Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fear of flyiing

When Gerard was in cub scouts, someone in his troop organized rides in this four-seater airplane above Salt Lake City for twenty minutes.  I'm guessing this is about 1952.  I'm ten and Gerard is nine.  Daddy has lost his World War II emaciated look, and I have lost the baby fat and most of those little black molars in the back of my mouth.

I was excited to be able to come along for the ride, not knowing zip about airplanes and wind currents.  My imagination was not developed enough to ask the important questions:  who is the pilot?  How many solo hours does he have?  How old is he? Whose plane is this?  Who is the mechanic?  I was still in that stage where you think, "Hey, I'm with Daddy.  What could possibly go wrong?"

Taking off was exciting.  There was a rush of speed and then we were above the airport and higher.  It was all there below us in miniature:  the Great Salt Lake, and the city, at a time when the temple was still a significant presence downtown even from a great distance.

An airplane in the air, I learned, loses its sense of speed.  It's a bit of a float boat.  I chortled, "It's like being in a car in the sky!"  A parked car.  Such optimism.  A car in the sky.  Who freaking wants to be in a car in the sky?  Think, Louise, think.

Very little anxiety at first.  I could do this.  Gerard could do it, and we were the most nervous children on the planet.  Daddy sat in the co-pilot's seat.  Gerard and I sat in the back.

Out of nowhere three slim fighter jets in a narrow triangle flew around us and left us in their terrible wake.  Our little plane wobbled like a Matchbox car running down a mountain ravine,  up and down, back and forth, wings tipping up and back in the most sickening, fall-out-of-the-sky way.  My body tightened in overwhelming terror.  I did not call out, nor did Gerard.  In our family, we mask our terror with smiles, cold sores and stomach aches.  Was Daddy scared?

Mr. Pilot Guy told us not to worry--just some air currents.  Mr. Silly Putty Smooth Pilot Guy.

Shut up Pilot Guy!  Shut up your pie hole, and get us down to earth, back to our 1938 Chevy, back to Mother and the babies.  How many more minutes until this is over?  How many?

Obviously, the photograph was taken before we left the ground.  I think it was taken with my Kodak Brownie.

My imagination kicked in soon after this adventure and for years, I told my friends that my father owned a plane and was a pilot.  I had a photo to prove it.


  1. Such a memory! LOVE the photo. Love your bobby sox, too.

  2. Back in the day when your 14 year old car was still going strong. Or was it?
    "I did not call out, nor did Gerard." Really took me there.
    That picture would have been temptation for me to say similar things.
    Thank you for this series. Thank you to the parents of you, Louise.

  3. I laughed 'shut up your pie hole" and am still laughing. Black molars?

    1. Rotten teeth from a poor diet ala World War II.

  4. I find myself reading and rereading all of your stories. I love them so much. I am finding this one particularly funny today ("Shut up Pilot Guy! Shut up your pie hole"). So funny. Thanks for sharing.