formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

Be sure to read your weekly Liberty Gazette newspaper, free to Liberty area residents!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

July 25, 2017 Royal Flying

The Liberty Gazette
July 25, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: My sister the genealogist – every family needs one – informed me last month of the birthday of Edward VIII, King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Empire, and Emperor of India. His real name was Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David. I imagine his parents were either indecisive or grateful to many people. Actually, about half the name honors went to relatives and the other half to patron saints. He lived from June 23, 1894 to May 28, 1972 and was in Houston briefly for Dr. Michael DeBakey to operate on him.

My sister was the scholar in our family, and she obviously assumed I paid attention in some class that may have covered European royalty, as she wrote, “He’s the one who abdicated the throne to marry his lady love.”

Sure. I totally remember that. I really haven’t studied royalty much but she thought I should be interested. “Why am I telling you? Because he was the first monarch to be a qualified pilot! And he's our seventeenth cousin once removed. Raise a toast to cousin Edward!”

Not only did cousin Edward earn a private pilot license, he became the first monarch of the British Empire to fly in an aircraft when after his father’s death he flew from Sandringham to London for his Accession Council. He also created The King's Flight in 1936 to provide air transport for the Royal family's official duties.

Incidentally, his father, Edward VII, was known as Prince Albert before being crowned king. Tobacco king R. J. Reynolds personally named one of his products after Edward VII. The portrait of him as Prince Albert that graced the side of the tobacco tin was based on one Reynolds acquired at a tea party with Mark Twain. The favorite joke of kids in the 1930’s and 1940’s was to call a drug store and ask, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?” When the person replied yes, the pranksters laughed, “Well you’d better let him out!”

My sis comes up with amazing finds in the history of our chromosomes, and had the former King Edward VIII actually been a decent fellow I’d be more impressed. It turns out, unfortunately, that his family accused him of being a Nazi sympathizer, and had a plethora of other complaints against him.

By contrast, Dutch King Willem-Alexander, who has been an airline pilot for twenty-one years, flying for KLM’s commuter, Cityhopper, and also for Martinair, is someone with whom I’d rather share DNA, were the choice up to me. To him, flying is relaxing because he knows he must leave his concerns on the ground. Unlike cousin Edward, King Willem-Alexander seems to appreciate the opportunity to serve as a responsible person to fly an airplane full of people. I read he was training to fly a Boeing 737 so he should be qualified as a First Officer by now. If you buy a ticket on a Dutch airline flying 737s see if you can catch a glimpse of who’s flying. You just may be escorted by royalty.

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

July 18, 2017 One Man Air Force

The Liberty Gazette
July 18, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Upon learning of our upcoming book, “10 Years of Ely Air Lines” and our new company, Paper Airplane Publishing, my friend Katie asked, “What else will you be publishing, do-it-yourself flight instruction? Lt. Foulois learned to fly by mail. From Wilbur or Orville. Did you know that? I think he was at Ft. Sam Houston.”

Some of the best conversations I have are with Katie, and after brushing up on U.S. Army Major General Benjamin Foulois (pronounced foo-loy) I thought of you, who might also enjoy landing on a page of lesser known history. I’ve learned that when I hear an interesting tidbit there’s always more to the story, and Benny Foulois does not disappoint.

The Signal Corps played a significant role in the development of military aviation. In 1906 the young lieutenant went to Army Signal School and that’s where he became interested in flying. His final thesis, “The Tactical and Strategical Value of Dirigible Balloons and Aerodynamical Flying Machines” included:

“In all future warfare, we can expect to see engagements in the air between hostile aerial
fleets. The struggle for supremacy in the air will undoubtedly take place while the
opposing armies are maneuvering for position.”

A visionary, he forecast a hundred and nine years ago that airplanes would replace horses in reconnaissance, and even imagined wireless air-to-ground communication, including transmitting photographs. His ambition and smarts won him a seat on the new aeronautical board that would accept aircraft for testing, which led to him being the first military crewman.

He flew and crashed a few times in those early airplanes and flew once with Orville Wright. But when the Wright brothers were too busy to teach him to fly, they mailed instructions. Katie was right, he learned to fly by mail, or at least as a supplement to the school of hard knocking crashes.

The Army sent him to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, telling him to teach himself to fly. At 9:30 a.m. on March 2, 1910, he did just that. From the Arthur MacArthur parade field in “S.C. No. 1”, also sometimes called “Military Aircraft No. 1”, he logged his first solo takeoff, first solo landing, and his first solo crash, and established the Army Air Force.

Later he flew reconnaissance for General Pershing, searching for Pancho Villa, and led the first American aerial dogfights against the Germans during World War I.

He wrote in his memoir, “From the Wright Brothers to the Astronauts” that he wanted to be remembered for “establishing the ‘can-do’ spirit that has become traditional among our American airmen.” In 1963 on the television quiz show I've Got a Secret, his secret was that he had once been the entire U.S. Air Force. His memoir was republished in 2010 as “Foulois: One-Man Air Force”.

While I did not discover any personal connection to the arts, there is a school in Maryland named for him, the Benjamin D. Foulois Creative and Performing Arts Academy, which embraces his spirit in their motto, “Opportunities Abound...Possibilities are Endless”.

