When I was a kid, I was an avid reader and loved the dime novels, especially Doc Savage, The Shadow and G-8 and the Battle Aces.
G-8 and the Battle Aces was one novel that whetted my desire to fly some day. When I graduated from high school in 1942, I rushed to Dayton, Ohio, and got a job at Wright Field making training films for the Air Force. Major Hal Roach was the officer in charge of producing the films. Roach was a famous Hollywood producer and produced "Our Gang Comedy" and more top productions. He brought photographers, cameramen, cartoonists and everything from Hollywood to produce the training films.
I was what you call a grip, who carried camera cases, helped lighting technicians get their lights and also operated a portable generator when on location. This was an interesting job, especially listening to all the stories about famous Hollywood stars.
I also got a good look at most of our fighter jets and also some captured German planes. This experience also whetted my appetite for flying.
I quit my job at Dayton and enlisted in the United Coast Guard at Cincinnati in December 1942. In January 1943, I was called to duty and was inducted into service at Sheepshead Bay, New York.
During war time, the U.S. Coast Guard is under the Navy Department. So I spent 32 months in the Navy and seven months in the U.S. Coast Guard and was discharged April 4, 1946.
That summer of 1946 was a time for celebrating the end of the war, playing golf and renewing old friendships. I enrolled in EKU for the fall semester, and for the moment, put flying to the back of my mind, but it was still there. A little later, two friends of mine -- Harrison Mays and Edwin West were taking flying lessons in Lexington, and I was interested.
One day they were in Lexington for a lesson and Edwin was supposed to go soloing first, but he got some free games on a pinball machine and asked Harrison to go first.
Harrison got in the plane, went roaring down the runway, got airborne, cleared the fence at the end of the runway, then nosed over and crashed. Edwin and the owner of the flight school jumped in a Jeep and raced down to the wreck. Harrison squeezed out of the plane with the control stick in his hand shouting, "The stick came out."
The plane was totaled.
That put a damper on their flying, and a little on my enthusiasm to fly.
Later on, in the late 40s, I was playing golf, at the Chippeways Golf Tournament in Maysville, when a single-engine airplane came roaring out of the sky, dived down one of the hollows on the golf course, pulled up, stalled and crashed head on into some high tension wires, on the edge of the golf course
We had just finished play and we dropped our bags on the edge of the green, ran and jumped in our cars and went to see the wreck.
That is one of the most gruesome sights I have ever seen in my life. The plane nose was in the ground and the tail in the wires. The pilot was face down on the flight controls in the fiercely burning plane and another young man fell out in the wing and was burning also.
That was just so sad seeing two vibrant young boys full of life, making a bad mistake and paying for it by losing their lives.
After those two plane crashes, my interest in flying waned and I just plain chickened out, for the moment.
In 1952, I married Olive Hieronymus and she and I had five wonderful children before she lost a battle to cancer at age 51 and went to that great mansion in the sky in 1981.
In 1982, my sister, Joy Henderson, introduced me to one of her friends, Carolyn Allen. I had dated a couple of girls in Florida, but after meeting that little beautiful, outgoing, personable bundle of joy from Union City with that infectious laugh, I was hooked.
After a romantic courtship we were married on April Fool's Day in 1982.
Carolyn had a daughter, Melinda Asbill, from a previous marriage who was still in school in Richmond, in the spring semester. We decided to stay in Richmond so Melinda could finish the semester before going to my residence in Ocala, Fla.
In the meanwhile we found out Colonel Ronald Coffman, who had a couple of tours in Vietnam, was giving flying lessons, so we decided to take some. I should mention that Ron was family, as he was married to my cousin Doris Edwards, so we thought we would never find a more qualified instructor than Ron.
After an exciting two months of flight lessons, Ron gave Carolyn the green light to solo after 14 hours of instruction. I remember standing on the edge of the runway watching my young bride, of two months, line up on the runway and hit that throttle and go roaring down the runway and lift off into the sky.
I was thinking if anything happened to Carolyn on that flight, and she crashed, I would want to be buried at the same time she was.
Thank God she made her big loop in the sky and came back in for a perfect landing.
I had one more hour of instruction and then I was ready to solo.
Ron instructed me to take off, make my big loop and then land and taxi up to him and Carolyn on the edge of the runway and stop. I taxied to the runway, hit the throttle and roared into the sky.
What a thrill to be flying.
I flew around came in for a good landing rolled up to Ron and Carolyn and was on such a high I didn't stop but hit the throttle full blast and roared down the runway back again, into the blue with Ron shaking his head at me.
I made a good landing and this time taxied up to the hanger as I was supposed to.
That was one of the great moments in my life. I was 59 years old and it had taken me 25 years to get up the courage to do something I had always wanted to do.
Carolyn and I flew solo several times here in Richmond and when we went to Florida. We even entertained getting our license but our instructor in Florida painted such a bleak picture and all his crash landings on alligator alley, and other places, that Carolyn and I lost interest.
The flying experience was great for both Carolyn and I.
I was as proud of Carolyn as I was of myself.
Special thanks to Ron Coffman for his great instruction and patience
Until next time ... live, love, laugh and learn, Glenmore.