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Monday, December 14, 2009

U.S. Navy warships and the hydroplanes were assembling for the attempt to fly across the Atlantic

Thursday May 08, 1919.


Headlines:-The Flotilla of U.S. Navy warships and the hydroplanes were assembling for the attempt to fly across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Europe.
Read All About It - Read the Complete Story here



All over town that day, the subject of conversation revolved around the news coming from Trepassey. The Flotilla of U.S. Navy warships and the hydroplanes were assembling for the attempt to fly across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Europe. The newspapers were filled with reports of their progress. Another popular source of information came from monitoring the radio transmissions from the ships and aircraft involved in these operations.
It was Thursday and Ike had to deliver the pay packets to the shops at the dockyard located on the east side of the bridge to the south-side. Walking through the alleys connecting the buildings and railway dock shops, Ike came across one of his friends, Bobby Johnson, who also was a railway employee. "Hi Bob, what's up?" said Ike.
"Lot's, Ike! Have you been following all the excitement around these flying teams who want to be the first to cross the ocean by air?" said Bobby enthusiastically.

"For sure, I get to deliver telegram messages to their airdromes and hotels and my boss Mr. Wells said that there is going to be a whole lot more of these messages to deliver before this is over." said Ike.

"Did you know that there is big excitement going on right now in Trepassey? Nine U.S. warships and two seaplanes are on the way and expected to arrive very soon. There was supposed to be a third one too but, It broke down on the way" said Bobby.

"How do you know all this? There is nothing coming over the telegraph wires about this" replied Ike inquisitively.

"Oh shit man, telegraph wires is tres passe, get with it, don't you know that radio is the thing of the future, when it comes to finding out what's gong on. All the guys got themselves crystal radio sets (1). I got one myself and it's a lot of fun to listen in on the voice transmissions coming from the all the foreign ships and the like. That's how I knows what's going on out at Trepassey" said Bobby with a tone of superiority in his voice.

"Let's take the train down the Southern Shore to Trepassey this weekend. We could take the train Saturday morning, check out the scene with the yaks and take the afternoon train back to town Sunday. Maybe we could get in a little bit of fishing too." proposed Ike.

"Sure! Count me in who else is going?"

"You're the first one I asked. Ask around and see who else wants to join us. I am going to ask Dick Neugent from the express office."

"What do you think we need to take along with us? Do we need to bring food?"

"Bring a lunch and some fishing gear; there are a couple of nice ponds up near Capahaden. We could catch the early train on Sunday, jump off on a long grade, put in 4 to 5 hours at a pond and jump the late freight and be back home before seven Sunday evening."

Ike, Dick Neugent, Bob Johnson, and Toe Burn met early Saturday morning at the train station. just as the conductor called "ALL ABOARD." The four were in no hurry to board and all at once the the train began to move with a lurch, slowly at first. Then with a shunt shunt shunt shunt sound from the locomotive, the speed increased and the boys carrying their fishing baskets rods and hip waders, broke off their conversation and made a run for the second to last car of the five car train. One by one they grabbed for the hand rail and swung aboard, with Toe bring up the rear, like regular railway pros.

The trip consisted of lots of smoking and riding the brakes, as the train snaked around long curves. With flankers flying, she works her way across the steeply undulating coast line on her way up the French Shore to Trepassey. Ike and Bobby are standing on a small railed platform at the back of the last car, watching the scenery roll by and the rails recede into a point on the horizon. They are finding that it is hard to pursue conversation with the clickity, click clikity, click rhythmic sound of the coaches wheels as they roll over the small expansion gaps separating the sections of steel rails.

"Tell me sometime about how the crystal radios work. I like the idea of knowing what's going on."

