Photos courtesy the Tony Swain Collection.
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About 30 years ago a gov’ment guy friend Bert and I flew to Nanaimo for a Bessy eye view of the Bathtub Race to English Bay, for Vancouver’s Sea Festival.
What a sight, dozens of powered vintage bathtubs, mother ships, and hundreds of spectator boats, streaking across Georgia Straight. Brave souls! Forty miles across an often-wild stretch of water.
Since we were almost there, Bert asked we visit his friend Clarence at Qualicum. He phoned Clare from the coffee shop, who arrived with bells on, hugging a tattered scrapbook marked ‘Flying the Bush, 1928 to 1940’. Hey, Hey, Hey! Bert suggested I make a slide show for his Quarter Century in Aviation Club. So I did.
In thanks, I took Clare up in Bessy. My log for July 1977, reads… "Mr. Dobbin enthralled… Was a WW2 North Atlantic Ferry pilot, and is 80 years old."
What an honour to have such a wonderful old guy in our Harvard! I didn’t know the half of it! The two-reel show was enthusiastically received at QCAC, encouraged by regular shouts of, "Where’d the hell you get that?"
DUSTED THEM OFF
So the other day I WD-40’d the old seized projector, and took a look. Usual routine. No info with the slides, root through my Flyin’ Stuff for clues, and then wing it.
The first pics were from 1912, of Fred Clarke’s Avro at Minoru Park on Lulu Island. Everyone looks happy, as the policeman ponders what kind of ticket to issue. The plane is pretty flimsy, and the view around the radiator challenging, specially if boiling over.
In 1912, Brits did similar stuff at Larkhill. Incredible! Even with travel confined to sea and rail, Vancouver was right with it.
BOEING THE MAIL
The guy dock-handling that Boeing B-2 Mail plane must have cursed his slippy lace-up boots when hauling those awkward new fangled fly-boats about those skiddy planks.
A typed note here says… "The most outstanding aircraft ever built, not excepting the ‘Spirit of St Louis.’ For more than eight years this Boeing flying boat carried the Victoria to Seattle air mail without losing a single letter, on the world’s first contracted air mail route.
This plane flew 50,000 miles in its lifetime, wore out eight motors, and after 10 years, still makes an occasional flight!"
Bill Boeing and Eddie Hubbard flew the first such mail to Vancouver’s Royal Van dock in 1919, with an earlier floatplane.
A vintage letter cordially invites ‘me’ to view the fine Boeing Watercraft in Coal Harbour, at 1927 Georgia Street, by the entrance to Stanley Park.
FLY ENGLISH BAY
In 1928, Clare and Ted Dobbin’s Dominion Airways would teach you to fly in a Gipsy Moth float plane named ‘ELSIE,’ right off English Bay. Imagine! Just across from our place! And, in this old album were the pics to prove it.
Their first machine, G-CAHS, was a Moth 60X, with the amazing new Cirrus II 80 hp engine. Maintenance was at Canadian Airways False Creek wharf. They moved to Lulu Island and bought more aircraft, including an Eagle rock, and a Stinson Detroiter.
Lulu Field became the first Vancouver Air Port, a bustling place with early home-build Pietenpol look-alikes, et al.
A shy young apprentice there, Joe Bertolino rose to be a respected Transport Canada Inspector. I conferred with him many times on ‘Bessy’ issues. A true gentleman, Joe is remembered at Vancouver International on a plaque along with his friend Bill Jacquot, as grand old aviation guys.
By 1932, aircraft reached the vintage I so enjoy, and in a web-search, I discovered a natty Ted Dobbin with Elsie Kohl Hammond on a dock by a magnificent Waco QC floatplane.
Got a wonderful response from Douglas Wright of Ottawa re February’s, ‘From the Archives.’ "I believe I recognize an aviation giant in ‘The Gentlemen Aviators at Larkhill.’ Second row standing third from the right, hair parted in the middle is, I believe, Alberto Santos-Dumont," revered Brazilian aviator.
So this could be prior to 1912, because apparently, Santos-Dumont stopped flying in 1910 due to multiple sclerosis. Of course he may have still attended these exciting events. However, it’s difficult to verify Dumont after so many years.
I have tracked down the ‘exuberant girl’ last month at the Wright Air School in Texas. It’s the famous Ruth Law, instructor and Barn Stormer, who did aerobatics and raced cars with her 1913 Curtis fitted with Wright controls. According to historian Frank Ellis, Ruth married, and lived near San Francisco as Mrs. Oliver.
THE METRO VANCOUVER AIR PARK
The MVRP hold a Volunteer day twice a year, and Mary and I represent Delta Heritage Air Park, a Lower Mainland Regional Park. At Pacific Spirit Park, we went to see the incredible restoration to a pristine ancient state, of UBC’s historic Camosun Bog.
We were delighted to share a table at lunch with Community Co-ordinator Suzanne Stewart-Patterson, and retired Parks Manager Rick Hankin. Fourteen years ago Rick saw the recreational value of Delta’s grass roots flying field operating within the Regional Parks system, and Delta users are in huge debt to him for his foresight. His efforts well rewarded last fall with Air Park rezoning to better reflect its use.
At a tenant meeting last night, Air Park Chair, Terry Wilshire presented a number of options regarding the relocation of the Boundary Bay Flying Club. The heritage farmhouse they occupy will be restored as a heritage house for resident caretakers.
The most economical option offered BBFC was conversion of a little used hangar by the Old Coffee Shop that allows easy access to kitchen and washrooms. All tenants are to be polled on this.
ART OF SURVIVAL
Indulging my interest in The Arts, The Mary and I toured the 1000 Parker Street Studios during their open house. The place is a veritable artist-warren. I wore out exploring only two out of four floors! Our big attraction was our favourite Warbird Artist, Ginny Ivanicki, who has a modest studio on the top floor, where she had just finished a fabulous painting of Langford’s Harvard looping over Boundary Bay Airport, and was now busy creating an RCAF Canso.
Wandering around, I opened a mystery door, and found a room full of techy looking stuff. "Sorry! We’re not an art place," said the lady. "So what are you?" says I.
"Braidner Industries," says she. Whoa! "The survival kit guys?" say I.
She wuz amazed. How would I know that? So I got the tour. Shelves and shelves of survival kits big and small. Fascinating.
For COPA type planes, a two place kit was ball parked at $420, or for four, $480. A sample was arranged for a special Swain Pic.
So what’s best if you went down? An envelope with $500? Or a survival kit?
Their 100 year old building is fascinating, with sturdy old beams that remind of beautiful old wooden WW2 hangars. Manager Andy Nieman can be reached at 604-254-0455.
LATE BREAKING NEWS
After hiding it for two years in a garage, Delta regular Bob Lalonde brought his nice KR2 out to Delta. Originally from Olympia, WA, we look forward to see them in the air!
My vintage car racer friend Ian Wood bought an old house by a closed airport and found some airplane engine parts in a cupboard! Stromberg and Holley carbs, inlet pipes, rocker covers, and bits and bobs. What are they from? Pic attached!
And this just in! Laurentian Air Services Reunion. Hear the LAS story at a book launching at the Canadian Aviation Historical Society meeting, May 28, 2009 at 1900 hours, at the Canada Aviation Museum, Rockcliffe, Ontario.
All ex LAS members are welcome, to it and the reunion next day, the 29. For info contact Boss Hog, Tim Cole; firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel. 604-299-0806.
So I guess that’s all folks… Fly Safe now…
Tony Swain & The Mary, a couple of old Copaguys. Email: email@example.com