via email from "Rich", 4-6-04
I'll start at the beginning. I was an "airport bum." As a child I spent much time making airplane models. Not boats but strictly planes. When I got a little older my dad would take me to Tweed which was at that time nothing like it is now. A bunch of cubs, moons, a consolidated vultee, (2 engine)!, and others of course. A very close family friend was taking flying lessons at the time and I was there when he did his first solo. He came in too short and nosed the plane in. Panicked I guess. No damage to the plane except for a few scratches and dings.
It was in those days that I met Jack. In my last note to you I mentioned that I flew "with" Jack. Obviously, what I should have said was that he would take me up often. He was, of course much older than I. When I started high school I would, after school, go straight to the airport before going home. Jack came up to me one day and asked me if my parents knew where I was and I replied that they did. He asked my name and went to his office and phoned my home. My mother got a kick out of that and told Jack that it was OK and yes, she knew I was there.
We were living in New Haven at the time. I would be bumming plane rides all the time and soon many of the pilot/owners got to know me as that tall skinny blonde haired kid and from there on I was "one of the boys." Summers I'd work there full time (I would have for no pay!). My job was anything-painting numbers on the runways, running errands, anything.
Then the army came in and I worked for them. Many civilians were hired as office staff, plumbers, carpenters field maintenance, etc. The soldiers stationed there just did military duties. That would be about 1943 or so. They stayed only 2 years or so and the planes they had were P47's, P51's, the Aircobra (sic) my favorite, and of course many Goonie Birds, the good old reliable C42. Lots of those.
When Jack died his son got the job of airport manager but he died an early death. George Wolcott, a real prince of a guy was assistant manager under Jack senior and Jack junior. George used to give me a lift home after work before I got my first car. He was the nicest guy you could ever meet.
That car, a 1935 Chevvie was given to me by my brother when he joined the USMC at 17. I often wonder if he regretted that, as he was one of the poor souls who fought at Iwo Jima. He never talked about that battle and I never asked. He was one of the lucky ones to make it home, although it was quite evident that he went through the wringer. He was a radio operator there and that is a bad job indeed ,as the Japanese would look out for these guys so as to knock out communications.
Being a ham radio operator myself, I didn't go into the service but was stationed in Pennsylvania the required 4 years in a code interception room. I got the same pay and conditions that the regular service got. The USA was really hard up for anyone that could copy Morse Code and there were precious few available, as there are even now. I wanted badly to buy some of the gear when the war was over but was told that wouldn't be possible. I think they just crushed these things up like they did planes and stuff.
I never got to go up in anything but the C42's but I would have my lunch sitting in the cockpits of the various planes resisting the urge of firing up and zooming out for a spin! After the army left several small companies started up there such as Usher Aviation, TransCarib, They bought surplus C42's and turned them into airliners and so forth.
Today Tweed is a much different animal. A new administration building, some new hangars, that sort of thing, but alas, they will never expand because of the homes surrounding it. Good for small stuff. AA and many others tried it out with 2 engine jobs but the pilots kept yelling that the runways were too short. Today, freight, mail and some shuttle planes are in and out there.
I remember some of the flight instructor's names so if you want, I'll supply you with them although I don't know where they are now. Probably no longer with us. There was such an age split between them and me so I never got to know them beyond them considering me "the kid" but we did have a nice report.
It might interest you to know that James A Verinis, the co-pilot on the Memphis Belle lived 2 houses from us in New Haven. He died recently. My brother, 4 years my senior, knew Jim well but me? still the kid.
I'm OK with the normal aches and pains all 78 year olds have. Be a good boy and if you want to talk I'll do my best to send more info.