"OK I can tell you all I know when we go inside." Bobby almost shouts, to make himself heard over the background noise. The country side is quite rugged with occasional steep cuts through the rock faces and high drop-offs on one side or the other all to allow for a manageable grade, that the locomotives can climb though not always without difficulty. The narrow gauge road bed, which is common to all tracks on the island is especially suited for mountainous terrain, the most prevalent conditions across most of Newfoundland. Stunted spruce and fir trees cling to the sparse topsoil by their shallow roots. Green scrub is often marred by blackened areas burnt by forest fires started by flying flankers from the engine's smoke stack and fire box. Many of these areas seem to have originated close to or at the sleepers (as the locals called the ties) which supported the rails of the track. "Oh shit, let's get out of here and go inside. I just got a piece of soot in the eye" cried Ike.

Once back inside the relative quiet of the day coach, Ike turned to Bob and said. "Getting back to Crystal sets. How do they work and what do you need to get started?"

"One thing at a time Ike. Let me start by saying that radio is the new and coming thing and pretty soon there will be stations all over the world broadcasting news and information on every subject that you can imagine. There are basically two types of apparatus, a transmitter to send signals and a receiver to listen to the transmissions. I don't know much about transmitters, but then I don't have to because all that I am interested in is listening into transmissions, sort of snooping in on other peoples broadcasts you might say. Receivers, well that's another matter. You can't buy one, unless you're a millionaire or some thing but you can build your own. The only thing that is way pricey are the headsets but, if your not too fussy, you can get them cheap at the war surplus store for a couple of shillings, or if you can't spring that kind of money I have one with the right ear phone broken that you can have for next to nothing."

"That would be great Bob, I'll take em off your hands. What else do I need?"

"You need a Cat Tail"

"A what? Why do I need one of those?"

"It's not what you think It's a length of very fine stiff wire for probing around the crystal for a signal. They call that thing a Cat's Tail"

"Oh! is dat right"

"Yes! and that reminds me you got to get a Glena pirite crystal and make your self up a tuning coil with some fine shellacked wire and broom handle or paper cylinder, a few other odds and sods plus a hundred feet or so of 18 gauge wire that you can bum at the electrical shop down at the dock yards and your in business. I'll even come over to your place and help you set it up. Just to change the subject for a minute. Ye know something Ike, after listening into the transmissions the other night from the USS Aroostook and the Chicago, these Yanks mean business, never mind the Brits, the Americans are going to be the first to cross the Atlantic by air, you mark my words, and when it happens, which will be any day now, remember where you heard it first."

"That's bullshit Bob! from what I hear around town , Hawker and Greves are the favorites and the Martinside crew are not that far behind."

"Do you want to bet? I say the Americans will be striking out any day now and then it will be all over" said Bob.

Finally after 3 hours of chugging up hill and coasting down dale, the express rolls into Trepassey, a little coastal community where the main livelihood is derived from the inshore fishery. This is the end of the line and everyone has to pile off the train. The sun is high in the sky and there are only a few scattered clouds on the horizon, but the wind is blowing at 25 to 30 knots as it does most of the time.

The waterfront is cluttered with an assortment of flimsy wooden wharfs, flakes and store houses. The wharfs are lined with dozens of white and green fishing boats. Out on the bay laying at anchor are several large steam ships, cruisers and destroyers painted in that unmistakable grey color of the U.S. Navy. "Let's take a walk down to the wharfs and see if we can find some one to take us out in the bay for a closer look and see if there are any of those crazy looking Hydroplanes" said Toe who was standing nearby on the platform with Dick chatting up four of the local girls who had come to the station to meet the train.

"My Brother has trap skiff and he can take all of us out in the bay for a closer look at what's going on out thar" Said one of the girls.

"That's a great idea. Will it cost us much money?" said Bob.

"Na, he only wants supen fer de gas dats all. Any way he's me brudder an he always like taken me an me friends fer a ride in his skiff."

The boys and girls stroll towards the shore in a bunch, taking the short cut through the small railway yard, which consisted only of a couple of sidings and a "Y" arrangement of tracks, used for turning whole trains for the return trip to St. John's because Trepassey is the end of the branch line. The sidings were occupied by an assortment of rolling stock but next to the buffer at the end of the far siding, was a dining car with a strange sign painted next to the Reid Railway Logo. The sign simply read "NANCY -5". "That's no ordinary dining car." Dick remarked in a puzzling tone.

