Memories of KC and TWA Days (1930-1938)

Posted 03/13/04

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 sort of "round-robin" letter capturing early-day memories by Wes Bunker, who apparently worked in station operations. Anyone having more information on Wes and his association with TWA should contact jcosley@earthlink.net

These recollections might also be called "The Life and Times of Jerry Bridges." Jerry and his doings hover through these pages like a benevolent Irish leprechaun. Jerry was ten years older than me – one might say my first boss in those earliest days. TWA did not become TWA until 15 October 1930 – from a merger of Western Air Express and Transcontinental Air Transport. It was a marriage of two fledgling airlines – forced marriage that is – brought on by the Postmaster General in the Hoover administration, who directed the nuptials so one single airline would carry air mail down the middle route - New York to Los Angeles.

Jerry came over to KC from Indianapolis around December 1930 to become City Traffic Manager – and we became close friends through the years until his death 1 October 1940 – in a downtown KC hotel. My memories of Jerry are legion – I saw him first one cold December night after he (had) driven in from Indianapolis. I was working nights at the old airport just across the Missouri from the city – and trying to attend college classes during the day. Jerry Spotted some class books on my desk – I believe Spinoza and Schopenhauer. Jerry was a man of many parts – expert in all fields from philosophy, poetry, the arts, music from Bach to Beethoven – down to bartending and how to snare snakes with a forked stick. I have yet to see another quite like him.

Maybe those books saved me from being fired; Jerry had orders to fire any and all Western Air Express guys he could. His own boss, Joe Brennan - in Columbus, Ohio and an ex-railroader and a pain-in-the-ass. Joe got fired himself later on in that early day chaos. Jerry, to me, became a strange cross of older brother, boss and close confidante.

Those months from the October merger and the Rockne crash in March 1931 – are mostly a blur of working mail forms, selling tickets, becoming acquainted with the pilots, copilots, mechanics, clerks that made up TWA. March 1931 was a disaster for all of us. We dispatched the early morning’s westbound around 10 a.m. 31 March 1931. – a Fokker F-10, seats for twelve but carrying only Knut Rockne, the famous Notre Dame football coach, five other passengers and Bob Fry and JesseMathias the crew. It was a dreary cold and ice bound day – the birds were even walking as the saying went. Bob decided a try at it – Knute Rockne (was) a very positive man – and after a weather conference in the operations shack – and attended by most of the passengers, too – Bob decided to take a crack at getting to Wichita. They got as far as Bazaar, Kansas not far from KC – when the left wing fell off with a heavy load of ice. All went in from 500 feet …

It was the nation’s worst crash to date – and with Rockne’s national stature – millions of words in the newspapers and hours of radio flashes. That day was also a disaster for Jerry Bridges. He had driven down to the scene with Swede Knowlson, the KC Star aviation editor – and between news conferences, nips of that Black Label – Jerry announced that the wing came off – etc. The wing did come off – but someone else should have said that.

Jack Frye, then vice-president of operations, fired Jerry forthwith. Jerry, I recall, existed for a year or more cadging meals and sleeping on the sofas in his friends’ living rooms. Jerry finally got a job in the ticket office at the terminal. He was not my boss now – but still a brother, a character and confidante.

From here on this will be a series of short, medium and long paragraphs of those early days. Jerry is in some of them, but not all. It might be in order now to tell the tale of Professor Einstein’s bear meat.

Professor Einstein, the eminent scientist, had been obtained by the president of California Tech – for added luster to their program – and also to remove him from the Nazi(s) in his homeland. To garner a little publicity for TWA some of our public relations geniuses – either Clancy Dayhoff on the west coast or T. Park Hay on the east coast -- gave birth to a stupendous idea.

The gimmick was to announce in the national media that the professor was very fond of bear meat – Bavarian bear meat from the black forest it had to be. Columns were printed in the New York, middle west and Los Angeles newspapers and on the radio news, that the meat was on its way. We enter here in this disaster. After great fanfare in New York and at the Newark airport, a package of meat – probably from a Hoboken meat market – was placed on a westbound Ford tri-motor to wend its way to the west coast. Great news coverage so far.

