Pages 23 & 24
That summer I joined a committee of Curtiss officials touring army Fields to inspect surplus Jenny planes and OX motors which ended in Curtiss purchasing several hundred thousand dollars worth intending to set up agencies throughout the country to sell them and new products of the Company. In that work I contacted business men in Portland, Ore., who signed up for the franchise in the three northwest states. They later offered me the managership which I accepted, my health being poor including an appendix operation, thinking the climate of Portland and the northwest would be more beneficial than New York's. I saw to it that J. D. Hill, Walter Lees, and an expert mechanic were employed to accompany me to the Oregon, Washington & Idaho Airplane Company which was to operate off a small neck of land adjoining the Willamette River which flows through Portland, thus accomodating both land and water planes. We found it a marvelous country, but we were too early for the full acceptance of flying and what is now known as airline operation. In the third year I came down with typhoid fever and while incapacitated the directors decided to take their losses and close up shop. I was retained as receiver and closed its affairs in June of 1922. At least there I recovered my health while we lived in a small cottage on nearby Lake Oswego from where I sometimes commuted by flying boat to the airport.
The bottom dropped out of aviation during those depression years so we decided to return to Syracuse where I might find suitable employment. Bought a second-hand Haynes touring car, fixed it up with equipment for camping on a transcontinental drive, an unheard of custom those days, and started out with our four children and pet dog, Miss Jigs. Roads were non-existant in some sections over the mountains, but we made it camping out in a tent often beside a nearby stream or in some protecting woods; one of the most enjoyable months we ever spent although the roads were of dirt and sometimes quagmires due to rains that always proceeded us it seemed.
We had a good laugh on arriving at Charlotte's brother's home in Denver which was some contrast to what the children had become accustomed to. Young Vic's memory was of a crude cabin on the lake shore with the usual outhouse in cack, and when he entered the Clay's modern home he exclaimed, "Oh, look, diamond doorknobs!" Some days we'd make as much as 125 miles, often much less, pitch camp before sunset, wash in a neaby stream of pure water, get dinner and to our cots early, rise early, break camp, breakfast and on our way by 9:00 AM, with frequent times when we'd be stopped for repairs. We were toughened up, but had a lot of fun and truly enjoyed it.
It was good to be back home with relatives and friends. I went into the investment business representing a well known New York Banking firm in upper New York State and did quite well.
My heart, however, was in aviation and when the opportunity presented to rejoin the Curtiss interests I did so going to New York with the Curtiss Airports Company just prior to the stock market crash of late 1929. The family joined me later at Larchmont from where I commuted into the city. Active flying was to give way to ground duties in connection with building and developing scattered airports throughout the east.
In June, 1930, I received a letter from my former commanding officer at the Naval Aircraft Factory asking me to get in touch with him then president of the newly formed American Airways, Inc., a branch of the Aviation Corporation. During our talk he explained that the Colonial Division of American Airways was having too many accidents and, recalling his confidence in my aviation know-how, offered me to replace General John F. O"Ryan as Vice President and General Manager with offices at Newark Airport and at an attractive salary. How could I refuse? That had long been my aim - air transportation, and was now to be realised. So on July 1st I headed that company now a major part of American Airlines in the east.
All went well until one evening after a difficult meeting in the main New York offices when I was driving home to Madison, N. J., around 8:00 PM, in a light rain with poor visibility and my lights dimmed because of oncoming traffic. Then all I remember was reaching the bottom of a long grade near Summit at about 45 MPH. I came to about midnight lying on a hospital emergency operating table then recall little until a week later. An old rattle-trap 5 ton truck had been left parked on the paved highway without any tail lights that could even be lighted and no headlights. The owner, not even a citizen and unable to speak much English and without a driver's license or insurance, had run out of gasoline and had walked down the highway to a distant gas-station. I'll spare further details other than that after a serious operation and lying encased in plaster of Paris for many months, I finally was able to sit up minus the cast and later start walking, or trying to, on crutches. I was a mess, had parted with a hip joint, one knee was stiff, and one lung had been punctured.
Some time after resuming my airline duties, Mr. Coburn resigned and was succeeded by a partner of a New York Stock Exchange firm, Mr. Cohu, who decided to economize, to reduce heavy losses, by consolidating the four divisions into one, thus reducing supervisory and clerical personnel. I was vulnerable and could not blame him for my seperation with three months salary and a "thank you".