Sunday, May 12, 2024

Alicia

 Here's an odd little short story. 

          Charles Winsett checked his watch. It was 11:45 a.m., almost time for lunch. He straightened up the papers on his desk, stood, stretched, and grabbed his jacket. The morning had been filled with meetings, note-taking, and number crunching, but lunchtime was here. A cool breeze earlier this morning may have died down by now, but he didn’t want to take a chance. Stepping out of his office building into the windy canyons of downtown St. Louis would probably call for a jacket.
          His favorite sandwich shop was across the street and down half a block, so he didn’t have far to go. Outside, the shadows of the tall buildings kept the noonday sun at bay, at least at this time of year.
          Charles exited his office building, went to the corner, and crossed the street when the light allowed. He walked the few steps to Broadhurst Sandwich Shop and entered. The owner waved at him as he headed for his usual spot, a stool at the end of the long lunch counter. He left the booths on the opposite wall for the folks who had two or three people eating together.
          The waitress greeted him at the counter and asked if he wanted his usual.
          “You bet,” he answered. He always got the roast beef sandwich, with a side order of fries. Charles’ life was uncomplicated like that, the same old job day after day, the same old sandwiches, lunch after lunch.
          While he was waiting for his sandwich, he took his cell phone out and started reading the various news tidbits coming across his news feed.
          A minute later, his sandwich was delivered, steaming upon a small plate, with a separate plate for the fries. He picked up the red plastic squeeze bottle on the counter and carefully extruded a pile of ketchup on the side of his plate, something into which he could dip each fry after he picked it up.
          He was just about to do that when for some strange reason he turned his head and looked toward the entrance door. There, standing in the doorway, framed by the glare from the street, was the shadowy outline of a statuesque woman.
          She stepped forward into the sandwich shop, and with the glare reduced, Charles could better make out her features. She was beautiful, one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. It was astounding how her every feature was perfect and intriguing. He found himself staring at her as she scanned the interior of the establishment, looking for someone. When her gaze met his gaze, she stopped.
          Charles quickly averted his gaze, hoping she had not seen him staring at her. He turned his attention back to his sandwich and fries.
          To his surprise, the woman focused all her attention on him, and strode forward quickly, coming to a stop just behind him. He froze.
          “Charles Winsett?” she said.
          He thought it odd that she knew his name. Cautiously, he put his French fry down and turned his stool around. “Yes,” he said. “Do I know you?”
          She stared at him with a hint of distress. Her beauty  this close was even more disarming. “You will know me. We need to talk.”
          Charles became a little concerned at this point, trying to remember if he had ever seen her before. He assured himself he never had, however, because she was so incredibly gorgeous that he would have remembered her for sure. “What is this about?” he carefully asked.
          “Grab your lunch and come over to one of the booths, I have a desperate story to tell you.” She walked across the restaurant to the wall lined with booths and sat down on one of the cushioned seats.
          Charles hesitated a moment, then picked up his sandwich and fries, turned and walked over to the booth. His waitress, who had been watching the drama unfold, picked up his drink from the counter and followed him over to the booth. As he sat down across from the woman, she put the drink on the table, saying “Here’s your drink, Mr. Winsett.”
          The waitress then turned to the woman and asked, “Can I get you anything, honey?”
          The woman looked at her, sighed, and answered, “No thank you. I won’t be here long.”
          The waitress nodded, then turned and went back behind the counter to wait on other customers.
          Charles stared into the face of the young woman seated across the table from him.
          “Where do you know me from?” he asked.
          She leaned forward, folding her hands on the table, and for the first time, a hint of a smile crossed her face. It was a beautiful smile, a warm comforting smile. “I know this is probably difficult for you, but if I try to explain it, you may think I am crazy.”
          Charles sat back. “Please try. I really would like to know what is going on.”
          “You won’t remember this,” the young woman said, “But at one time you promised me that you would do what you have to do to help me come here, and now there’s a chance that that won’t happen.”
          Charles stared at her. “What are you talking about?” was all he could think of saying.
          “Back before you were born,” she said, “back when we were all waiting our turn, you said you would tough it out until I had a chance to come into this world. Now I am afraid that if you don’t watch your step, I won’t get that chance.”
          Charles took a deep breath and began to wonder just who the heck this woman was and why she was saying all this really weird stuff.
          “Listen, Miss,” I really don’t know who you are, and I certainly don’t remember making any promises to you about coming here. This is kind of crazy stuff you’re saying here…”
