Saturday, August 19, 2017

National Aviation Day - 2017

Who knew there is a National Aviation Day, which falls on Orville Wright’s birthday, August 19?  It was established in 1939 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to encourage interest in aviation in the United States.

I’ve learned that my grandfather, Sig Levy, had a fascination with aviation.  He was training to be a Flying Cadet in 1918 when the war came to an end.  And through his scrapbooks, I’ve found more evidence of his fascination.  I wrote about Glenn Martin HERE after finding some interesting things in Sig’s scrapbook.  And then about Lincoln Beachey HERE

So in honor of National Aviation Day today, I went through some boxes to see what I could find in the way of photos of flying machines.  First up, Sig Seeing San Francisco!

Sig Seeing San Francisco 1913

This is a postcard with a postmark (actually two postmarks) of June 10, 1913.  But in another place it shows it came from the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915.  Plus it clearly says 1915 on the flag above San Francisco.  So not sure where 1913 comes from.  Anyway, that’s Sig driving on the left – not sure who the young lad is with him.

I’m not sure what to make of the large manilla envelope filled with 8x10 glossys of airplanes I found in his things.  But a couple of them stood out for me.

Maybe this photo fascinated him because of the mention of Flying Cadets.

Flying Cadets Witness Aerial Demonstration Randolph Field TX

Flying Cadets Witness Aerial Demonstration

Flashing overhead in wave after wave, 250 low wing monoplanes of the Gulf Coast Air Corps Training Center at Randolph Field, Texas, recently demonostrated the might of Uncle Sam’s expanding air force to 25,000 spectators and the 900 future pilots, now in training at the “West Point of the Air.”  An involuntary cheer went up from the Flying Cadets, formed in ranks along the field’s edge as veteran flying instructors flashed across the airdome wing tip to wing tip.  The occasion ---- gala press preview of “I Wanted Wings,” motion picture of Flying Cadet Life, made in cooperation with the Air Corps.  3-26-41

Another one from Randolph Field.

Prized Skyships

Prized Skyships in the Hands of Experts

There’s an old saying in the Cavalry, “The horse eats, drinks, and sleeps before the soldier.”  While the Flying Cadet of Randolph Field, Texas, the U.S. Army’s huge basic training school, has a sleek, high-powered low-winged monoplane for his mount, it gets the same loving care.  Only the most skilled mechanics can approach one of these swift trainers, to keep it in shape for its hours in the air.  Here the carefully trained men check over the basic trainers after a day of flying, pump in gas and oil before “bedding it down” in the hangar for the night, tuned up and ready for another day of perfect performance.  11-23-40

This shows passengers and equipment being loaded onto a Douglas Transport, C-39, Selfridge Field, Michigan.  Not sure why this might have been important to him, other than because it is a plane because heaven knows, he didn’t have enough photos of planes (I’m sparing readers the other 50 or so that I have with no identification).

Douglas Transport C39 Selfridge Field MI

Skipping ahead a few years, I found a couple of photos of interest from the scrapbook my dad kept (yes, he scrapbooked too) during his time in Europe as World War II was ending.

Dad captioned this Gen. Spaatz comes to call.  And from the dates of other photos, I know this is 1946.

Gen Spastz come to call 1946

That would be Gen. Carl Andrew Spaatz, 1891-1974.

And he captioned this one Gen.. Carl Spaatz, then commanding the USAF, and Colonel Stewart bid each other fond goodbyes.  “Well, Tooey….”

Gen Spastz and Colonel Stewart 1946

Turns out Gen. Spaatz’ nickname was Tooey.

This photo of the United Airlines plane was in my dad’s slides.  At first I thought I could be the girl in the back with what could have been my brother in front of me.  But as I look closer I’m wondering if the man at the back of the line is my dad and I’m the little one in front of him. 

My beautiful picture

If that’s true, this could have been from about 1960 when we flew to Las Vegas.  I have a horrible memory of flying into Las Vegas with severe turbulence.  I remember getting so sick that I um, um, you know….got sick all over my clothes.  When we finally landed mom got me out of my clothes and wrapped me in one of the wool blankets that the airlines provided.  Wool?  In Las Vegas?  I just remember feeling mortified as I was led through the airport WRAPPED IN A BLANKET so that we could get to the restroom and get my clothes changed.  So maybe this was the plane.

What’s this?  Mom at Kemayoran Airport?  I’d never heard of it before so looked it up – it was the principal airport in Jakarta, Indonesia from July 8, 1940 to March 31, 1985.  My parents went to Indonesia????

My beautiful picture

In 1986, we headed north for the Expo in Vancouver which featured, coincidentally, transportation and communication.  I’m not sure what happened to the rest of this plane!