Due to bad weather at St. Louis and west this package and mail and all other express, etc. was trained from St. Louis that evening. Some confusion occurred whether the package was sent to Amarillo via Tulsa, or to KC for onward flight. It came to KC and was delivered by Railway Express along with other parcels, etc. The upshot is that this package of New Jersey round steak got lost in the disorder at our tiny terminal office. The package, in fact, got kicked under a steam radiator. It was January and we needed heat.

It was a disaster all right. Phone calls, telegrams and letters came from both ends of the system. "Where in hell is that bear meat?" I am sure the story was finally killed by announcing that the professor now liked abalone. Some days later, maybe a week, Jerry and I had denied all knowledge of the bear meat. We were truthful in this, though; who in hell knew of a package kicked under a steam radiator.

About this time Jerry noticed a disagreeable odor one night – around midnight. A skunk, perhaps – maybe a dead rat? We traced it down to that package under the radiator. Since it would have been fatal for us to suddenly announce that we had located Einstein’s bear meat, we did the only thing possible. Today, some fifty years later, there lies under or around the old airport terminal a memory of that cold winter night when Bridges and I gave proper burial to the lost package. Since Jerry has been dead for forty years but I am still around, I must make this confession. Please forgive me for this final atonement.

It is in order now to give a rundown on some of personnel of this new company suddenly formed in late 1930. Both WAE and TAT had hangars in KC, with (a) normal complement of mechanics, radio men, etc. They had been bitter enemies for the competitive dollar and the rare passenger. The TAT crews wore dark blue Navy serge, the WAE guys wore gray. It took weeks or more to properly clothe and equip all personnel. I was proud of my gray uniform. The final color was a medium gray. Prior to final action in these uniforms the passenger might see a captain in blue, a copilot in gray, or vice versa.

Not the case with our two hangars – Fokkers in one, Fords in the other. Airplane mechanics are a breed apart – temperamental artists, shall we say, and before it was over with the cat and dog fights down in maintenance – much turmoil reigned. Down to white lines drawn down the middle of the hangars; everyone ready for mortal combat. It was finally solved – mostly by TWA building a new maintenance-operations-administrative building down from our airport terminal.

A day or so after the Rockne crash the Fokkers were grounded for good. This left us with only the old reliable Henry Ford tri-motor – to carry the entire load on the system between Newark and Glendale. She did the job. She was built in a series of metal girders and corrugated sidings – with three motors – maybe Wasps by that time. Six cabin seats to the side – an aisle – then six to the opposite side. Twelve passengers and cockpit for two. This before the days of the air hostesses – and that handy lad in the right seat – the copilot did the nurse bit and dished out the box lunches.

Within a year or so I saw all, or most, of my copilot friends get into that coveted left seat. There are two close friends of mine, however, who never in my memory ever rode copilot. These lovely guys – Howard Hall – the famous sonny Boy – and Harry Campbell, are now retired and healthy and blessed. Sonny Boy in Florida and Harry in California. Bless them always.

Mentioning Harry brings to mind a famous episode at the KC terminal one cold winter evening. Pat Noonan, one of the many Tom Pendergast aides in the KC political scene, held down a job as night city manager at the old terminal. What Pat did in the daytime no one knew, but he was there always except on election day when he was busy garnering votes for old Tom and the western Missouri Democrats.

Pat slept in the ladies room – a nice couch was handy. He slept in his BVDs and many a time startled yelps came from our lady passengers when they found a huge man reclining in their private area. I can hear Mary Pickford’s screams yet. It took a bit of doing to pacify her. This one night while Pat was snoring away – our hero, Harry Campbell, his ship loaded and waiting, sneaked in on Pat – smeared limburger cheese all around and in and under Pat’s brand new Stetson. As a final dollop – on Pat’s nose and eyelids. A very exciting scene came about then. I can see it yet.

