The Liberty Gazette
March 3, 2015Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Sitting on an old carton in a semi-dark room, scant light filtering through a window past dusty blinds causing glinting reflections off floating lint, he stares at boxes and miscellaneous objects cluttered against the walls and in groupings around the room. No, he doesn’t feel much like it, but there are boxes to look through, clothing to sort, papers and tools, cases of tools that should go to a new home. The emotions bite like horseflies. Where to start?
He rises reluctantly, flips a light switch and opens the blinds for more light. That first reach is the hardest as he begins picking through the stacks. His own muscles prod him to move on. One by one he drags boxes near to him and starts pulling them apart. Some of the boxes have been marked with a felt pen, "Mom’s dishes", "Bedroom", and "Bob’s books". He opens each tentatively only to slide them to another place in the room, until one box catches his eye. The scribbles read, "Flying stuff." With a slight smile and a heavy sigh he gently breaks the dry brittle tape and opens the container to a host of memories, of flying with Dad.
There, scattered about the top of some papers brown with age, is a stack of photographs, some of them withered with decaying edges. Some are old Polaroids, but time has distorted the colors making them reminiscent of the metal plate type photographs he has seen of the Old West. He can barely make out the subjects. Others are only mildly yellowed, faded, or cracked, and offer images that bring comfort.
There’s the one of him standing by Dad’s old Stinson 108, taken when he was just barely taller than the wheel on the airplane. With more interest he digs further in the stack of pictures and retrieves one of him and a friend under the wing of a Cessna, each holding a fishing pole. Between them a line displays their fresh catch. He remembers that trip well. Their dads were surprised and proud of their sons’ angling prowess. Memories of other flying adventures flood his heart.
Laying the photograph back in the box he spies the corner of a book. The cover is worn, with a tear or two, and the binding is broken down a bit. As tired as it is this book has marvelous value – to him alone.
He carefully opens the cover to another era. There is his father’s name, inked. And here are places. He remembers some of the destinations handwritten in the rows of his dad’s pilot logbook. And the milestones: first log entry, the year 1948; an instructor’s sign-off to fly solo that same year. The paperclip that leaves rust spots and an indentation keeps Dad’s first aviation medical certificate safely attached, along with his temporary pilot license, his first real license to fly airplanes.
The names of different types of airplanes fill the "Aircraft" sections, while "From" and "To" make the pages come alive, augmented by "Comments" on each exploit. He weighs the book in his hands, grasps it firmly and smiles, looking up as though there was no ceiling, to say thank you for a wonderful childhood. Dad’s flying life unveiled in the block sections of this uplifting little book would be his most prized inheritance, bolstering memories rich and yesterdays full of wonder.