"No, that's a special car belonging to the Reids, for taking trips over the island, fer dem and der rich important friends. I heard talk of it over de radio that it is being hired out to the press das hear to report on the air race, de same guys das been hanging around the Cochrane Hotel wit dem airmen" replied Bob.

"I seen dat car lots a times but it didn't have NANCY -5 wrote all over it" remarked Ike.

"Yar right Ike! Das just a joke by dos furen news men, caus de hydroplanes are all NC's: N.C. one, N.C. three and N.C. four. De "N" stands fer Navy and de "C" stands fer Curtiss, The Glen Curtiss Company, dos are de ones who made em fer the Navy. I listened to a broadcast from New York de odder night on the radio and they talked all about it."

"The U.S. Navy contracted with Curtiss to build a Hydro Avion to bomb the Kiaser's submarines from the air. It was built with the hull like a Dutch Wooden Shoe and held the tail in place with bamboo poles and wire rather than have a long hull so the tail gunner would have a good shot to the rear without fear of shooting off the aft hull and tail" Said Bob.

"Come on you guys let's go down to the stages and find my brudder. I wants to see if he will take us out on the bay and get a closer look at all of dem ships, cause der full with thousands a sailors and I must say dat I loves it when they makes those funny whistles at us girls"

The walk to the shore was only a couple of hundred yards. The shore line was paralleled by a narrow roadway set back a hundred feet or so from high water line. On the ocean side were the stages and fish flakes owned and used by the fishermen for landing their cod fish and curing their catch into the dry salt fish which was the main product of all Newfoundland Outport Settlements of which Trapassey was only one of thousands scattered about the coastline of the Island.

They quickly arrived at the wharf where the brother's boat was tied up. "Hay Kevin! Wares ya at? cried one of the girls.

"In here , splitten the last a me fish" came the answer from within a small room near the end of the warf.

"Can ya take me and me friends out in the bay when yar dun splitten yar fish?"

"Sure, I bin on the go since 5 dis marn and I wouldn't mind haven a look me self at the goings on out der me self, I'l just be a minute. I just have ta wash the blood an guts off me hands first." replied Kevin. A couple of minutes later they were climbing down the makeshift ladder attached to the wharf to the white trap skiff with it's single cylinder make and break engine partially housed in a enclosure located approximately at midship. Everyone took their place some in the bow and the rest at the stern, while Kevin removed the forward cover of the box-like engine cover, exposing the large heavy flywheel at the forward facing end of the weather beaten Acadia engine. "Untie the bow line and cast off a stern." shouted Kevin to his passengers, then with a flip of a switch and a clockwise flip of the massive flywheel against the engine's compression, the old engine sprang into life running in the opposite direction. Then the tiny craft pulled away from the wharf with a Putt-putt-putt exhaust note from the vertical back iron rusted exhaust stack sticking up from the right side of the engine cove. Kevin's boat started out into the harbor and took a heading for the cluster of warships anchored in the middle of the bay. "I'm going forward, the smell of that exhaust is making me sick" said Bobby. As they were approaching the ships, Bobby who was looking forward, suddenly let out a cry. "Look, up a head beyond to the right of those ships. There is a hydro-avion about to land on the bay"


The straight-in approach of NC-1 with her brilliant yellow wings glistening in the afternoon sunshine was magnificent. The big biplane with it's yellow box kite like tail trimmed with vertical red white and blue bars presented an amazing sight as she floated in for a perfect touchdown on the calm water of the Bay. Just at the instant the hull met the water a fine white spray was emitted from the keel, spreading towards the tail and disappearing as the strange craft quickly slowed and settled into the water like a giant kite carrying boat. The engines roared as the revs increased and the NC-1 turned towards the ships and the trap-skiff. She taxied by the skiff barely a hundred feet away with her four giant liberty engines roaring away, as she ploughed through her large bow wave, trailing an impressive wake astern. She taxied up to the destroyer Aroostook stern, cut the engines to idle and stopped. While still bobbing up and down from the effect of her own wake, lines were thrown to crew men in the bow and the NC-1 was secured to the destroyer.