I would give a lot to have a TV tape of that scene. Harry, running like a halfback through the lobby, onto the ramp and into the ship – just in time to escape Pat’s clawing hands. Pat may have gotten Harry but the cinders on the ramp slowed him a bit – as he, as always at night, (was) in his stocking feet. Pat, that moody Irishman, brooded about this for days. It was not until someone mentioned his hat band – that Pat found the reason for that odd odor that clung around him – even in Pendergast’s office. It was the residue of that limburger under the hat band. As I said, they were buddies.

After the Rockne crash the F-10s were grounded, as I mentioned. The ship was well designed for the time – a tri-motor and some 10 miles faster per hour than the reliable Ford. The Fokker had a fatal defect – however. It had plywood spars in the wings – and they could not stand the stress of heavy wing loading – and snapped – as they did with Rockne – under heavy ice wing loading.

TWA, however, had inherited three or four Fokker F-32s from the WAE and TAT merger. These ships, I believe, were never grounded but they were never flown east of California. These F-32s would compare favorably with the sophisticated jet interiors. Rare wood inlays, Chinese silk screens, fancy and expensive carpeting. The works. Four compartments – eight seats to the compartment. The ship was powered with four motors – two to the side – two pushers, if that’s the word – and two pullers. Traction? Anyway, that cockpit must have been interesting. Four throttles, four this and that.

These Fokkers were the plus ultra – and old WAE made the most of it. Ads, hundreds of brochures, etc – but TWA was goosey about it all, especially since the F-10 crash. The thing that was overlooked in the ads, etc. – was that while the F-32 could carry thirty-two passengers – it hardly carried more than twenty with the full fuel loads necessary to get it from Glendale to Bakersfield, or from Alameda to Fresno. In other words these floating joss houses could not carry what they were designed for.

I do not recall much about a trip I made in one of these birds, from Glendale to Fresno back in summer of 1931. I do remember the pilot, Doc Whitney, looking like a retired bank president, with glasses and gray hair. Doc, am sure, quit flying in the early thirties. Some of the older flying guys who read this may remember Doc Whitney.

I assume these three-to-four F-32s were eventually scrapped but I do remember one of them sitting on Hollywood boulevard back around 1936 – a rather sad sight – made into a tamale and beer parlor. There is a kind of sadness in this somehow – even an inanimate object, one that flew the skies especially – must have been downcast by such a dreary end.

Those were the carefree days, especially when I was twenty or so. Vacation trips to the coast – hardly more than twenty bucks in the pocket – and free sack time in the airport offices. No smog, sunshine always in southern California, palm trees without a bit of oil and rot, and that balmy air. Flying in over the Mojave desert via El Cajon pass – first the lights of San Bernadino – then Alhambra and Pasadena – and the runway at Glendale. Lights, lights and millions of lights. All colors red, yellow and crystal clear. A fairyland. To me, a wondrous time to be twenty or so.

Today, with the jets pulling fast upward through the overcast, the sophisticated instruments, tower and area controls, radar – God what else – Cruise speeds at 120 say in 1931 and fifty years later, 500 or so. It was not the real "seat of the pants" stuff in the thirties, but closer than the jet routine today. People like Gordon "Parky" Parkinson, now retired in KC, were the key weather men and flight dispatchers. I do believe Parky could smell the change in weather conditions. Parky has been with it all, from the old Condors, the Fokkers, the Fords – down to the Boeing 747s. Quite a guy – Parky.

Those first eight years in operations – to me – bring many memories. I still have the horror, almost, to recall having to meeting delayed and trained passengers – say coming east from Albuquerque for me to meet in KC at the museum there once called a railroad station. Those terribly cold winter mornings at 700 a.m. watching as the Santa Fe Super Chief pulled in. Me, knowing that I must rise and shine and present those passengers with onward rail tickets. How happy I was to hear from Parky and others – that "Yes, we are flying today."

