When you drive by Lake Front Airport--New Orleans, keep n mind that your Mom flew a Cessna 172 there for the weekend during late summer ‘72. I was proud of the feat, too, because all three runways require flight patterns over Lake Pontchartrain during take offs & landings. Thus, the former Shushan Airport has earned a bad rep because of its history of aircraft accidents & fatalities in that Lake.
My passenger was older student pilot & dear friend Chloe Rochelle.
(You use to call her “Toe” when you were just a little tyke and our family of four lived at 6208 Polly Drive in Texarkana, Texas.)
Later on Saturday evening that weekend, Chloe & I had to make an unexpected flight to the Baton Rouge Metro Airport. The funniest part after we landed was those BTR flight controllers about fell out of the glass-topped tower as we stepped out of the plane.
While the new plane was sporty, orange & black, I think the controllers’ stares and polite “on air” welcomes had more to do with our attire. Beforehand, Chloe & I had dressed in long dresses & heels for an evening on the town as soon as we landed back in New Orleans. So I’m pretty sure it might have brought more curiosity & attention than general pilots normally get.
Coincidentally, the reason for the short roundtrip was to pick up a Texarkana College student pilot who was finishing a summer job in time for fall semester. Although the student had expected to dock in New Orleans, the crew needed him to stay a little longer on the Mississippi River headed back north of the Gulf of Mexico. Thus, at the last minute, college sweetheart Bill Grimes had called on a land line to ask if we could pick him up in Baton Rouge.
Interestingly, Bill’s Uncle Glen of Memphis (now deceased) was a riverboat captain who would help Bill & JB land boat jobs in between semesters. I’d never known anyone like Bill who had worked this unique trade. It was hard to conceive that a young college student would go after a dangerous job that kept him off land and unsocial for days. Yet, Bill liked the fact that the hard physical labor on a riverboat that pushed barges full of freight helped him stay in shape. He didn't mind either that silly girls like me loved to squeeze his arm muscles that bulged out of a colorful array of muscle shirts that Bill wore to school (required wardrobe of school jocks, ha!). Regardless, his riverboat stints were how the boys earned college funds. Surprisingly, it was OK with Carl & Billie. Then again, they may not have realized that Bill wasn't around because the boys seemed to have a lot of free rein.
As I look back, though, I think the whole riverboat thing was evidence of some of the Grimes family’s differences and weirdness. Yet, I have to admit that the summer of '72 was when I fell hard for Bill as I read a continual bevy of hand written letters of love that he wrote and mailed during long periods of voluntary detention. Although Bill may have truly believed it at the time, I’m sure the loneliness and beer drinking as a minor may have spurred on his proclamations of love, too!
1. While it isn’t the international airport, maybe you’ll get a chance to see the cool “Art Deco” terminal at Lake Front Airport built in 1934. I think it had a recent renovation.
2. Lake Pontchartrain is the second-largest inland saltwater body of water in the country. (#1 is the Great Salt Lake that Holland & I drove across a year ago when we were headed West thru Utah.) While Lake P. is 40 miles wide and Louisiana’s largest lake, it’s really an “estuary,” not a real lake. Because of the rivers that are connected to it as well as the ocean.
Aside from the autobiographical history lessons today, I hope you ladies are faring well down in New Orleans. I'm thankful that Marde Gras is over, too, because I'm sure those party people couldn't hold a candle to Katy, Ashley & you, JK! Please tell us what's happening, we want to know.
You're always missed & loved,