The skiff hung around the Aroostook for another half hour as the aircraft's crew climbed aboard and the mechanics serviced the engines and blocked the control surfaces so they would not be damaged by sudden wind gusts, which were always possible in this environment. The sailors finally stopped whistling at the girls, who themselves never seem to grow tired of acknowledging their attention with a wave or an air kiss. During the boat ride back to the wharf Bobby related to Ike how he had learned through listening to radio transmissions with his crystal set that Towers had formally assumed command of NC Seaplane Division One. His orders had been signed signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, acting Secretary of the Navy. Towers had chosen NC-3 as his flagship and then made the crew assignments. Richardson was to be chief pilot of the NC-3. Naval Aviation pioneers Patrick N. L. Bellinger and Albert C. Read were detailed to the NC-l and NC-4 respectively. Walter Hinton was to be one of the pilots of the NC-4.

LCdr. Richard E. Byrd was ordered to go aboard the NC-3 with Towers, but to proceed only as far as Newfoundland. The Navy was banking on succeeding with this mission. In case the NC's couldn't complete the crossing, there was an extra card up his sleeve The long-range airship C-5 was to be flown to Newfoundland to make it's own bid for a successful crossing, and it was Byrd's assignment to work on the navigation plan for the NC's and make arrangements for the C-5 in Newfoundland. The flying boat the boys had seen land earlier in the day was probably NC-1. The Flag Ship NC-3 didn't arrive until several hours later around 7:00pm while the boys were having their evening meal at widow Le fever's house.

The boys had heard about the great meals she served in her kitchen for only 10 cents a plate. Every one who visited Trepassey ate there and she was famous with railway workers who especially loved her Jigs boiled dinner complete with corned beef, cabbage, dumplings, and peas pudding which she happened to be serving tonight. "De ya wants some Figgy Duff ana cupa tea when yer finished eaten yer supper boys?" she asked, as though she all ready knew the answer. "Yes Misses!" the four answered all together.


After they had finally finished eating, they thanked Nelly for the wonderful meal and slowly walked back towards the station. Looking out over the bay they could clearly see the Navy ships. "That must be the Aroostook, remember she is the command ship, that's where Towers and the members of his flying flotilla's crews will be staying while they are preparing for their Atlantic crossing. Do you see that yellow contraption moored near her? Thats N.C. 1." said Bob.

Back at the station, Toe met up with one of his friends who was working as a chef in the Reid's dining car (NC-5). Toe who was always working the angles found out that NC-3 had arrived an hour ago while the boys were at supper and that there is going to be a press conference at 8:00 in the dining car with free drinks for all. After a lot of cajoling, Toe managed to wangle a invite for himself and the boys to the conference. They were so excited about their good fortune that it showed all over their faces as they entered the dining car a couple of minutes before 8:00.

They were welcomed by Byrd himself who gave the opening address, where he briefly described the flight from Halifax, describing it as smooth and picture perfect and how splendid a view that they had of the magnificent ice bergs as they approached the Newfoundland coast. Citing fatigue from his journey, he announced that he was turning the conference over to NC-1's Technical Officer Chief, Machinist Mate C.I. Kesler, who would be taking questions from the press about the crossing attempt. After fielding questions the press for almost three quarters of an hour Kesler, summed up by saying that the biggest challenge was to control engine temperature by keeping the radiators from clogging and overheating. "With these big engines, if you can keep them cool and well lubricated they will theoretically run forever." he concluded and was warmly applauded by his audience.

The drinks and banter was well under way when the boys finally decided that they had enough; mainly since they all agreed that they found the questions and conversation of the press a little silly at times. Lacking of any real understanding of aeronautical science, as Bobby had put it... Questions like...what do you think about when you are up there?...How do you manage doing your business on these very long flights? and the most common brainless question...How high do you fly?