Among the hundreds, maybe thousands, of these peed-off passengers, I had to meet and explain things to, my fate was to meet several Hollywood bitch actresses – lost in the fog of their own fame, beauty, etc., and hell bent on going onward by air. The total nemesis to me was a red haired Irish Brooklyn virago named Nancy Carroll. Jesus, what (a) tongue like an adder. I tried my personality and famous on her – no dice. Nothing I could say to that broad would help. I must have tangled with her four to five times over those years in the early thirties.

Then, even over these many years, my memory of that lovely woman. She was a famous silent screen gal, Corinne Griffith, who owned half of the real estate in southern California. Corinne had a shape divine – blonde beauty – and damn it, she was a lady while Carroll was a bar fly. I can still recall walking behind Corinne up those railway stairs – ogling her swinging backside, and God – my first look at jeweled ankle bracelets. She must be 88 today.

John C. Graves died not long ago at age ninety-five. He was a legend in TWA. Some people are born to be universally loved, for their compassion and feelings for their fellow man. As I have said Jerry Bridges had orders to fire any and all Western Air Lines (people) he could – orders from the TAT group in Columbus, Ohio. I am certain that Johnny decided one winter night in 1930 to keep me on the payroll after a delightful dinner he gave Jerry and me at an expensive KC restaurant. My first experience with finger bowls, yet. I am certain that Johnny wanted to size me up. Hell, me at twenty – and a fledging agent at $80 a month – I am sure he had more important things to do. However, that was Johnny Graves. I owe it to Johnny for my airline time.

Johnny had a brilliant World War I record – several Purple Hearts, a collection of DSMs, etc. He was old enough to be my father. As it seems to happen to the good people in this life, he lost his only son just after Pearl Harbor when George, a young Marine pilot, was killed at Wake Island. Johnny never got over it. Later on, around 1939, Johnny lost his voice box after an involved operation and lived the next forty years speaking through his "tin" trumpet.

TWA was fortunate to have Johnny C. Graves handling the return and reassignment to jobs of the guys who had gone into military service – this around 1945 and 1946. He was the perfect man for the job. He applied his mind – his heart – in devoting total time to this job. It surely was a token of love and remembrance for his son, George, lost in the Pacific. God rest Johnny’s soul – Lord, how we all would love to see him once again.

Before we go on I must add a few more words to the old Tin Goose, the faithful tri-motor Ford. She lasted through the thirties, largely operated by the wild-catters all over the world. I know that several of them were in the hauling business in South America – mining equipment, supplies, etc. I do, however, remember old No.607 up near Elmendorf AFB, Anchorage, Alaska in the summer of 1952. I doubt if she was flyable, but I could make out the faded TWA lettering and the tail numbering. Today it is fashionable to write many things about the old Gooney Bird – the C47 (DC3) that carried the load in World War II. A fabulous bird. Old Lizzie, the Ford, did her part, too. Not in the war, naturally – but earlier and with a record of never having a fatal accident – unless brought on by pilot error or such. She was noisy – Lordie – the hot air heating from the exhausts leaked, she waved and fluttered in storm and clear, head winds and tail winds. Hats off to her.

A big change came over us in the fall of 1935 – wow. Air hostesses yet. United had had stewardesses since 1930 about. Ellen Church, still living I believe, was UAL’s first stewardess – and for years the Chief Stewardess. Jack Frye and other TWA executives leaned to the idea of male stewards – in fact we had them in old WAE. The public clamor, we believed, called for a soothing woman’s touch – a nurse to make our passengers assured and happy. The first class of trainees came on around late fall of 1935 – about twenty eight or so. How well I recall the speculation and yak-yak about our new flying gals.

