|Raymond V. Morris, 1913.|
CURTISS PILOT TRAINING CLASS
The photo of Ray was taken from a group picture of the Curtiss Pilot Training Class in 1913. Ray was one of sixteen pilots who had taken the course in Hammondsport, New York. Seven of the others are Early Birds such as Jack Vilas, Marshall Reid, Joseph Bennett, Becky Havens, J. Lansing Callan, B. W. King, and Dave Young.
The Curtiss Aviation School on North Island had officially opened on January 17, 1911. Raymond Morris took over the flying school when Curtiss' three year contract expired in February, 1914.
I arrived at the flying school on North Island in the Spring of 1914. Ray Morris was my instructor. He helped me get a job around camp ($12.00 a week) to take care of my expenses. Morris was a great pilot, both on land and seaplanes. When we worked on the Curtiss F-Boat, he noticed I gripped the wheel and was too tense. To change this, he opened the throttle, lifted the boat into the air with only his thumb and finger of one hand on the wheel, and landed the same way to show me how easy it was.
On December 7, one of Curtiss' test pilots (in those days, the pilot was more tested than testing), Raymond V. Morris, flew a Model N Jenny to 4,790 feet in ten minutes. On December 16, he reached a speed of 82 mph.
In the early fall of 1915, Ray Morris came thru Chicago on his way to the Curtiss Co. in Buffalo. When he saw the crate I was flying, he was quite perturbed. A week later, he had the Curtiss Co. wire me an offer as instructor on the Curtiss F-Boat at Buffalo. Of course, I jumped at the chance. Wish I could remember the salary I received.
of San Diego, California
On July, 1921, Walter received this reply to a letter he had sent to Ray.
Mr. Walter E. Lees,
c/o La Grande Aircraft Co., Inc
La Grande, Oregon.
My Dear Mr, Lees:
I am receipt of yours of June 24th and note with deep interest as to your wherabouts and the extremely unfortunate predicament which you are now in. Unfortunately, I had lost track of both yourself and Jimmy Johnson and practically all of the other boys. As time went on I heard less from you individually until finally you dropped out of sight altogether. This applies to Jimmy Johnson and a number of the others. In fact I have heard nothing from any of them for some considerable period of time.
I can appreciate thoroughly that aviation has suffered severely since the war. Had anticipated this myself sufficiently to be clear when the crash came. Whether for all times or not I cannot say, but I am inclined to believe this is the case.
Have looked into matters in our own organization and am exceedingly sorry to advise that there is very little going on at this time as you are no doubt aware, and for that reason no opening in which we could satisfactorily place you. Personally I am unable at this time, much as I would like to, to offer you the necessary financial assistance. It is quite possible, however, that I will be in your immediate vicinity with the next thirty or sixty days and if this should be the case be assured that I will endeavor to look you up and at that time something may have developed which will prove beneficial to you, Meanwhile, I am,
Yours very truly,
R. V. Morris
According to the Early Birds' Membership List, Raymond Morris lived at 1515 10th Street, Coronado, California. Coronado is close to the North Beach Curtiss Flying School location near San Diego.
My wife Jo recalls that she and the family were entertained by Ray at dinner, probably at the Coronado Hotel, when she was about ten years old. She doesn't recall any details of the occasion, but was reminded that Walter and the family remained good friends with Ray for all those years.