"What did you think of that Guys?" Asked Bobby as they exited the dining car.

"Well if you ask me, if it wasn't for the beer, I'd say it was a total waste of time." responded Toe, who was always the clown and the least interested of the four.

"I thought it was interesting except for some of the dumb news men's questions, that is." commented Ike.

"By the way where are we going to spend the night? Has anyone thought about that?"

"Didn't I tell you I got permission from Joe Cleary, one of the section men, who said we could stay the night in his shack because he is on days leave."

Catching the morning train back to the city at 8:00 AM everyone was tired and a little hungover because, they had stayed up late telling jokes and chatting half the night. "Are we jumping off at Capahaden for some fishing?" demanded Toe. You could by tone of his voice that he wasn't too enthusiastic about the idea.

"Let's go on to Bay Bulls Big Pond and jump off there. That way if we miss the late freight we can still walk home from there if we have to." suggested Ike. The idea was very attractive to all; it meant that they could all sit back and dose for another couple of hours before they would have to vacate their comfortable seats in the coach.

Gathering up their belongings two hours later, the group easily disembarked the train as she chugged up the steep grade coming out of Bay Bulls settlement. They donned their hip waders and fishing gear as they sat on the still warm shiny rails. The lads got ready to set off, to walk to a nearby pond that was well known place to fill your basket in record time with speckled mud trout which are the favorite pan size eating treat. Three hours later, their baskets were full to overflowing with a fine catch of mud trout mixed with a German Brown here and there. They had chosen a gravel pit at the side of the right of way for their boil up. After a filling meal of delicious pink flesh mud trout and a mug of tea, they were just putting out the fire when Dick shouted. "I hear the freight and the engine is about to pass us by. Come on let's go." They all scrambled to gather up their gear. The gravel pit had drowned out the noise of the train as she negotiated the grade at what seemed like a faster than anticipated speed. Exiting the mouth of gravel pit, it was immediately apparent why the freight was eating up the tracks...She was only five cars long, less than half the length of the usual freight. Ike was the last to get underway; he couldn't leave the still smoldering fire without scraping some gravel with his foot over the still live embers. The last car was just passing as he scrambled up the bank to the road bed, clutching his precious basket in his right hand with the rest of his belongings flying in the wind. He raced past the caboose on his race to the freight car. The one with the door left intentionally open so that the boys to scramble aboard for the trip back to town. With his three friends standing in the open door urging him on, he let fly with his basket as he drew up to the open door, but his heart sank to his boots, as he miscalculated and the basket slammed up against the edge of the doorway spilling it's contents. As Ike stumbled over them, he quickened the pace towards that still illusive open door. Urged on by his friends, running flat out, he slowly drew up to the open doorway. "Gimme yer pole and lunch can and grab Toe's hand" yelled Bobby. Clutching the out stretched hand and with all his mite, Ike threw himself head long throught the doorway, unto the box car's floor. He breathed a sigh of relief laying there with his feet and legs still hanging over the edge. He thought to himself, I made it aboard the train ... now I can forget the thoughts of having to make that long walk home alone.

The boys continued following with keen interest, all the developments and events associated with the Great Race for the Atlantic that unfolded over the remaining months of that memorable year. Using their crystal radios, they were there among the first to learn of the successes of the U.S. Navy's Atlantic expedition. History recorded that on May 31 1919 N.C. 4 completed the last hop of the crossing, when it landed at Plymouth England. Thus completing the first Atlantic crossing by air. Many came after, but only Albert C. Read and the crew of NANCY 4, would ever be the first.
Take a trip into the past, and view this:

See a modern Replica of Glenn Curtis's America Fly

(1) Every one had a crystal radio set; this was particularly true of the young people. They offered a inexpensive alternative to conventional radios that cost hundreds of dollars. The crystal radios could be adjusted to receive any radio frequency by simply moving a very thin wire known as a Cat Tail over the surface of the crystal and making fine station adjustments with a single slide wire coil. The apparatus was capable of monitoring radio station voice broadcasts and radio telephone transmissions.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ike Visits The Raymor Crew in Pleasantville


April 17 1919 
Headlines:-

The Martinsyde Aeroplane, RAYMOR Makes Successful Trial Flight from Airfield at Pleasantville.   


