by mail from Edmond E. Bates, Jr.
December 21, 2002
Ralph S. Cooper, D.V.M.
1050 S. San Gabriel Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107
Dear Mr. Cooper,
I'm not at all sure that I responded to your search for information regarding my father, Edmond E. Bates. The folks at APS did forward your e-mail inquiry, but it appears I may have simply set it aside during the final rush of tax season in 2001. I am now reorganizing the office in preparation for the upcoming tax season and have found your inquiry.
I am not into e-mail for general correspondence, but did run the URL you showed and agree that you have the barest of information. I'm not sure what you are doing with the website, but I can add some basic info., all of which is taken from memory at this point. I have lots of written materials, including some I ran across only a few weeks ago. What appears to be some class notes from Harvard based on the cover turns out to be some journal entries when he was in the Curtiss Flight School. I wonder how much other valuable information is boxed in storage. I thought I had sorted most of it out after Mother died in 1991, but don't have time right now to work through it.
He was born October 12, 1896 (may be 1898), in Massachusetts, I believe. He flew gliders initially in the Bedford area and attended Harvard, where he was a member of the flying club. They graduated the whole club in May of 1917, so that they could go to war. My recollection of the procedures is that the group, including my father, went to Florida where they were inducted into the Army (Air Corp?) buy a Sergeant in an open field. He always felt this was the true beginning of today's Air Force, but could not convince a Commandant at the Air Force Academy during one of his holiday visits when I lived in Denver. He, and probably more (all?) the flying club went to France and taught a wartime flight school in southern France (near Nice), until General Pershing showed up to see how his former chauffer, Eddie Rickenbacker, was doing. Finding no military discipline, the General made my father an observer on bombing runs.
Sometime after the war, my father married the daughter of one of the airplane manufacturers, who declared that she would not be married to a pilot. He gave up flying, but the marriage only lasted a year and a half, if I remember rightly. There is little written info that I've found for the period from the war until he remarried in the thirties, this time to my mother.
I was their only child, born in Arlington, MA, July 6, 1939. They had lived there and in Carlisle before my father found work at Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank in late 1939 or 1940. I believe it was Feb. of 1941 when he had mother and I fly out to join him. We first lived in a rental home off Los Feliz Blvd., near the fountain near Griffith Park, moving to 1240 (?) Idylwood Road in Glendale where we lived during the war. He first worked on the design team for the Constellation, along with Howard Hughes he said, and then on military aircraft.
He went into business for himself before going to work in the Quality Control Division at Northrop Aircraft. He worked there until he was 69, at which time he retired to a life of fishing. In retirement he and mother split time between Huntington Beach and a trailer park on Lewiston Lake here in Trinity County, which is where he died after moving here on a year-round basis.
His retirement from Northrop Aircraft was to be publicized in Life, but when they got to Palmdale they found there was only an F-5, not a T-38, available. They could not publish photos of the F-5, and so his flight through the sound barrier was only published in the Glendale News-Press (with a photo). He took the controls as they broke the sound barrier in level flight.
He served the Early Birds as Secretary (or Treasurer) in the seventies.
As I noted at the beginning, I'm not sure what you are doing with the website, but I still hope to get all my father's notes and photos organized at which time I may write a biography before donating the materials to a museum for safer preservation.
Edmond E. Bates, Jr.
From The Early Birds of Aviation