P.C. Warning: This Post Contains Racial Slurs!!!

The Adventure of First Flight:

DSC_0477 L-1049G Super Constellation N6937C left side landing l 

c0pyright -  Brian Lockett, Goleta Air and Space Museum

Our flight from Miami was a redeye.  In 1958 you walked out of the airport terminal across the tarmac and boarded the plane by climbing the stairs of a ramp that rolled up to the open hatch behind the cockpit.  I was beyond excitement, insane with anticipation and grinning from ear to ear with delight as we walked up to the Lockheed Super Constellation.  At the top of the ramp we entered the cabin and a stewardess took our tickets from my Mom.  While she directed us to our reserved seats, I twisted my neck to see through the open cockpit door and take in the exotic lights on the instrument panel.  The copilot looked over his shoulder, caught my eye, pointed his index finger at me, cocked his thumb and with a wink and a smile he whispered, “Pow.”

It was soooooo very cool!!  We went down the aisle a couple of rows behind the starboard wing and clamored into our seats - I got dibs on the window.  When all the passengers found their seats, the hatch was closed and locked and the stewardess’ began their song and dance about life vests, exits and seat belts.  They were in the middle of their spiel when the long whine of the inboard engine began.  The prop slowly turned three or four times when suddenly orange flames poured out of the exhaust ports lighting up the aluminum of the wing.  Then the prop blurred as the engine roared to life.  The flames turned blue and the outboard engine whined and started.  The plane vibrated as we taxied across the tarmac to the runway.

Mom took my hand and I turned away from the window to see her face clenched in fear.  She gave me an anxious smile and said, “Don’t worry; we’ll be fine as soon as we take off.”

I was way the hell too excited to be worried.  We about to fly 1500 miles non-stop to Dallas Love Field and as the pilot throttled up, moved the flaps up and down, the roar of the engines increased and  we began to move down the runway.  The blue lights on the edge of the tarmac went by faster and faster until they blurred outside the window and with the sudden rush of lift, the wings flexed and we were in the air.  The audible grind of motors retracted the landing gear and flaps and when we gained enough altitude, the plane slowly banked left with the grace of a floating bird.  While the lights of Miami receded behind us, we climbed to our assigned altitude and just as my ears popped in the lower air pressure of the cabin, the pilot throttled back to our cruising speed and with his lazy reassuring drawl he made his in-flight announcements.

After some fuss Rick’s ears finally popped and Mom told us to try to get some sleep.  No way, although over half the flight carried us over the featureless black of the Gulf of Mexico, my eyes never left the window, except to accept a cold Coke from the stewardess.  Awake all night, I watched the lights of little towns of Texas pass below and I was absolutely mesmerized when we broke through clouds and the lights of Dallas appeared as we descended to touch down with a short screech of rubber on tarmac and landed like a feather.



copyright - Epic Records

Tammy Wynette didn’t sing her hit "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" until 1968 but the lyric would have been perfect for our introduction to Texas.  Mom, bless her dear heart, was a major league drama queen; she was also a minor league bi-polar with severe mood disorder.  At various times she was on Valium as well as other prescription drugs.  When other people were around she was all smiles and laughter, but alone with family she was all over the place.  She didn’t handle stress well and our arrival in Dallas in November was very stressful.

Dad drove to Texas in our brand new 1958 Chevy Biscayne and while Mom dealt with the moving van crew and leaving our house in Hialeah; he rented a small three bedroom house until we could find a place to buy in the Dallas suburbs.  The stress that pushed Mom over the edge was a combination of fatigue, weather and an oversight on Mac’s part.  This was her fourth or fifth move in the last ten years, from Pop’s farm and various base housing during the Korean War, to Indianapolis, to Florida, to Texas.  After dealing with three kids on a six hour flight she was anxious, weary to the bone and ready to go off.

It was dark, cold and raining in Dallas and after we collected our luggage, we opened our bags to put on layers of shirts because our jackets and such were in the moving van.  Dad gave Mom his rain coat and we all schlepped our bags out to the parking lot.  It was a short drive to the little grey rental house where we unloaded our bags from the trunk and went inside to get out of the rain and cold.  In the weeks before our arrival, Mac had done his due diligence, choosing Irving, Texas as our new home.  It had good schools, decent home prices and it was, at the time, a place of refuge from the ethnic mix of the city of Dallas.  Dad and Mom were Scots-Irish white bread farm children from southern Indiana and didn’t appreciate living close to, “niggers, spics or Cubaricans.”

Except for five surplus store army cots with army blankets, a couple of lamps and some paper plates and plastic cups, knives, forks and spoons the house was empty.  Our furniture, clothes and household goods wouldn’t arrive for a few days, so for now we would have to rough it.  Our foot steps echoed on the hardwood floors as we checked the place out.  In our curiosity, we ignored the cold while Mom stood next to Dad and furiously hissed under her breath.  They disappeared into their room and we started unpacking.  Eventually Mom’s hisses increased in volume punctuated by sobs and we all knew they were fighting.  In his rush to make arrangements for our arrival while working at the DoD office, Mac had neglected to get the gas turned on at the rental house.  In the empty stark confines of those cold dingy rooms, that oversight broke Mom’s psychological back.  She’d had enough!!

When the muffled argument subsided, Mom emerged wiping her eyes and nose with a tissue, gathered her sons and brought us all together.  She sat on one cot while the three of us sat on another.  Mom heaved a dramatic sigh and announced, “Boys, it’s not your fault but your dad and I are going to get divorced.  I don’t know how we’ll work it out, but you need to think about who you want to live with.  I’ll probably move back to Indiana and stay on the farm with Pop until I get a job and your father will be living here - at least until he has to transfer to some other job God knows where.  You don’t have to decide right now, but I plan on leaving tomorrow, so some time this afternoon, I’ll ask you if you want to come with me.”

Without missing a beat, we all looked at each other and replied in three part harmony, “We’ll stay with Dad.”

The look on Mom’s face was tragic.  She burst into tears and fled the room and we went back to hanging our clothes.  When we screwed up and he got pissed Mac could be an SOB; but Mom was just plain crazy.  As much as we'd all like to live on Pop’s farm, we chose to stay in Texas with Dad.

except for attributed photos and text, all content is copyrighted  © 2012 JKM

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