted Hereford and M.O. (MO) Bowen in looks.
Ralph Montee: Ralph, one of the original WAE guys, took the next F-10 Fokker out of KC west 1 April 1931, after Rockne crash day before. Lean, handsome and quiet Texas guy. Ralph and all crashed in Amarillo year or so later, believe no survivors. Brother a CAA inspector.
Howard Morgan-Johnny Bowen: Both went out and I believe near Amarillo. This sometime during 1935 early, say. Johnny was brother of MO Bowen. Howard was my friend for life after I loaned him five bucks during the bank holiday March 1933 and he to fly to Albuquerque with Montee. The loss of these guys left a big hole for all of us in our lives.
Ted Moffitt: One of my earliest favorites mainly because he and Wanda had me to dinner back then say 1930 and Wanda was a great cook. Ted, I recall, spent most time earlier on the LA-Albuquerque segment.
Nick Laurenzano: Hardly knew Nick but he one of the original TAT-ers. Believe Nick flew mostly in the eastern region. Did he stay with TWA?
Alex Klotz: Seems to me Lex came on around middle thirties. I do recall he hated to be called "Clots" or something like instead of "Cloats". Mostly grouchy if someone in ignorance mispronounced his moniker.
Felix Preeg: I recall Felix and his lovely wife Ruthie, I believe and now cannot recall if old Felix a WAE guy or a TAT guy. Mostly on the western region when I knew him. Dapper, dapper and always courteous.
George Price: Hardly knew George but one of the original TAT-ers, methinks.
George Rice: Old Hawk-eye, profile like an eagle. One of the original WAE Fokker F-10 and F-32 guys. Mostly on the western region.
Earl Noe: Was awfully fond of Earl and for such a short time. He from Porterville, California and had just gotten to KC to fly the Orion night mail. I was with him earlier looking for an apartment for he and his new little wife. Earl crashed into the Missouri river at the airport KC, that hot summer evening. Broken neck. Looked so much like Clark Gable.
W.L. (Wesley) Smith: Rough, tough and cranky maybe only to those he did not know too well. Premier instrument pilot and LOVED THUNDERSTORMS because, as he told a copilot once, "Aint that purty?" Legend in TWA.
Ernie Smith: Now comes that bon vivant, lady killer and idol of all San Francisco and Oakland. First to fly, with Emory Bronte, to Hawaii and landing, as you recall on that leper part of Molokai. Cocoanut tree landing. Ernie thought for years he had or was about to get leprosy. My memories of the CAPTAIN Ernie are legend. Last time I saw Ernie he holed up at the San Francisco Press Club away from process servers. A character, if ever one. I was entranced with that Irish cat.
A.D. Smith: Mostly memories of A.D. was when he superintendent or such, stationed in Albuquerque. He surely taught flying by Orville Wright.
Walt Smiley: Tall, lanky and always smiling like his name.
Paul Richter: A gentleman first, professional always and one of the kindest and cultivated men I have ever known. Believe initially Navy trained in the twenties. Ran the Navy NATS during WW-2 and finally quit TWA, with a gut full of that Houston crap and went to Coca Cola. Died say 1952 of a heart attack. A wonderful boss and a human being always.
Pete Redpath: Recall Pete as both navigator and pilot around late thirties. Went to SAS, like Swede did for Ethiopian, after WW2. Heard that Pete stayed with the Swedes, Norskys and Danes. Wish him well, always.
Fred Richardson: Medium build, clipped and cultivated moustache fine pilot and damn careful one. Like Earl Fleet, believe never an incident to his flying days. Always loved Fred as he allowed us harried ground types worried with mail delays many minutes backward to flight time.
Jack Walsh: Jack old-timer on western region had six eight ten kids and loved them all. Legend in TWA
Wayne Williams: Wayne, big bluff and happy go lucky. Married a lovely KC girl Ruby Stevens and lost his life with all in the Lombard crash.
M.C. and L.M. Williams: Twins Maurice and Merrill. I first aware these characters when they, put on the land crew at KC, awaiting copilot jobs kept eyeing me like I was the devil incarnate. It turned out that they had been told by the Postal guys that I was a son-of-a-bitch and WATCH OUT. They watched all but fairly soon we buddies. They may have been identical twins but I sure as hell could tell them apart. MC Maurice was sharper and quicker and LM Merrill more easy going and bit more rotund than Maurice. Am sure they made fine captains.
S.D. (Steve) Welsh: Another gentleman of the first water. St. Clair D. Welsh. Was one of the earlier TAT ops bosses and my own boss direct during the middle thirties. He had a way of eating your fanny out that made it seem like a compliment and how smart you were. I loved that man.
Waldo Waterman: I vividly recall Waldos size 14 shoes and that burly neck. Was so big (it) took a bit of trouble squeezing into the Ford cockpit. I believe he went back to aeronautical design work on the Coast but do recall urping up everything one hot July day in Amarillo when we stopped for a bite at that Chew and Choke they called a café on the old Amarillo field. Waldo put away two huge pieces of pecan pie gooey and all and I barely made it to the back door of the joint. My stomach not too good anyway from a three hour flight from Wichita on that weaving-assed Ford, exhaust fumes and all and any time I think of Amarillo I think of Waldo.
Jack Zimmerman: One of the early boys TAT-ers. Believe came from Selfridge(AFB) along with Cliff Abbott and Joe Bartles in 1929 when they formed up TAT. We both had a great great "admiration" for one of the first class TWA hostess types and each made hot pursuit he from the Newark end and me from old KayCee. Jack lost his life early in WW2 up at that base I can never remember the name now called Limestone or such in Maine. Recall that Jack determined to fly an amphyian (spelling?) anyway, fly boat and damn it all those hours and crapping out uselessly.
Hope all you guys who get this tome of oldie and youngie names of our TWA flying guys get total recall of all or some and have many happy moments of recollection.