Sunday, December 7, 2008

Once Aloft

Today -- Sunday -- is the Western Nuseumof Flight's holiday Open House at the Torrance airport. You'll find it at 3315 Airport Drive in the Red Baron Hangar #3. They'll be offering free admission, aerospace and science gifts for sale and the opportunity to pose with several of the old war birds and biplanes. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

These are always interesting to us -- Richie's Navy work involved installing electronics in prop planes (all they had back then) and my father was a barnstormer. He and his best friend somehow got the money together to each buy a biplane and then they lived off the land, so to speak. They offered farmers the chance to go aloft and view their own farmlands from the air -- $5 a trip. When funds were short (most of the time) they would cajole a good-natured farmer into letting them park the planes on a field and sleep under the wings. My Dad also once worked an air show -- he did the wing walk -- successfully -- but for the dramatic grand parachute jump, there was a lot more drama involved than he would have chosen. The parachute failed and he fell 1,200 ft. before it belatedly (to say the least) opened 50 ft. about a field of corn stubble.

Obviously he survived, but his right ankle was "scrambled like an egg" according to one doctor, his shin and thigh bones were broken -- all so severely damaged there was talk of amputating it, but he absolutely refused and (finally) left the hospital weighing 120 lbs. He was 6 ft. 2 in. and must have looked like a pencil. His right leg was 3/4 of an inch shorter than his left, but he did not limp and the only person who knew it was his tailor.

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