Expo 86

Not to forget other modes of aircraft, I came across this photo of a supply helicopter from one of my husband’s fishing expeditions to the Queen Charlotte Islands.  I think I’m happy I wasn’t there.

Supply Helicopter

Okay, so I had to also throw in something that was a little more tame.  Our daughters rocking that plane in 1980.  Seems like just yesterday……..

Erinn and Megan in plane 1980

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Scrapbook #3 – Sig Levy

Time to move on to Scrapbook #3, the next of Sig’s scrapbooks.  I love that he scrapbooked so diligently, especially when he added interesting photos and newspaper articles.  So he started this scrapbook here.

Sig Levy

No question who the scrapbook belongs to and in his own handwriting, he confirmed his date of birth.  I really like this photo of him.

A few other photos on the first page – a couple of which are ones I’ve seen before.  No telling if he added these to the scrapbook because they were his favorite photos or maybe he just had extras.

Sig Kneeling back of house

Sig on phone

This might not have been one of Sig’s favorite photos but it sure is one of mine.  He looks cool as a cucumber as he walks down the street.

Sig Whistling

And then came the newspaper articles.  Interesting to see that the population of Tokyo wasn’t all that much different than it is today.  But North Korea, a country top of mind right now, has gone from a population of 10,089,000 at the end of 1960 to 25.37 million in 2016.

Tokyo Population 1961

Boy have things changed at Coca Cola!  Revenue in 1961 was $500 million compared to $9.702 billion in 2017.

Coca Cola 10_11_1961

I don’t know much about the Sciots organization and nothing about D.A. Deeter, but it was interesting enough in 1961 for Sig to add it to his scrapbook.  Although I will admit that Sig found pretty much everything interesting enough to add to his scrapbook.  Maybe one of Mr. Deeter’s descendants will find my blog.

Sciots Install D A Deeter Fresno Bee 10_22_1961

And, of course, no scrapbook would be complete without some articles about Sig.  I love hearing about his 50th high school reunion – I probably shouldn’t admit that mine is just five short years away.

1906 Fresno High reunion

There were only 16 people attending?  Although that’s a pretty good turnout for a class with only 31 of 46 graduates still living.  I don’t recognize any of the names mentioned.

Fresno High Reunion 1956

And look – an article with a photo!

Realtors Honored Fresno Bee 10_26_1962

REALTORS HONORED.  C.S. (Doc) Colhouse, past president of the Fresno Realty Board, gives certificates designating these real estate men as honorary presidents.  Left to right, O.S. Fassett, who joined the board in 1922, George Peterson, 1920, and Sigmund Levy, 1912.

No, Sig is not sitting down nor are the others standing on steps. 

And once again he is the proud dad of Robert Levy, my dad’s only sibling.

Rob Levy Separator LA Times 8_1_1955

Come back next time for more from Scrapbook #3.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Machines and roadsters and cars…..Oh my!

While looking through the hundreds of photos I have, I started to notice a theme – CARS!  It seems like my family had a fascination with cars, which I would never have thought much about if it weren’t for these photos.

As I’ve transcribed the letters between my grandparents, I’ve learned that my grandmother referred to this form of transportation as a machine.  I guess when you’re a high school student/young adult in the early 1900’s, it sure must have seemed like a machine.  If only she could see where we’ve come today.

I don’t know the date of this photo but I’m guessing it to be about the “machine” days that Loraine referred to.  If you look closely, I think that might be my grandfather, Sig Levy, in the middle seat on the right side.

Unknown maybe Sig middle right

I have no idea if any of these folks are family members as the only notation on the back says Tire Troubles, by Ben Epstein, 1910.  I found some references to a Ben Epstein in Fresno about that time but without further research, I don’t know how, or even if, he is in some way related to my family.  Even in 1910, someone had a camera ready!

Tire Trouble 1910 by Ben Epstein

This photo is of Loraine’s father, Abraham Gunzendorfer, posing in front of a car.  I think the little guy on his knee is my dad’s brother, Rob.  If I’m right, since Rob was born in November, 1920 this photo must be from about 1921.

Abe_Gunzendorfer Robert_Levy abt 1921

Here’s a handsome car, and one that someone was apparently pretty proud of.  It looks like this could be in front of Abe’s house.

Gunzendorfer Car possible date unknown

What do you think – same house?  I think it is!

Loraine in front of house

I think this looks like the same car in front of a different house.  While my grandmother didn’t tell me the identities of the people in most of these photos, she did tell me the dates.  This is from March 22, 1922.


