Engine Fire!

November 25, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

My dad went to work for Easter Airlines on November 1, 1946, just short of two weeks after I was born.  His new job was in Memphis.  Mom and I stayed in Oklahoma for a few weeks then moved to Memphis (not that I remember, of course) and into an apartment that is no longer there.  I went looking for it once when I was in the area on a business trip.  The apartment, once filled with airline employees, all fresh from the military with aircraft experience, has been replaced with a shopping center and and an office complex.  When the maintenance base in Memphis was closed dad transferred to Houston Hobby Airport.  That was in 1949.  One of the perks for employees was free airline travel when seats were available.  By the time I was in the 5th grade we had flown to numerous places, Washington DC being the most memorable.  On select school afternoons, always a surprise, dad would get home from work and tell us, "Get dressed up.  We are going out to eat."  My brother and I would put on nice shirts, sometimes a tie and jacket and run to the car.  Dad would then drive the family to the airport and we would board a flight to either New Orleans (seafood!) or San Antonio (Mexican food!).  It seemed odd that not everybody did this.  We usually got back home by 8pm at the latest so we could get our homework done.  One particular evening we had flown to San Antonio to eat out and had just taken off from the airport to return to Houston when one of the engines on the plane caught fire.  The fire was quickly extinguished but we turned around and went back to San Antonio.  We sat on the ground for over 3 hours while they fixed the engine and the fuel leak.  Finally we were underway again and arrived back home well after midnight.  I was dead tired and went to bed without doing my homework.  The next morning when I left for school, mom wrote me an excuse to take with me to my teacher:

 

"Please excuse Jimmy for not getting his homework done.  We flew to San Antonio to eat out and on the way home we had an engine fire on our airplane which had to be fixed.  We did not get home until 1 am."

 

and she signed it.  I gave it to the teacher that morning.  She read it, looked at me and asked, "Who wrote this?"  I tried to explain that my mom wrote it but the teacher could not believe it.  Back in the 50's, only wealthy people could actually own an airplane and who other than a rich family would fly to San Antonio to eat?  She kept wanting to know "Who wrote this??!??!?"  Finally she called my mom who verified that, yes indeed we had flown to San Antonio to eat and had an engine fire on the way home.  You would not believe the look on her face as mom told her the same thing I had been saying all along, and the respect I got after that was almost weird.  Rumors went thru the school about me being from a rich family, with airplanes.  I just thought it was crazy that not everybody flew.  I had several people come to me and ask what it was like to fly?  I was really eating this up, finding out that flying was something special back then, something not many people had experienced.  It was one of the few times I felt special in school, too, other than finishing first in a spelling contest.


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