          She smiled at him. “Well, of course you don’t remember making the promise. It was on the other side. We all forget the promises we made before we come here, before we are born.”
          Charles started to respond to that, but he decided to wait a few moments. He picked up a French fry, dipped it in ketchup and put it in his mouth.
          After chewing and swallowing the French fry, he looked at the young woman, marveled once again how beautiful she was, then asked, “Who did you say you are?”
          She looked at him with a depth that scared him a little. “I am your future daughter. I will be born when you get married in a few years, and I will live a glorious and wonderful life…”
          He stared at her.
          “All that will happen only if you survive today,” she then said.
          That kind of caught his attention. “What do you mean if I survive today?”
          She paused. “Well, I’m not supposed to tell you this, I’m not even supposed to be here, but there’s a 50-50 chance you will die today. And, of course, if you die then I won’t be born. I’ve waited so long for my chance to come across, I really hope you don’t die today.”
          Charles had to agree with her on that. “How do you know I might die today?” he asked her.
          “We discussed it, all of us,” she said.
          “Who is all of us?” Charles asked.
          “All of your soul group. We were trying to figure out what you had to do to learn what you needed to learn by coming here, but you were kind of hesitant to go through with the hard stuff.”
          “What are you talking about, the hard stuff?”
          She winced. “Well, I’m not supposed to tell you this, but in the next two years, you are going to go through some seriously bad events. Stuff you need to go through to learn what you have to learn, but you weren’t that excited about going through all that. You were given a chance to stay and suffer through it or if you chickened out, you could die today and avoid it all. Come back into another incarnation later on to deal with that problem you need to face.”
          Charles smiled. This was getting really off the charts crazy. “Miss, I don’t know who you are, but…”
          “Alicia, my name is Alicia. I am your future daughter, if you don’t die today.”
          Charles looked to the side, almost beyond bewildered, and finally turned back and took a bite of his roast beef sandwich. “Look, Alicia, I appreciate you coming to me and telling me all this, but I really am having a hard time believing any of it. You do realize what you are telling me is off-the-wall whack-a-doodle, right?”
          She sighed.
          He continued. “And there is nothing really that you can tell me that would make me believe all this. You are not my future daughter, and I am NOT going to die today.”
          “You will if you don’t watch your step,” she said.
          Charles shook his head. “Look, Alicia, or whatever your name is, if you are my future daughter, waiting for a chance to be born, how are you here right now? Aren’t you here already?”
          “Not really,” Alicia said. “I borrowed this body so I could meet with you and tell you what was happening. I chose the most beautiful person I knew to sort of just, step in for a few minutes so I could talk to you.”
          Charles really didn’t know what to say at this point. “You borrowed this body? You just swooped in and commandeered this poor woman’s body so you could warn me about impending death?”
          She nodded.
          Charles sat back against the seat cushion. “This is the weirdest lunch hour I have ever had.”
          Alicia went on to explain. “I thought she was just so beautiful you would be sure to listen to her rather than just a disembodied spirit like me.”
          “Well, you are right on that point,” Charles admitted. “Having any conversation with a beautiful woman such as yourself is much more preferable than being spooked by the spirit of my future daughter.” He was trying to make light of a seriously bizarre situation.
          “And please remember I am trying to save your life,” Alicia reminded him.
          “How am I supposed to know if you are my future daughter? Who made that decision?” he asked.
          “You did,” she answered. “Two re-incarnations ago I was your wife, and in the incarnation before this one I was your landlady.”
          Charles had to laugh at that one. “So, you and I go way back,” he said.
          She nodded.
          Charles took a deep breath. “So, what am I supposed to do? What would you like me to do?”
          She looked at him, somewhat pleading, with even some tears welling up in her eyes. “I want you to be careful today. You didn’t really know what you would decide to do today, to die or to continue living, face the turmoil, then get married and have a daughter. Me. I’m going to be a great daughter, smart, talented, lots of potential. But you have to decide to live today. We weren’t sure what choice you would make when the time came to make the decision.”
          Charles knew one thing and that was he didn’t want to die. He had a good job, was on a fast track to a promotion, and things would be great in two or three years. Even though this woman was telling him things were about to get a lot worse, he didn’t see himself committing suicide to avoid a little trauma.
          Alicia stared at him. “You don’t commit suicide. You have an accident. That’s all I can say about it. We talked about it at length. If you did decide to bail on the tough stuff in this life and try it again in another incarnation, then there would be a tragic accident. And I wouldn’t be born for another 20 years, to somebody else, probably in Cleveland.”