These young nurses were from all parts of the country. Two or three from the eastern seaboard, but mainly from the middlewest and south and southwest. Maybe some west coasters. I recall Dee Hutchings vividly; a tiny brunette from Mississippi – with a drawl that would thaw an ice cube. She married a brilliant song-writer in Hollywood and, I hope, lived happily ever afterward. Then there was Martha Early, a buxom St. Louis lass, blonde and round – and boy, could she drink beer on that flatboat and fish joint down there on the Missouri river. Off hours, of course. Martha got pretty tubby from the beer – all St. Louis gals seem to run to this – and either had to quit or diet, I forget which. There was, naturally, a real scramble among them to become Chief Hostess, and Ruthie Rhodes won hands down. Ruthie would have made an excellent Marine top-sergeant.

It was not always work at the airport, with those twelve-hour shifts, etc. However, on hot summer nights when the last flight was gone we congregated down at a Missouri river flatboat moored down from the old Hannibal bridge. No music, no dancing – just plan old-fashioned Missouri river catfish fried to a turn, corn dodgers, boiled eggs and gallons of beer at 25 a quart.

One summer night and when we had an eastbound flight delay – due to fog at St. Louis – I invited two lady passengers to join our happy throng down on the old flatboat. They were Countess Dorothy di Frasso and her constant chum and traveling companion, Lady Mendl. The Countess I had known for several years in and out of the railway station and at the airport – she was a real gal. Millions of Pittsburgh steel money, an old duffer of an Italian count who never came to the States. Lady Mendl was about seventy – I do believe she had been one of the original Floradora chorus girls back in the Nineties.

To cut the story short we all went down to the flatboat. My memory is a bit dim here and there – but I do remember the Countess putting down a few mugs of beer – maybe a catfish – while Lady Mendl worried all along about the possibility of getting bitten by an alligator – not one north of Shreveport, hardly. It just goes to show you that we TWA people were very hospitable. A credit to our profession, so to speak.

Today, with the railroads bulging with freight business and not a care for the passenger hauls – it is hard to envision that Santa Fe Super Chief driving into the KC railroad station – winter mornings at 7 a.m., say – and steam and rumbling to a stop. I have mentioned having to meet or to train many passengers who could not be flown due to weather, those days. I will now mention the many times the Santa Fe agent, Harry Simpson, and I nearly got into fights down at the rail station. He was a boor – a toad – and a loyal Santa Fe man. The Santa Fe, and Harry, in particular, had the smug end selfish idea that once trained, the passengers belong to the Santa Fe.

Something has been lost with the passing of the deluxe railroading, the Santa Fe Super Chief, the Rock Island Rocket, the Twentieth Century. All Pullman – eight to twelve cars – barbers, train secretaries, fantastic cuisine, the works. It was a way of life never to be seen again.

A lot has been written about Kansas City – KC. It caught a bit of fame, too, from that delightful song from "Oklahoma" called "Every Thing Is Up To Date in Kansas City." Where one could walk to the privy and never wet your feet. KC, apparently, has been a wide open town – off and on – since the cattle days and the Santa Fe Trail. I drew up in Kansas City, from age 10 onward. From the turn of the century, perhaps before, this town was a honky-tonk town, meat packer, rail center, vice center and Lord knows else. Plenty of churches and good people, too, but they hardly ever go to the old 12th Street.

So it was natural to find all our company friends over the system well interested in TWA’s headquarters town. Stan Hamilton, Joe Venezia, George and Gracie Thornley, Charley Gallo, etc – from New York – and many Californians, too, were transferred to KC around late 1931. Some have moved and gone away, but one lovely guy, Stan Hamilton, is still up and about and owner of one of the largest travel agencies in the mid-west. To hear Stan tell of the night -- a cold rainy night in November 1931 -- when he, about twenty one or so, first came to KC in a Ford tri-motor – Sonny Boy Hall, captain. Stan can see that cinder runway yet.

It is impossible to tell when Gordon "Parky" Parkinson hit town. He must have been a teen-ager handling weather copy at the old Oakland airport in mid-summer 1927 when Ernie Smith and Emory Bronte made their flight to Hawaii. I knew him from time of the merger onward, and was close to him. Parky has seen it all – from Stinsons, Condors, Fokkers, Fords – down through and to the Boeing 747. I would love to see Parky work with Ernie Gann on a real view of this business – ground and air – the whole bit. It should be in the Smithsonian or rather the Library of Congress.

