The Liberty Gazette
April 14, 2015Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: The ad blared with dark, bold, large letters around a drawing of an airplane. Sweeping lines to make readers think of wind seemed to whisk the words across the page to keep up with the plane, giving special effect to the message:
"Step Into Aviation"
"Adventure… Thrills… Big Money!"
"The Game for Daring Young Men"
The year was 1928, just one year before 20 women pilots would show those daring men that quite frankly, the airplane doesn’t know whether the person in the seat is male or female. The ad’s first paragraph taunted men by suggesting that a "regular" job (anything other than aviation) is a dull grind, and that they should "Break into one of the most fascinating, most thrilling occupations since time began – Aviation – the virile, exciting, romantic game for men of sporting blood."
Yes, it really said that. You can read it for yourself in the very first bound issue of Popular Aviation, March 1928. I wonder what they thought about all those aviatrixes who flew in dresses and wore make-up and piloted their planes at full race speed across the country from California to Cleveland, Ohio the following year in the First Women’s Air Derby, the finish line being at the National Air Races – which were "for men only."
About that same time a pilot instructor by the name of Clevenger who lived in Denver turned to the modern marvel of radio to promote flying. This was only the eighth year commercial radio had existed, and the Golden Age of Aviation, when we celebrated U.S. Air Mail Week every January and the list of all the mail routes and passenger schedules took up fewer than three full pages, and for fifteen minutes every Friday evening for ten weeks any guy who fancied himself to be of sporting blood could listen to flying lessons on the radio.
Mike: Cloyd Clevenger worked for Alexander Aircraft Company and in his weekly fifteen minutes of fame he acted out a flying lesson with another fellow, a regionally famous humorist named Gene Lindberg (no "h" on the end but the similarity is amusing). Sound effects were typical of the era: find what you can use to make a particular sound believable. In this case, electric fans were pointed straight into the microphone to sound like a plane taking off, and blowing away from the mic once the plane was in quieter cruise flight. The show’s main competition was appealing jazz orchestra broadcasts, the music of the time.
In living rooms, dens, kitchens all over America self-assessed daring men probably followed the advice of Captain Clevenger and listened intently to the predecessor of the podcast while seated firmly in a chair, broomstick handle in hand, "chair flying".
That advice has not gone away. Today’s instructors still recommend chair flying to enhance skills by helping the mind focus while imagining flying.
Even though they were eavesdropping on the sometimes comical dialogue which was meant to convey the lessons at hand, results showed success by an increase in customers at the flight school, and in sales of Clevenger’s book, "Modern Flight". Alexander Aircraft was, after all, just doing its part by sponsoring the radio lessons to educate the public in air-mindedness, albeit while playing a game for daring men.