          Charles looked at her. “In Cleveland?”
          She laughed. “Just a little other side humor.”
          Charles shook his head. He was definitely getting some “run for your life” vibes from this woman and her crazy story. He didn’t get to think about it long, though, because an elderly woman suddenly stopped in front of their booth and looked at both of them.
          “You two are remarkable,” she said.
          Charles looked at her, wondering what the heck she was talking about.
          “Your auras are so much in sync,” she went on. “I’ve never seen more compatible auras.”
          “I’m sorry, but who are you?” Charles asked the newcomer.
          “Oh, don’t mind me, dear. I can see auras, that’s all. And you two have really powerful auras, really linked into each other. Are you related?”
          Charles said, “No, not really.”
          Alicia looked at the old lady and said, “We will be, in a future life.”
          The old lady nodded. “Well, that explains it.”
          Charles interrupted. “Are you two in on this together? This is really getting to be seriously warped.”
          Alicia saddened and hung her head down.
          “Now, now, don’t get all fussy on me,” the old lady said. “Your aura just took a turn for the worse. Brighten up my boy. This young lady, this beautiful young lady has an incredibly beautiful aura. I’m really impressed.”
          Charles looked at her. “Well, thank you and have a good day.”
          The old lady nodded, then turned and walked towards the cash register.
          Alicia looked up. “All I am asking is that you please be careful today. I want you to live so I can be born in a couple of years.”
          Charles looked at her. “Well, you are already here, in a body,  so maybe you could just keep it a while longer,” Charles suggested, half-heartedly.
          “Can’t do that. The owner only loaned it to me for a short time. We are friends going back 11 lifetimes, so she was willing to let me make my pitch to you in person and then it’s back to the other side to wait for your decision.”
          Charles shook his head. “There is no decision, young lady. I am alive. I will continue to be alive. I want to become more successful, happier and someday get married and have children. Don’t worry about that. You’re good to go.”
          She nodded slowly. “That’s good of you to say that now, but 30 years ago on the other side you weren’t so sure. When you were facing a life-threatening situation in order to learn and grow, your decision wasn’t so certain.”
          Charles had had just about enough. He was about to say something harsh, when another woman walked up to their table and started talking directly to Alicia.
          “Well, Melinda, I finally found you. Been calling you for the past hour. Why didn’t you answer?”
          Alicia looked at the woman, and while she didn’t recognize her, she had to pretend that she did since she was apparently the boss of the woman whose body she had borrowed.
          “Oh, I’m sorry. My phone must have been off. I will be back at the office in a few minutes,” she told the woman, who was still very aggravated and standing at the table.
          “Who is this?” the woman asked, pointing to Charles.
          “This is Charles Winsett, my father…my father’s friend who I just ran into.”
          Charles nodded towards the lady.
          “Well, please get back to the office as quickly as possible. We need to get those Anderson proposals out.”
          “Will do,” Alicia said, not really knowing what she was talking  about.
          The woman stalked away, and Alicia turned and looked at Charles. “That’s what I have to put up with when I borrow someone else’s body. See what trouble I had to go through to have a few minutes alone with you?”
          Charles had to laugh at this point. “Man, what a lunch this has been. I really have to hand it to you. I feel like I’m on Candid Camera or something. Good God.”
          Alicia stood up and looked at Charles one last time. “Please be careful. My future happiness all depends on what you do in the next hour.”
          Charles nodded. “Spoken like a true daughter,” he said in jest. “Well, Alicia, I can’t say it’s been a pleasure to meet you, but it has been entertaining.”
          She smiled.
          She was about to turn and leave, when he stopped her. “And thank you for choosing such an beautiful woman to talk to me with. If anything, I enjoyed seeing and being seen with such an attractive lunch partner.”
          Alicia nodded at him. “If you decide to survive this day, you will be seeing a lot more of her,” she said. “She’s scheduled to be your future wife.”
          She turned and walked across the restaurant to the front door and exited. Charles watched her as she left, a little stunned by what she had said to him.
          In silence he ate the rest of his roast beef sandwich and fries. As he was paying his bill, his waitress asked him, “Who was that good-looking lady you had lunch with?
          Charles looked at her. “I’m not really sure,” he said, still a little perplexed by the whole experience.
          On his way back to his office, he was deep in thought. When he got to the corner, he was about to step off the curb to cross the street when a sign caught the corner of his eye. The sign said, “Watch Your Step.”
         Charles paused for a second. That’s what she had said, “Watch Your Step.” He thought about that for a moment.
          Just at that time, a city bus came speeding by, with its rear view mirror whizzing by just inches in front of his face. If he had stepped out into the street without stopping to read the sign, he would have surely been killed.
         