Maybe I should relate now how Jerry Bridges and I got suckered by the original "con"artist. Around 1934, Jerry was ticket office manager and he called me one noon to meet a fascinating man. A passenger -- mid-forties, gray and stylish – unbelievable good diction (per Jerry) who had arrived by cab from downtown and wanted to fly to LA. We booked him for a 5 pm westbound flight that day. I must say, fifty years later, this gentleman whose name I have forgotten, was an artist. That is, to get us to take his check for $400 -- about $180 over the price of the ticket -- and Jerry giving him the difference.

To us country boys, this artist represented the world of Vienna, Paris, London, New York, etc. Well, we were impressed, too, that he knew many of the high-ups at the White House – not to say Buckingham Palace. He gave Jerry and I couple shots of the best bourbon I have ever tasted. The guy was a wizard.

To cut this sad tale down a bit, he left -- with Jerry and me at the ship’s door wishing him bon voyage and come again. We found out a week later when the check bounced that he had deplaned at Albuquerque (and) turned in the unused portion of the ticket for refund. Gladly done by our pals out in Albuquerque who were also impressed. He then bought a ticket, by check again, from Continental Air Lines – Albuquerque to El Paso. How it came out and where he went I will never know. It took Bridges and me about four months to pay the company back by payroll withholding, etc. As I said, the guy was an artist.

The following data and diagram has been invented by a close friend of mine, a silo builder in What Cheer, Iowa. He may be a cousin of Harry Campbell, who as you know, hails from Bloomfield, Iowa. Heinrich Freudenffer is a natural genius. This invention – installed in a little black box – enables any pilot to fly to any point where the Postoffice zip code exists.

For example, Campbell and his lovely wife, Evelyn, plan a trip to visit Howard (Sonny Boy Hall) – from Corona Del Mar, California to Cape Coral, Florida – all Harry would have to do to finalize his flight plan is to punch five buttons on the box – i.e., 33904 – and presto, away they go in their trusty little Monocupe. The box, of course, set on Harry’s zip code.

On the other hand, if Howard Hall desires to visit Harry and Eveylyn, all he would have to do is punch – 92625. Or Joe Bartles at 92083. The little black box then takes over – only five hundred feet above any terrain feature, up hill and down dale – and a happy voyage for all. I have often urged Heinrich to start working with AT & T with the area code numbering, etc. and actual phone numbers. Care must be taken here, however, in event the phone is installed in a high rise apartment somewhere. The diagram below is shown. You will note that the cockpit is simplified a bit.

[ Regrettably, the diagram is missing]

Care must be taken, though, with this zip button idea. If 82625 is punched in error, rather than Campbell’s zip of 92625, Sonny Boy Hall or anyone might find themselves hovering over Tombstone, Ariz. The box is sophisticated, however. Sonny Boy Hall would not have to return to Cape Coral to start over – he can make an adjustment over Tombstone and continue onward.

I would dearly love to see my flying pals get into this big money; they could have Parky Parkinson continue with his "Idea" factory, while Stan Hamilton can dig out hundreds of his travel agency clientele to buy into the combine. It should take their minds off skin-diving, golfing, etc.

Flash Memories – Individuals

Jerry Bridges, reading two magazines at one time to impress the baggage porters – Clarence Johnson, his brother Roscoe and Big John – two magazines simultaneously. Clarence Johnson mentioned this to me in 1972 – years later.

Captain Ernie Smith telling us to take the Time In on the "first bounce." I sent Ernie mash letters via an aunt of mine, and he called from St. Louis, sent wires from Indianapolis and Columbus, his ETA and his desire to meet the lass who exclaimed over his dashing charm and boyish flymanship. He was stood up, however; my aunt and I chickened out at the last minute.