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

July 11, 2017 Airplanes, Adventure, and All That Grabein Jazz

The Liberty Gazette
July 11, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Swinging to the tunes of the Charlie Gray Band always made my heart smile. Made me think of my dad. Charlie Grabein played in a different band this Fourth of July. Our world is better for the time he spent here, yet has lost some its color and jazz now that he has moved on. Charlie lived a life of service to others with a tremendous sense of adventure, early on as a Naval photographer and later as a civilian pilot and high school music teacher. In memory, we’d like to recall some of our chats with a great American, and wonderful friend.

Mike: Three Aldine area schools near Greenspoint Mall hide any trace of the small airfield that once graced the open countryside beyond Houston’s city limits. An airplane for sale there beckoned to Charles and his cousin. The motor ran, the prop turned, but otherwise the little airplane was rather ragged, worth every penny of the one hundred fifty dollars they paid to take it home to Conroe where they would breathe new life into it.

“Fabric was tearing off the wings as I flew it back. The wind was blowing and the rain coming down hard. After I landed the engine quit. It wouldn’t start again so we towed it and worked on it.” The high school boys patched their new airplane and flew it until they graduated and sold it.

Linda: Charlie went to college, married and joined the Navy. When doing aerial photography work, the Navy pilots showed him how to fly their planes once the assignment was completed. Standing in a doorway on the flight deck of a carrier, Charlie was taking shots of incoming aircraft when one came straight at him. Focusing his thirty-five millimeter movie camera, he took some fast steps back, spellbound, and filmed the Corsair’s landing breaking off the arresting hook and crashing into the wall right where Charlie had been standing. The crew rushed to the damaged aircraft and pulled the pilot out to safety.

Honorably discharged after fourteen years of service (1951-1963), with the assistance of the G.I. Bill, Charlie continued to fly, earning his civilian private pilot license.

Charlie was flying often from the Liberty Airport in the 1970’s, along with the Jamison brothers, Bob and Bill, and Johnny Meese, mechanic and airport manager. He flew until he was about seventy years old and when the time came to hang up his wings, he directed his energy to re-building a Jeep. There soon emerged a beautifully restored 1943 Willy appearing often in parades and on display.

Mike: Charlie was a self-exciting magneto on a piston engine airplane. I treasure our hangar flying sessions, each one a thrill with wonderful tales of his lifelong love affair with flying. He was a breath of fresh air and a joy to listen to, on clarinet and saxophone, and in his storytelling. A good storyteller re-lives the story. A great one lets his audience live it too. Thank you, Charlie, for sharing your spirit.

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July 4, 2017 Allan Chambers' Letters Home - Week 4/4

The Liberty Gazette
July 4, 2017
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Four weeks have flown by faster than a light-speed time machine to 1946. We’re wrapping up the final excerpts of Allan Chambers’ Letters Home. He had just quit flying the Hump the last week. Let’s see where he ended up after that.

May 5, 1946 Shanghai I just got back from Chungking. The next time I go out it’ll probably be for a couple of weeks.

May 31, 1946 Shanghai I haven’t flown for a week because everybody’s on strike. We quit flying the Hump about a month ago, I was high enough on the pilots list that I wasn’t sent down there. I got about a hundred trips over the Hump when I was there. The civil war is still going on in North China. Anything can be bought on the black market.

June 7, 1946 Shanghai The Chinese Air Force took over the airline. Now we have about 3 ships flying a day and the Chinese Air Force flies 3 or 4.

June 27, 1946 Shanghai There is supposed to be a truce on the civil war but I think both sides break it each day. People all over the world never had it so good as when the U.S. Army & Navy were there, or any Americans. I will probably go to Chungking or Hong Kong tomorrow.

July 12, 1946 Shanghai I think I’m going to Hong Kong tomorrow. We are about finished moving the government to Nanking. I should be getting a $200 a month increase in pay.

July 23, 1946 Shanghai We are getting men from the U.S. every month. We have about 75 planes now and supposed to get 6 new ones next month. I am going to Hong Kong tomorrow.

August 3, 1946 Shanghai It’s hot here, but not as hot as Calcutta. I’m supposed to go to Chungking tomorrow and be back the next day. The civil war is still going on.

August 16, 1946 Shanghai We are flying passengers now like a regular airline. I flew to Kuling the other day, that is where all the big shots spend the summer months in China.

Sept. 27, 1946 Shanghai I am flying C-46’s and C-47’s and am carrying passengers to Chungking, Canton, Hong Kong, Hankow, Nanking, Tsingtao and Peiping. Summer is over.

Oct. 16, 1946 Shanghai I have transportation on the S.S. Marine Lynx to leave tomorrow for San Francisco by way of Hong Kong and Manila. The shipping company said they had an extra ticket. I better take it because it is a lot of trouble to get out of China.

Allan Chambers arrived in San Francisco in November, 1946. His wife, Billie, met him there. They were together the next 50 years until his death in 1996. After his return from China he lived in Liberty the rest of his life in the house his grandfather built.

These letters are collector’s items, so you may want to cut out this space in your newspaper and stick in your Liberty Scrap Book. When next you see Tommy, thank him for sharing part of his family’s history.

ElyAirLines.blogspot.com