Today Ike had the excuse he had been waiting for; he had been just given a telegram by the dispatcher addressed to the Martinsyde crew chief.
"Eric you are going to like this. here is a message for you to deliver to the guy in charge of those fliers set up at the Ross's field down in Pleasantville. The message mentions that they are going to attempt a test flight sometime today."


When Ike arrived he took a quick look around. The craft was being worked on by a crew of 3 mechanics. Ike immediately recognized them as the two that he and Dick were talking with at the dock just a couple of days ago. There were two others who were looking on and supervising the proceedings. Ike notices that the one is wearing the bolder hat is the same one he saw at the dock as the one with the wooden leg, he looks more like a banker than a flyer.
“I am looking for a Mr. Raynham” Ike asked of the two supervisors.
"That would be me." said the older looking one.
“I got a telegram for you sir” said Ike in his east end Irish Catholic accent.
"Thank you son!" said the aviator.
"Do you mind if I stay a little while and watch sir?"
"No! not at all." Morgan and Raynham answered.
"Are you interested in aeroplanes?" Said Morgan.
Oh yes sir, I am very interested in the race for the Atlantic, I have been following all the developments since the flyers started arriving." Said Ike. "My job takes me to the airfields delivering telegrams and packages to the crews ~~ I saw Hawker making a test flight, just the other day."
"Thats very interesting; by the way what's your name son? It's Eric sir, Eric Crocker.
"My name is Charles Morgan, but everyone around here calls me Fax; I am the navigator and my partner here is Fred Raynham, he is our pilot."


Ike hands over the envelope containing the telegram to Fred.
"Listen to this Fax. Said Fred, slapping the paper with the back of his hand, so as to give emphasis to what he was about to say.  Old Vice Admiral Kerr will be here in a couple of weeks with his monstrosity of an aircraft. I'd give anything to be the one who takes the prize away from him; what does he know about flying ~~ he certainly didnt come up the hard way, like the rest of us.
I can just imagine that he will soon have the whole Island working for his team   said Fax. reaching to take the telegram from Freds hand. I heard talk about this Kerr when I signed on at Martinsyde, they said that he was a real operator.
 "We know from what we just heard from Eric; that Hawker is already doing test flights."
"We had better get moving or we will loose our time advantage."
"Eric how can we find you if we need to?" said Fax.
"Just phone the Reid railway station sir, number 196; everyone there knows me there, I'll get the message, in no time."
"Have they finished installing those new set of spark plugs?"
"Let's ask Sam." said Fred, spinning around on one heel and starting for the mechanic working on the engine. "Sam how are you blokes doing? Is she ready to take up for a spin?"
 "Yes sir, everything is ready there is enough fuel in the tanks for a 3 hour flight and the radiator has been topped."


Ike stayed around for a while as they prepared the Martinsyde for it's first test flight since arriving in Newfoundland. The Martinsyde was smaller, faster and more nimble in appearance than Hawker's Sopwith. She was a little 2 bay strutted biplane with a single in-line water cooled Rolls Rice Falcon engine mounted in the nose. She had bright yellow wings and brilliant red fuselage and tail; with the word "RAYMOR" painted on the side of the fuselage. Ike looked at the lettering and thought to himself: I bet that marking is a made-up word using the first three letters of the aircrew's names, Raynham and Morgan.


Ike marveled at the way 2 mechanics linked wrists together, while the one nearest the aircraft catching hold of the wooden propeller with his free hand. At the signal "switch off contact" they together, swing the propeller through half a revolution a couple of times, to prime the cylinders with fuel. Then on the signal "switch-on contact", the mechanics once again, swing the propeller and with a cloud of black smoke the huge engine sputtered into life. Then began to run smoothly as she was swung around and headed to the down wind end of the field assisted by the three mechanics positioned at each wing tip and one at the rear guiding her along over the rough ground.


