formerly "The View From Up Here"

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

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December 18, 2018 David's Gifts

The Liberty Gazette
December 18, 2018
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: It was the ice landing on Lake Superior when young David was bitten and smitten. This was some time in the 1930s, and that pivotal flight was in a Ford Trimotor on skis, a special surprise his dad arranged near their home in Duluth, Minnesota.

The aviation bug and all things mechanical would never cease to excite him. When David was old enough, he signed up for the Civilian Pilot Training program in North Dakota so he could ferry airplanes to Europe before the U.S. entered Second World War.  But when Pearl Harbor was attacked, David joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. During his time in the Pacific Theater he served as navigator, including bombing missions over Japan in B-29s.

After the war, David got a job in sales with RCA. He didn’t stop flying completely, but he was dedicated to his job and worked his way up to General Sales Manager. As a result of his energy and drive, that job taught him much about how to build a business. During his last years at RCA, he worked on a project for a central antenna system in New York City. Apartment buildings would be wired for television use, similar to what we know today as cable television. He got involved in many other things, and even started a charter aircraft service on the side and did much of the flying.

Linda: Then one day, this very busy man got the idea that vacuum cleaners did not need to be as heavy as they were. With his mechanical knowledge, he could have them built better, and lighter. When his eight-pound wonder wasn’t an immediate success door-to-door, he reconsidered who the best customers might be. Perhaps the cleaning staff in the hotel industry. After all, if you were pushing a vacuum all day, how thrilled would you be to lighten the load?

You may remember his commercials where he demonstrated the strength of his vacuum by using it to pick up and hold a bowling ball. Or the commercials where he said, “Call this number to make me stop singing.” After twenty years of persistence, and the belief that Winston Churchill was right – “Never, never, never give up,” – David Oreck’s vacuum cleaners became an “overnight success.”

More recently, the Oreck family has been selling candles. Mike just got one in a gift exchange at one of our aviation parties.

David has also had a collection of airplanes that are so cool, you’ll drool. Among them are a Stinson Reliant, a Waco, and a Staggerwing. Just one of those would be something to brag about. But don’t get the idea David is that type. He and his sweet wife, Jan, who is also a pilot, are quite generous. Their philanthropic missions range from the Jewish community in New Orleans, to several science museums in Colorado, to scholarships for Women in Aviation International. Not bad for a guy whose only “silver spoons” were his tenacity, and the wonderful gift of flight from his dad.

December 11, 2018 Aunt Bee's Big Moment

The Liberty Gazette
December 11, 2018
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Season 8, Episode 23. And…action!

After a bowling game, Andy Griffith and friends gathered in the living room reminiscing their best shots, when Opie interrupted. He wanted to know how to spell “renaissance.” Helen, his teacher, who it seems was sweet on Andy, recited the word and spelled it like a contender in a spelling contest. After all, she had won the Kansas state spelling bee in eighth grade.

This started a buzz of bragging that turned into a wasp nest—at least for Aunt Bee. Goober claimed his fame was winning the county fair’s pancake eating contest. He gobbled fifty-seven of them. Andy’s big moments were scoring a winning touchdown in high school and being elected sheriff. Howard was proud of his courage when he moved to the Caribbean for a time. As they shared their stories of adventure and accomplishment, poor Aunt Bee felt left out.

Later that night while washing dishes, she lamented to Andy she’d never done anything important. She longed to say she had done something not many other people had. Opie jokingly offered a magazine ad for learning to fly.

The next morning, Aunt Bee shocked everyone when she announced she was going to visit the flight school in that ad. Andy objected, saying she might not like it, but Aunt Bee fought back, because maybe she wouldn’t, but she’d never find out standing there.

She took a demonstration flight and was so excited she decided to start flying lessons right away. She would finally make her own big moment in life. Despite Andy’s discouragement, she let him know in no uncertain terms that it didn’t matter whether she succeeded or failed at her goal to solo an airplane. It was the challenge she was accepting.

Lesson one introduced Aunt Bee to the pre-flight walk-around and gauges on the instrument panel, which seemed overwhelming at first. Soon, back home in Mayberry, the guys heard a plane overhead. Camera cut to inside the cockpit to learn that Aunt Bee didn’t purposely wag her wings at them. She was just trying to control the airplane.

Back on the ground, her apron on and serving Andy coffee, she fretted about all there was to learn when the only instrument she recognized was the clock.

Her first landings were a bit rough, but improved with practice. She studied her sweet heart out, “chair flying,” and even read Aviation Journal while under the beauty salon hair dryer.

On the day of her solo flight, Aunt Bee carefully made the circuit and a decent landing, to the cheers of everyone watching. Afterward, Howard reflected on his “big moment,” arguing there’s nothing like the beauty of the deep blue sea. But Aunt Bee’s line trumped them all. “Well yes, the ocean is beautiful, but if you ask me, the sky is the prettiest. Especially when you’re up there all by yourself, like a bird, with the whole world at your feet.”

Cue the whistling theme song.

December 4, 2018 Roy Clark

The Liberty Gazette
December 4, 2018
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

“I have never been to a memorial service where there’s a full band playing ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ but this was one to get up and boogie to,” said our friend Lisa Jewett of the memorial service of music legend, Roy Clark.

Lisa manages the airport in Grove, Oklahoma where Roy and Barbara Clark had a home and spent half the year. “He’d come to the airport just to talk. I knew him not as Roy the superstar, but as Roy the person. Every time he and Barbara stopped in, I knew we’d be a while because he just wanted to chat. He talked about the set of Hee! Haw! and traveling tales and flying, and he had friends all over the world.”

As a kid, Roy longed to fly. Growing up poor in Meherin, Virginia, he collected cereal box tops to send away for a cardboard cockpit. But his magic on banjo and guitar earned him the name, “Superpicker,” and the money that followed allowed him to reach his dreams. He bought a Piper Tri-Pacer, learned to fly, and took his father, who had always wanted to be a pilot, for his first airplane ride in it. Later, Roy flew a sleek Beechcraft Debonair to gigs far away and returned home when the last autograph was signed.

But he worried about fatigue after long evenings on stage. Smartly, he invested in a high-performance Mitsubishi MU-2J turboprop and a professional pilot to be his sidekick. In the cockpit, this picking pilot took flying seriously. Life was precious—everyone’s.

At his concerts, Roy would say, “Do something nice for somebody. And don’t expect a thank-you in return.” He lived his advice. Lisa’s father had been a big fan. When her mom died, she took her dad’s guitar and asked Roy to sign it. “He signed really big all over the front of that guitar, and now it’s just priceless. Dad was grieving and here was something that would make him smile, from a man who lived his life wanting to make people happy.”

Lisa found opportunities to give back to Roy. Ever since he was young he wanted to be in a helicopter. When money was no longer an obstacle, time was. One day when he was visiting Lisa, the DEA landed in a Blackhawk. He wasn’t getting around too easily by then, so she drove him in her car to the helicopter. DEA agents helped him climb inside and spent time showing him the aircraft. “He said that was the best time of his life. He did something he’d always wanted to do. He even had tears.” That’s one of Lisa’s favorite stories.
When the Saints Go Marching In!

“Roy was a simple, loving, giving man, a family man. He cared more about his family than anything else in the world. He was down-to-earth and humble, the kind of guy who would always say, ‘I love you,’ whenever he left. I like to think he spent his last days telling everyone how much he loved them.”