End of Story 


Wednesday, April 10, 2024

The Talladega Speedway

 In the late 1980's I worked as editor of the weekly newspaper in Pell City, Alabama. The mayor of Pell City one day invited me to take a tour of the Talladega Superspeedway, which was about 13 miles from Pell City. He served on the board of the Superspeedway and wanted to show me the race car museum, the speedway itself, and the infield where people would camp during the regularly scheduled races. 

We drove over and were met by the executive director of the operation, and he gave me a guided tour of the museum which detailed the history of the speedway, the races, the car drivers, and the wild goings-on of race day crowds.

We then got into a pace car and did a couple of laps around the speedway itself, sometimes reaching speeds of up to 110 miles per hour. The curves were banked so that helped to keep us on the track. 

I was impressed with the history of the facility, the fanatical loyalty of the thousands upon thousands of race fans over the years, and the professionalism with which the people in charge keep it all going. It takes a lot of expertise to run an operation which involves high speed races and thousands of screaming fans in the stands. I won't go into the infield shenanigans because what happens on the Talladega infield stays in the Talladega infield. 

Links of interest

https://www.talladegasuperspeedway.com/


A map of the superspeedway



Friday, March 22, 2024

When Something's Wrong

Every year over the past 30 something years I've drawn a cartoon map of the Chef Soiree event, not a big deal, just a drawing of a bunch of cartoon people eating  cartoon food listening to good music. It involves three days of intensive drawing, computer graphics and proofreading. But this year I was unable to draw the map, because something stopped me in my tracks. A heart attack.

There's nothing like planning your day out, lining up your drawing sessions, scheduling numerous  trips to get the rough draft scanned and digitized, wrapped up with  hours of detail work on the computer. Then your chest starts hurting and you realize something is wrong. 

At 1:30 p.m. on March 5 I left a meeting at the Youth Service Bureau office (home of the ChefSoiree)  with an armful of sketches, lists, and instructions. By the time I had crossed the street and gotten into my car, I noticed that my chest was sore all the way across. Not hurting, just a growing soreness. 

As I drove home I began to recognize the situation. There wasn't any pain in the left arm, there wasn't any "elephant sittting on my chest." I kept driving. At the red light at Lee Road and Collins, I sat in traffic mulling it over.

The pain wasn't bad, it would probably just  go away after a few minutes. Before I got too far from the hospital however, I thought it would be a good idea to just park for a while and see what the soreness did. I even thought of parking in a nearby church parking lot to wait it out. 

