After the war — not the War of 1812 — but World War II, my brother Buddy (age 38) and I (age 28) decided to cash in on the Government money being offered to Veterans for schooling of some sort or another. Learning to be a pilot was on the list. Where Bud lived on Del Obispo inSan Juan Capistrano, there were walnut and orange trees that had seen their day, and we envisioned a neat little airport just waiting for small planes to be populating the area.
The reason I was so gung ho about the idea was that this friend of mine, Marjorie inGarden Grove(who’s family had leased land from my Grandfather Don Marcos Forster in the 1800’s) took flying lessons at the Fullerton Air Field during the beginning of the War. (Her brother Donnie, was already a Navy flyer, later lost in the Battleof theCoral Sea.) and from there she became a pilot with the Jacqueline Cochrane’s WAAFs, who delivered all kinds of planes to our Air Force by way ofCanadatoGreat Britain, and other parts of the globe. Now you might know I immediately wanted to follow in her footsteps, and also might know how my Mom and Aunt Mae each put their foot down when I wanted to join the Navy so I could parade around in those to-die-for uniforms. Same scene – A BIG FAT NO!!!
Back to airport: We had 2 local veterans, both in Air Corps, one a Lieutenant Colonel, the other a Major whom we started talking to, and before you could say “start the engines” we became a partnership. Well, we needed some one to teach these hordes of prospective flyers that would be lining up clear out to the landing strip clamoring to become pilots to fly the skies for Pan Am, or even crop dusters.
Buddy had to hustle and get his act together. The trees had to come out, the land had to be cleared and leveled, and I must say that he worked his buns off. I was across the valley living with Aunt Mae, and taking care of her finances at the time since she was bed-ridden — and I would look across the river and see clouds of dust swirling about so I knew Bud and his crew were going full bore. The landing strip was completed, a couple of hangars were built, and finally 6 planes were purchased (they were by no means Lear Jets, or twin-engine prop jobs even — just little puddle jumpers) They were 4-place small planes, consisting of 5 Aeroncas and 1 Luscombe. We were on our way!
There was Frank, a free spirit who had been a flight instructor during the War, and he owned a hot little open cockpit PT trainer. Everyone wanted a little spin in that plane. Frank was allowed to work for himself. We were ready to open the doors, or I should be more exact and say hangar doors; and we could start buzzing around the Capistrano Valley, the back country, and out over the ocean.
Buddy and I raced each other to see which one of us would be the very first licensed pilot of our school. He achieved this distinction. I’d say that was a lot of nerve! He could’ve been a nice guy and let his little sister get hers first. (Maybe he was just unconsciously getting back at me because he had wanted a little brother instead of a little sister) In the meantime, another race started between his wife, Evelyne and me, to win the crown for being the first woman to be licensed. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as the race vs. my bro because I won out over Evelyne quite handily.
My favorite plane to fly out of our “fleet” was the Luscombe because it was built covered with metal sheeting. It just seemed to be put together like it might stay together. The others were held together maybe with a little spit, a little glue perhaps, and canvas-like material.
The landing strip was laid out with entry from the NE, and you would coast in for your landing to the SW, into the prevailing wind, and hope you’d be able to stop on the strip. Now about the landing pattern itself. You would enter from the south side of the strip in NE direction, cruise over the wide San Juan Creek — and you had better be throttling down to make a left up over my Aunt Mae’s beautiful Spanish Mediterranean home high on a hill, then another left above the bridge and back over the Creek for your approach to land. You would be absolutely thrilled to see the landing strip laid out in front of you because then you knew you were on the right track. Don’t forget the brakes.
We had quite a few Vets in the valley and surrounding towns, so we were happy to have a lot of them sign up for the program. There were others besides Vets who wanted to get a license, so business was good. Pretty soon we had friends flying, and we would take off as a group on Sunday mornings which gave us practice for our cross-country requirements. Everyone knew everyone, or were related — Forsters were very prevalent — and we had some great times. Some Sundays we would fly up to Santa Barbara where there was a little airport, we would have breakfast, then return — if we had taken the flight up there by land then our route home would be out over the ocean. We would have other small airports around that we would visit, but the greatest place for our Sunday outing was to Pala where a local garage owner and wife had moved to do some ranching. They had a pretty big spread, an entire rounded hilltop, so there was plenty of space for Mel to scrape out a much larger air field than ours. They would invite our little Sunday group for breakfast at least once a month for such a treat. Flying over those mountains and landing on top of one was breathtaking. The breakfasts we would be served, sometimes Mexican, other times ham & eggs with pancakes. We were living high on the hog, high on that hill.
Bud and Evelyne would bring their youngest child, Charlyne, more commonly known as Sisty even to this day. She was about 5. I never did take my son Gary on a Sunday because he was in the “terrible 2’s” scene at the time — at the age of 3.
More to come on this subject —
This tale was begun in Dec. of 2009, edited in March of 2011, and here on
January 22, 2012 still not really finished — I had to have something in a hurry to meet the deadline for “Mondays….”