Joe Bartles writes a wonderful story about Ted Pease, down in Amarillo. Something about Ted telling how to eat avocados. I do recall one night when I was bunking with Ted in his bungalow next to the airport, he hit a big rat from twenty feet smack on the kisser with his shoe. Ted did not keep a tidy place.

Ellsworth "Jake" Jaquish wringing me out in that Reserve Squadron crate – was it an OH-4? Upside down over Clay County. Nice to think about this three-year hitch, though; I found out in 1955 that this constituted a "fogie" (to) get back pay from the Air Force – and it adds to my current longevity pay, too. Bless that Jake. Before he got on with TWA he was a one-man airline -- flying the Tuxhorn Airlines KC to Springfield-Joplin-KC – twice a day for months, I do believe. Stinson, I think.

TWA always paid us regularly – maybe it was nip and tuck back then but we got paid. Not so with the Braniff boys – even after they got that mail bid from Chicago go Dallas via KC – I can see Shorty Powers, Ray Shroeder, Art Mills etc., all at the Braniff ticket window asking if (there were) any sales – so they could get an advance on their pay. A long time back. Current Braniff guys would never believe this.

TWA was a bit home-spun – in the Accounting department anyway. I recall vividly Frank G. Wilson – our treasurer during early thirties – hitting a fly at ten feet with his tobacco juice.

Bruce Obermiller, around February 1931 and recently moved to KC from LA, getting juiced one night (he was a bachelor then) and homesick for good old California, took off west in his Chevy. He got tangled in the railroad yards across (the) Kaw river, and it took a fire truck and ten policemen to get him back to the highway. Funny, they refused to arrest him, but did keep him from driving back to his pad – somewhere around the Country Club Plaza. As I have said, KayCee was a tolerant town those days.

Harry Campbell owned a blue Buick roadster – about forty feet long. He even remembered the designation and meter number the other day when I talked to him at his summer retreat outside Gunnison, Colorado.

Ruby McCulley, our switchboard operator at the big hangar area. Ruby knew everyone – visiting Elks from Omaha, bankers from New York – everyone. No one ever caught Ruby listening in on phone calls – she was adept. A real nice gal – forty or so – stacked a bit and an institution with TWA.

Ted Ashford, flying a Fleetster and me the only passenger, on a newly inaugurated route from Indianapolis-Ft Wayne-Detroit. Around 1934, say. My recall of Detroit and that old City Airport right downtown almost was Ted kicking her over – and me upside down with couple mail bags in my lap – viewing the Motor City for the first time. Ted kept peeking through that little hole into the cabin from the cockpit behind to see how old Wesley was making out.

I almost got shot during the course of the famous Kansas City Massacre. This was a gang shoot-out with the FBI and local police, and "Pretty Boy Floyd" and others involved. Four killed. I had just gotten past the parking area on my way to the airport after meeting passengers at the railroad station. I got into my old Chevy and huddled down on the floor board – scared but good.

R.S. "Swede" Knowlson, the aviation editor of the Kansas City Star – he a onetime pilot, I believe – in twenties say. Swede knew everyone worth knowing, and more. We treated Swede with extreme solicitude – he was a big gun with the Star – and his column read all over the middle west. I have seen Swede put away three huge dishes of chocolate ice cream – one sitting. He never touched any flavor except chocolate.

In closing this manuscript of the early TWA days, I cannot resist closing it with the details about the Chesterfield Club – around 9th and Oak. This club ran 24 hours a day, and featured not only topless but bottomless girl waitresses. We were deluged with scores of TWA people all over the system to tell them the direction of the Chesterfield Club, and it (was) literally true that at high noon, any day --maybe not Sunday, yes damn it, Sunday – one could get a Blue Plate Special for $1, and a chance to pat the waitresses …

This has been a labor of love – maybe … hell it has been thirteen years and more now. I envy most of you guys with forty years or more with TWA, but my destiny (was) to go elsewhere a bit from 1942 on.

Take it easy, you all, and write some time.

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