But then I thought, well if it is a heart attack, and I died while sitting in my car in the church parking lot, it would look bad for the church. So I decided to turn around and go park in the hospital parking lot and wait it out. 

I made a quick U turn in the parking lot of a business on Lee Road. At a moderate speed I drove down Columbia to Jeffferson, then on to 21st Avenue, down to Tyler and southward towards the hospital. No "elephant sitting on my chest" pain yet. 

I stopped at a restaurant on Tyler, went inside and splashed some water on my face in the bathroom. I did not look good. Then I got back into my car and drove  to the red light at 11th and Tyler and had to wait for what seemed forever to turn left and head for the emergency room parking lot. Luckily, there was one spot open. I pulled in, turned the car off and was just going to sit there and see what happens. 

A hospital shuttle bus pulled up behind me and stopped. After a few seconds, I realized the driver was waiting for me to exit the car, so instead of sitting in my car to see if the pain got any worse, I got out, climbed aboard the shuttle and headed for the emergency room entrance. I figured I could just sit in the waiting room.

For some reason I went to the desk instead, told them I had chest pains and gave some indentification. By this time I was hunched over and holding my hand against my chest.  They told me to sit down. A few seconds later someone from the back came for me, and I was taken into an initial exam room. Vital signs, an ekg, and quick examination. I was sent back to the waiting room. I started charging my cellphone at one of the charging stations. 

Another person then came to get me. This time I was taken all the way into the emergency room, and within a minute I was being prepared for emergency heart surgery. Just before I was wheeled away down the surgical suite corridor, however, a second EKG came back better than the first, and the brakes were put on the "emergency heart surgery" express train. A third EKG a few minutes later came back slightly better.

So within the next three  days I underwent the usual battery of tests for heart function and blockages. On Friday another round of chest soreness came and the whole scenario was repeated. This prompted a decision to move me from a regular room to an adult critical care room. Three days later I had heart bypass surgery to open up four blocked arteries. 

So the moral of this story is: when it's obvious that something's wrong, don't sit in you car in parking lots to see if it goes away. 

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Take The Time

 Today's weird word is "take."

The word take means to reach out and grab something, pulling it towards you - such as to take a book. This does not apply to the word "cake" however, for when someone or something "takes the cake," it means an unexpected turn of events, not necessarily appreciated.

The word "overtake" means to move from behind to in front of someone else, usually in a race of some sort. But it could mean to be overwhelmed and shocked, such as when "overtaken by grief." To undertake means to begin a huge project or set off  a long journey, but don't call someone who does so an undertaker. That means something entirely different.

Take is a very useful word. For instance, you can take a call, take a bribe, take a tumble, and my personal favorite, take five, which means to chill out for five (or ten) minutes. The concept of taking made it into the fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution by outlawing the taking possession of or controlling the use of private property without just compensation. 

So let's take a moment to appreciate the word take and all of its meanings. It complicated, but worth the effort to take it all in. 


Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Up In The Air in an Autogyro

Back in the 1960's, my dad and I would drive out Morrison Road in Gentilly east of New Orleans and sometimes we would see several gyrocopters taking off and landing on the old highway that was parallel to the new road. The gyrocopters looked like large tricycles with propellers attached to them in the back and overhead, but when they took off, they gained altitude quickly and headed into the sky. That was more than 50 years ago.

 When the chance came to fly in a new streamlined autogyro, I grabbed my camera and headed for Hammond Airport. Stephen Rastanis has a couple of autogryos based over there at the Autogyro of Louisiana facility, and he teaches folks how to fly them.

 The basics are pretty simple. In a fixed wing aircraft, a propeller pushes the airplane forward and air rushes over the wing and lift is created. In a helicopter, a motor turns the rotors around, and lift is created and the copter can go straight up.



 In an autogyro, however, lift is created by the helicopter-like rotors going around, but the rotors are not powered. Instead, there is a propeller that pushes the aircraft forward and lift is generated by the rotors being pushed forward through the air. There is no power applied to the rotors while the autogyro is in flight.