I think it’s fun to see the people peeking out from inside so, of course, I had to enlarge it to see if I could make out who they were.  Sure enough, that’s Loraine in the passenger seat!  I wish I knew who was in the back – the baby doesn’t look old enough to be Rob as he would have been 17 months at that time. 

Mar_16_1922 cropped

By June 28, 1926, there was a new car to take a photo of.  Nothing here looks familiar – wish I had more details.


Another photo of Abe, this time with his wife, Birdie Schwartz, in front of a car.  Was this another new one?  Unfortunately grandma forgot to date this one for me.

Bertha_Schwartz Abe_Gunzendorfer

By April 5, 1936, Grandma was taking photos in front of a car.  Was this a new car?  And who is the woman with her?  Maybe a cousin or sister-in-law?  I can tell it’s in the back of the house in Fresno my dad grew up in but that’s about it.

Unknown_Loraine 4_5_1936

Christmas Day, 1937 shows Loraine in front of a car – is it the same one as above?  Or, could it have been a Christmas present from Sig?

Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy 12_25_1937

Based on other photos I have with Birdie dressed like this, I think this photo might have been from 1942.  Love that she had her white gloves in her hand!

Bertha Schwartz possibly 1942

This is probably from the same ‘event’ – that’s Abe Gunzendorfer (Loraine’s dad), Gordon Levy (my dad), and Sig Levy (his dad).  This could have been in any number of cities.

Abe_Gunzendorfer Gordon_Levy Sig_Levy 1942

Now who are these lovely ladies?  I do know that’s Loraine on the right and the date was March 12, 1943 but nothing else looks familiar.  But there they are having a laugh in front of a car!

Mar_12_1943 Loraine on right

How about this car?  That’s Loraine driving and since she didn’t go far, this would have to be in Fresno.  I remember having a car like that when I was very little – it makes me wonder if at some point the car was passed down to my parents.


Loraine posing again in the back of their house in Fresno – the photo is dated October 9, 1955.  She looks pretty proud.

Loraine behind Fresno house 10_9_1955

I know nothing about this photo other than that it’s my dad, Gordon Levy.  I don’t know where he is but I’m guessing he’s on vacation somewhere.  And it looks to be the late 1950’s or early 1960’s.  I wish I could see the front of that bag he’s holding but it looks just like the Pan Am bag that was filled with “stuff” that we pulled out of a closet at their home a few years ago. 

Gordon Levy

I’m sure I’ll find more photos with cars and other modes of transportation.  Between that and houses, it seemed like a good back drop for a photo!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Scrapbook #2 – One Proud Dad

One thing I know about my grandfather, Sig Levy, is that he he was so proud of both of his sons.  Oh, I know he was proud of his grandkids, too, but since we were just in our teens when he died, he was never able to know us as adults.

I’ve come to the last page of the scrapbook (with many, many more books to go) and it makes my heart full to see it filled with newspaper articles about Sig’s oldest son, and my uncle, Robert Levy.

Rob and Pat Honeymoon

I’d seen this article from the Fresno Bee Republican, February 21, 1952 on but here it is again glued in Sig’s scrapbook.  It’s always fun to read about weddings and honeymoons!

Rob Research Grant 9_17_1958

I love that Sig, apparently, typed the name and date of the paper – little did he know that it would be important all these years later.

I always thought it was so cool that Rob was a biochemist.  I’m not sure I even completely understand what exactly it is but it seemed so mysterious and important.

Professors Receive Research Aid_Courier Journal Louisville

I know this came from the Louisville Courier Journal but I don’t know the exact date.  I would guess it to be very near the above article so maybe some time in February, 1958.  Thanks to a reader's comments, I've learned that this was published on August 26, 1958 on page 3.

This last article was too large to mount in the scrapbook and difficult to scan so I put it in two parts.  Thankfully, the date and publication was left intact – The Fresno Bee, July 20, 1966.

Rob Fresno Bee_7_20_1966

Boy he looks like my dad here!  And here’s part 2.

Rob Fresno Bee_7_20_1966 Part 2

I’ve run across research that Rob published throughout the years but that will be for a later post.

And that’s the end of Scrapbook #2.  Onward!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Scrapbook #2 – This and That

As we come to the close of the scrapbook (one more page to go), there were several miscellaneous articles and photos of interest.

Sig Levy Bros

I don’t remember the specific office building but the Levy Bros. logo will be etched in my mind for the rest of my life.  I always thought it was cool to have a business with my last name.  This photo of Sig is marked February, 1952 – he looks pretty dapper all dressed up and ready for work.

After the death of his last brother, Ben, on March 4, 1965, Levy Bros. was dissolved and Sig went to the office next door, Pearson Realty, to finish out his career.

