Two Birthdays Seventy Years Apart
It was August 1947, seventy years ago, when my 20th birthday came around and I wanted a party. The only problem – there was no one to give me a party. I was a single mother living with grandma who took care of my very neat two year old boy.
Sounds like an unhappy sad situation, doesn’t it? Actually it didn’t take long to find a solution. After the divorce I needed a job, and since I wanted to fly, I went out to the airport and began working at Roscoe Turner Flight School.
We had a lot of flight students on the G.I. Bill. I suggested to my boss that there might be a celebration for all the new solo permits and private licenses issued. He agreed. We might have had a cook-out of some kind – I don’t remember. I do see the scene of cutting slices of cake and passing them out, all with lots of laughing and talking and good cheer. And I kept my birthday a secret!
It would be a late evening so I made arrangements to stay on the airport. A very large area over the main hanger had been turned into a room with rows of beds for when country-wide fly-in’s were scheduled. After I had finished bidding everyone ‘Good-night,’ I went up to the loft and chose my single bed nearest a big window looking out over the Airport.
I was content. A lot of people had come to my birthday party. And now I could blow out the one candle I had brought with me. I looked out at all the airplanes parked below me and the runways beyond and made Four Wishes: -
shown at the end of this story along with the results.
Fast forward to August 11th 2017. 90 year old birthdays don’t come along every day. And I wanted this one to be special. What did I want to do? Easy. I wanted to fly a Cub once more.
Emails went out to the flying clubs around the Valley asking if there were any J-3 Cubs around. I received good answers: A 1945 Cessna, an Ercoupe, a Swiss Pilatus turboprop, and a “high performance“ plane. All exciting - all maybe someday.
The one that fit would be a Super-Cub at Chandler Air Service. My niece, Alice, drove in from the boondocks to take me. Son Fred said he preferred this to my first suggestion, parachuting out of a plane, and appeared happy to put down $192 for an hour of flight. A reservation was made for 10:30 am on my birthday.
My instructor, Curt Murphree, and Alice and I walked out to my Cub. Back when I was 20 years old and 30 pounds lighter, I swung into the back of the J-3 with ease. Now I put my foot up on the iron step and I needed Alice’s help to lift my leg up and over into the narrow space. Fortunately I still have strength in my arms. I could reach up to the overhead framework and pull myself into the seat.
There were other differences. Instead of a seat belt, a shoulder harness kept me tight. A radio head set instead of yelling back and forth. And flaps and trim helped to smooth out the 165 h.p engine instead of the 65 h.p. in my J-3. Once I settled in, the cockpit had the same feel as “the olden times.”
I had my hand on the stick on take-off. Curt let me climb and when I reached around 3,000 feet, I did a 360 very shallow turn in each direction. I didn’t have quite the nerve to push that stick over for the steep ones. Another hour and I would have done it, though!
Then a little more altitude and I did a power-off stall and another power-on stall, climbing, climbing, until it reached the place of no-flight, fell off on one wing and stick forward, level it out. Just like at least a thousand I’ve done before.
Then Curt made a wonderful suggestion. We went down to warm altitude, maybe 500 foot about ground level, and I followed the dry Gila River along its path. We came up on the San Tan Mountains and I’m right on top of them, then going down through an opening between the hill tops, buffeted a bit by wind thermals and the Cub and I handling those together.
I’ve flown around a lot of the air of Indiana and of south Florida, and I have had land exploration in Arizona, including the Grand Canyon, -- but, honest to goodness, there is nothing like our Arizona desert. I held my breath with its beauty.
Now comes sad news. My phone/camera had worked its way loose from my pocket and was traveling around the bottom of the plane. So these aren’t my pictures.
Alice is the official photographer for this trip, learning her new Apple phone, and going over to the Apple store so that she could “air-drop” the photos to me.
Curt is my new love. He was so patient, allowing me to handle the stick throughout, even though his hand was close by if I needed help. He did the landing, but I followed him through and pulled that stick back tight when we touched down. Just like the good ol’ days.
When you’re in a Cub, you are flying. You and the plane are together. And I have a date with Curt next year to fly the Great Lakes bi-plane in a few acrobatic moves. Actually I’m double-booked because Alice and I are going to indoor sky dive.
Back to the Airport Café for a very good hamburger and beer.
Then Alice pulled out fun extras. The pot of succulents from my brothers and sister waited for me. Alice reached down for the cake she had hidden. And then my beautiful new blue blouse that only Alice could have chosen for me. There is no way that I could tell everyone how much I appreciate this wonderful, wonderful, never-to-be-forgotten 90th birthday.
And as for those Four Wishes: - to fly and to travel and to write and to raise my kid properly.
It has all come true. Seventy years later, I write this to tell you – If you want something, don’t wait for it to land in your lap without any effort – Go for it!