 This creates remarkably stable air flight. The autogyro cannot stall, and if the engine suddenly quits for some reason, the aircraft starts slowing down, and the rotors gradually lower the craft to the ground. A good autogyro pilot doesn't require much space to land in. Any amount of crosswind actually provides more lift to the rotors, so landing is even gentler. 

We took off on the runway, using less than half of it before being zoomed away far above the treetops. The autogyro, when fully fueled, can run for four hours at speeds up to 100 mph. It is quite maneuverable, capable of sharp turns, steep dives, or, in a good wind, just sitting still in mid-air. 

 While autogyros are very popular in Europe, they haven't caught on bigtime in the States yet, even though they have been featured in James Bond movies and (I am told) the Little Orphan Annie movie. 

 They call them "the motorcycle of the sky" and that descriptive phrase fits well, since it’s an open-air cockpit and one gets to wear a helmet (with headphones and microphone.)

 Once you are strapped into the seat and the engine revs up, it's not scary or breath-taking, just a unique way to get up high enough to see some distance, check out the landscape, rivers, houses, and stores, and fly in a way for which there is no comparison. 

 

Hammond High School from the air


Wal-Mart Distribution Center


Campground on the interstate south of Robert

Hammond Airport

 

 

 

 

Friday, December 1, 2023

Countdown Clock

 Several years ago Hudson's Bargain Center had a countdown clock for sale, a big digital read-out clock that counted down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds. I knew it would come in handy and bought one. I've used it several times for big events and deadlines, and I've loaned it to friends for their big day countdowns: things like retirement, graduation, weddings, etc. 

In between uses I set it for a countdown a few years from now and let it run in my house. It has medium bright red digital numbers so it makes a good night light. Well, that and it makes a good conversation piece. 

"What's that?"

"Oh, that's my countdown clock."

"What's it counting down?"

"Nothing important..."

"But it's got 708 days, 14 hours, 32 minutes and 29 seconds on it..."

"Yes, it does."

"What happens in 708 days and 14 hours?"

"We'll just have to wait and see."

I'm thinking of resetting it for 345 days, 11 hours, 6 minutes and nine seconds. That means the countdown will end sooner. We won't have to wait as long to see what happens.


Monday, November 27, 2023

The Remarkable Mr. DeWald

 Sometimes when I'm doing research for a blog article, I get sidetracked on a rabbit trail that leads down an entirely different path. The Tammany Family blog post about Aviation in St. Tammany was one of those projects that led to something else.

That something else was actually one of the main characters in St. Tammany Airways, the company that started in 1928 and contributed to major advances in airmail delivery across the South. The operations manager for St. Tammany Airways, beginning in 1927, was William DeWald.When I began looking into the aviation career of DeWald, both before he joined St. Tammany Airways and after he left the company, I came upon an individual who was highly-esteemed in early aviation. 

So here is an outline of events that chronicle his life and accomplishments. Although there seemed to be some confusion about what his middle initial was, a description of his life and career was easy to follow. In 1912 and 1913, he was racing cars. He began flying in 1916, but in 1918 DeWald was sent to Camp Lee, VA, after being drafted into World War I.

In 1920, after the war, we find him flying for the government airmail service,"the pilot of the first airmail plane to land at Ak-Sar-Ben field in Omaha." 



Click on the images to make them larger. 



The establishment of air mail service between Omaha and Chicago was a big accomplishment, and he was a part of it. 



He apparently was willing to take risks in making sure the airmail got to its destination in time. 


The lack of enough pilots for the fledging airmail service resulted in some pilots being overworked, in addition to the lack of enough planes to go around. 


DeWald did take enough time off, however, to get married in 1920.



Moving the mail on schedule resulted in many mishaps, downed airplanes among them, but DeWald took it upon himself to drop badly-needed spare parts by parachute to those in need. 


Articles appeared in several newspapers telling of the parts dropped by parachute.


Another high-risk innovation was flying after sunset. When the schedule fell behind, DeWald was ready to take off at dusk and land at night, a risky maneuver at that point in aviation. 


Again, newspaper articles told of his daring flight. 