Pearson Realty

While the date was not included with the article in the scrapbook, I was able to find it electronically – this is from the Fresno Bee Republican, April 1, 1965.

This article from the Fresno Bee Republican, April 4, 1965, was not included in the scrapbook but I found it interesting and tells a bit more of the story.

Levy Bros firm closes Apr 4 1965 Fresno Bee Republican

The real estate and insurance business was in the family’s blood.  Sig’s oldest brother, Herb, had his son, Herb Jr., follow him into the business.  I don’t know the complete story but I know that at some point, this caused a disagreement between the brothers which, ultimately, led to them parting ways.

I belive this article was from February-March, 1965 – most likely also from The Fresno Bee Republican.

Herb Levy

One last photo really hit home – this photo of Sig’s father, and my great grandfather, Herman Levy.  Years ago I blogged about him HERE and was so pleased to finally determine the identify of the mystery photo I had.  And now I have confirmation again.

Our Dad Herman Levy

I can’t help but think about Sig cutting the photo out in order for it to fit in the scrapbook but I’m sure glad he did!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Scrapbook #2 – Lincoln Beachey

My grandfather, Sig Levy, was quite interested in aviation, which isn’t surprising since he was training to become a Flying Cadet (while sitting on a pillow!) when World War I ended.  From letters he and my grandmother wrote back and forth, I know he got up in the air at least once as Loraine shared her fears (she was a Nervous Nellie until the day she died).  My hunch is that if he did get up in a plane again, he failed to tell Loraine about it so she wouldn’t worry.

As part of Sig’s scrapbook, I wrote about Glenn Martin’s historical flight from Fresno to Madera in 1912.  You can read about it HERE.  And the next pages gives us more of a glimpse into Sig’s fascination with air flight.

Here’s page 2 of the Fiftieth Anniersary of Power Flight that Sig authored.

Fiftieth Anniversary of Power Flight page 2

Then in 1914, to the Fresno Fairgrounds, came another one of the world’s most daring aviators known as Lincoln Beachey.  Mr. Sig Levy of the Fresno Republican became personally well acquainted with Beachey and also promoted a barn-storming show fo him at the Fresno Fairgrounds.  At this show, he demonstrated to the public of Fresno, the first up-side-down flying in the world.  At that time, many Fresno citizens had the thrill of taking short serial hops with Mr. Beachey at the Fairgrounds.  At Mr. Sig Levy’s request, Beachey had planned for the Fresno Republican to shower raisins on Market Street in the line of march of a parade to the San Francisco exhibition grounds, on Fresno County day, at the Panama Pacific World’s exposition in San Francisco.  A few days before the event, Beachey, was unfortunately killed in a borrowed plane in San Francisco Bay and the event of showering raisins had to be cancelled; and the world lost one of its greatest fliers.

[the date of 1914 might be incorrect as the fateful day was actually March 14, 1915]

Of course Sig couldn’t stop there and had to remember the event 50 years later with this newspaper account from the San Francisco Sunday Chronicle, March 14 1965.

A Daredevils Last Flight 3_14_1965

Noteworthy information:

On his last flight, however, he had none of the luck which had protected him in the past.  The wooden spars of the wings of his Taube plane simultaneously buckled and the craft went straight into the Bay with Beachey strapped into his seat.
A mechanic said later that a cracking sound had been heard when the wings were tested with sandbags for strength but that the fabric had not been removed to determine if the wings had been weakened.
And Beachey – idol of his day – seemed to have a premonition that death was due.  “If I get killed in this aviation game,” he had said, “it will be a monoplane that does it.

“I’m afraid of them, but someday I’m going to tame one.  One thing I don’t like about a monoplane is that there is too much strain on outspread wings – they are liable to snap off, and, when th t happens, it’s curtains.”

And another article from unknown newspaper and date.

Death of a Dashing Aviator

…”Beachey already had thrilled the spectators with one successful flight on that fatal day and had gone up from the Marina for a second time jovially predicting even great exploits.

Instead of his customary biplane he was flying a new monoplane.  His mechanic warned him that the monoplane might not be able to stand the gaff because of its different construction.

But Beachey climbed into the little crate, waved gaily to a group of admirers and took off.

Suddenly something went wrong – it’s never been determined just what.  The plane began to plummet from a considerable height and plunged down like a meteor into the Bay between two army transport docks at Fort Mason.

When the wrecked plane was retrieved by grappling irons Beachey still was strapped in his seat.  The machine suffered little damage and Beachey’s body sustained only a few bruises and a couple of broken bones  An autopsy showed he’d drowned.”

And that’s the story (at least to my grandfather, Sig Levy) of Lincoln Beachey (13 March 1887 – 14 March 1915).