"From the Desert to the Sea, to All of Southern California." - Jerry Dunphy

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

The History Above Los Angeles

The picture to the left was taken from the Burbank hangar of Flying Tiger Line in 1964. My Dad had worked for Flying Tigers since 1950. He first worked out of Hopkins Airport in Cleveland and then at the Detroit Airport until 1960 when he transfered to Burbank.

I have covered some brief memories of my youth in previous posts but one name I forgot to mention was Pancho Barnes. She was a world class aviator during the 1920's and 1930's and one of the most colorful characters in aviation history. Her most colorful period very well may be her days as proprietor of "The Happy Bottom Riding Club". The club was a combination dude ranch and restaurant build adjacent to Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert. The club catered to the pilots at the nearby base. It was also legendary as party central in the desert.

Until 10 years ago I had never heard of Pancho Barnes. I was introduced to her by the representative of a saw service that was a vendor for the tool repair shop I was the office manager for. One day while finishing up our business, David and I go on the topic of aviation and he asked me if I had ever heard of Pancho Barnes. I told him no I had not and he began to tell me stories of his time at the ranch/club when he was a child. I went home and dug up all the information I could on Pancho Barnes. As I learned more I finally began to put together in my head a picture of the greater Los Angeles area and its wonderful history of aviation. Being a child of Hollywood as well I even tossed in some of my favorite childhood hero's such as Sky King. At night I imagined stories of clandestine flights from Mojave to Van Nuys. I got so far as to make notes for a mystery story connecting Fox Field to Van Nuys and the old Wilson Field in the San Fernando Valley to Santa Paula airport and Fillmore. One day I will have to write it.

The skies over Los Angeles are filled with the ghosts of Pancho Barnes, Amelia Erhart, Howard Hughes, Chuck Yeager and so many more. Follow this link to the Wikipedia page for Pancho Barnes for a brief overview of her life.

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