He also took part in activities held by the Aero Club, a group of pilots in the newly-established government airmail service.

DeWald almost became legendary as an early airmail pilot.


In 1921, he was working for Huff-Daland Co.


He was also instrumental in providing a cross-country flight for fresh vegetables, from farms in New Jersey to restaurants on Long Island and in Masssachusetts. That was ground-breaking, air transport for farm goods.



He was even linked to the Admiral Byrd flight over the North Pole in 1926.


In August of 1927, newspapers nationwide reported that he had gone missing during a seaplane flight from Norfolk, VA, to New Orleans.  


After 24 hours of concern, he was found safe east of Pensacola. His fuel had run out, he said.



The inaugural flight of privately-contracted airmail routes for St. Tammany Airways began in 1928, with DeWald serving as operations manager.


DeWald became well-known as he flew around the Southern states promoting aviation and the building of airports. 





As St. Tammany Airways grew, he became their spokesman.



But he continued to pilot aircraft on key airmail routes.


He attended aviation conferences and gave speeches.


In 1929 he was working with the Fokker Aircraft Corporation.





In many articles and photographs, DeWald became the face of progress in aviation. 





See also:

https://postalmuseum.si.edu/dewald-william-n


According to an aviation memorabilia vendor on E-Bay (who was selling early Airmailed envelopes), "William N. DeWald was a test pilot for the first flight of the world's largest single engine aircraft. The envelope shown below is a "flown First Flight cover" signed by DeWald and bearing the C.A.M. 29 FIRST FLIGHT stamp, canceled in Houston, Texas Jan 13, 1929 and backstamped twice, Springfield, Ill, Jan 24, 1929.



"William DeWald was born in 1893, served as an engineer and was head of the experimental department at Stutz (an early racing car builder). He was a Reserve Military Aviator, trained at Miami, and served with the United States (1917-19).

"DeWald was appointed a U. S. Air Mail Service pilot on April 9, 1920, and assigned at College Park MD, followed by appointments to Cleveland OH and Omaha NE. He resigned in August of 1920, and flew official air mail on the Omaha-Chicago route before actual service began.

"He flew air mail for St. Tammany & Gulf Coast Airways, Inc. in 1928, followed by a job for Southern Air Transport in 1929. He was on the first flight of the Fairchild Model 95 XC-31 USAAC cargo aircraft, the first purpose-designed military cargo aircraft and then the world’s largest single engine aircraft, at Hagerstown Airport MD, in 11934.

Flying Early Airmail Routes Was Dangerous Work

"The U. S. Air Mail Service was formed as a branch of the Post Office Department under the Second Assistant Postmaster General in 1918 and flew air mail until it was disbanded in 1927. There weren't very many pilots involved and the lives of many of them were cut short! 

"In the later twenties, the movement of air mail was placed in the hands of contractors. There were two distinct groups of airmail aviators and flew under distinctly different circumstances."

The seller, AviationBookseller.Com, then asks "What makes the pilots of the U.S. Air Mail Service so interesting, more than ninety years after the service was disbanded?"

"The answer lies in the kind of men they were, in their acceptance of significant risk in every undertaking, and their single-minded focus on a career in aviation. These men were to the children of the twenties what astronauts were to us in the sixties, railroad engineers were to the children of the nineteenth century and explorers were to still earlier generations. Their lives simply reeked of adventure! 

"When pilots signed up for the Air Mail Service they were required to agree to fly fixed routes in literally any kind of weather. And to do it in antiquated open-cockpit planes with only the most basic of instrumentation, which most knew from their Great War flying to be dangerous under the best of circumstances.  Yet applications far, far outnumbered the available jobs and the pilots, day after day, accepted their flight schedules and did everything in their power to deliver the mail to the next air mail field on a fixed schedule. 

"By the time air mail flying was placed in the hands of contractors and Contract Air Mail pilots were licensed by the Post Office Department, things had changed dramatically for pilots. Aircraft were purpose-built for air mail, radio had been introduced, weather was much better understood, pilots were carefully selected and trained and the risks of flying were better understood by the executives managing the air mail routes."