The craft slowly proceeded to the far end of the north field where she was turned southward towards the roadway lying closer to the water the road is flatter and affords the best chance for a clean take-off into the light westerly wind.


Ike heard the engine begin to rev and warm up. The with a mighty roar the craft slowly gathered speed heading right at the spot where he stood.  He stood in aah as the Martinsyde appeared to become light on her undercarriage. Then bounced a couple of times on the rough ground and all at once Ike realized she was in the air, and climbing quickly as she passed directly over his head.


She presented a magnificent site with her yellow wings and brilliant red fuselage she continued her climb now following the Rennies River valley. As he peddled his bicycle back to the Railway Office he could from time to time hear the drone of the engine as the Martinsyde gracefully circled overhead. At that moment he thought of how exciting his life had become, and vowed to himself to follow this historical aviation event as closely as his job obligations would permit.   



Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ike Meets Hawker and Grieve at Mount Pearl

Thursday April 10 1919

Headlines:- The Sopwith aeroplane Atlantic, Pilot HAWKER and Navigator GRIEVE, makes a successful air - flight from
the Glendeanings farm at Mount Pearl.

Ike wishes that Ed Voisey would lend him one of his horse and carriages to make these long deliveries more pleasant.  He'd set out almost a hour ago on this delivery and it had been up hill almost all of the way.  He had chosen what he thought was the easiest bicycle ride but even so, he was sweating like a pig from the hard peddling. The day was most unusual for this time of the year. It must be 80 degrees he thought. With his red hair and light complexion Ike couldn't stand the heat and he simply hated being in the direct sun; he'd much prefer the normal cool misty weather, the kind that prevailed in early April, when the sealing fleet came home from the hunt and the pack ice clogging the bays and harbors.

His route had taken him up Water street to the Cross Roads, up the Pawk's Hill, and past the fork in Topsail road  where Pawk's Hill divides into two separate paths.  He passed the Jaw Bone Gate which was the entrance to the home one of his bosses, Mr. R. G. Reid who lived at The Avalon House estate.  He had cycled by where Topsail Road met the highway; up the long grade he continued until he got to the Brookfield road. Taking the Brookfield road, he cycled past the woods where he and his friends set snares; hoping to catch a few wild rabbits for some fresh meat for his widowed mother and his three sisters. Ike loved his mother's rabbit pie, made from the rabbits he brought home. He could almost taste the dark gamy meat smothered with gravy and topped with pastry that she made from her famous tea biscuit dough.

He decided to pass on the rabbit runs until after he finished delivering this message that was addressed simply to "Michael H Fenn Chief Mechanic Sopwith Atlantic Team." Pushing past the tall line of red and white painted "Marconi Poles" he finally arrived at the  Glendennings Farm, where The Hawker and Grieve team had set up their flying field.

Riding down the lane Ike did a quick assessment of the site. It was a normal farm yard with barns and milking parlors and beyond the buildings he saw a couple of tents and some makeshift shelters constructed from the giant wooden crates used to transport the Sopwith on her long sea journey from the British Isles.

The Aircraft herself, was standing near by with her tail propped up an a makeshift dolly contraption with two primitive wheels that looked as though they had been removed from some hay wagon. Standing around her were a dozen or so mechanics, airframe fitters and two men who appeared to be the aircrew. "What do you want son?" Shouted one of the airmen. I have a telegraph (8) message addressed to Michael H Fenn" replied Ike! "Over here replied one of the technicians half looking over his shoulder.  He was dressed in work coveralls with the words "Sopwith Atlantic Team" stenciled on the back. 

Reaching with his left hand for the message, while the right was still inserted inside the engine cowl, he read Open Immediately!  "Looks important! Can you open it for me? My hands are all full of oil."  Ike took the envelope back and tore open the flap with his thumb. Holding the single sheet message open for Mike to read. "Mmmmm Bloody hell!  Just listen to this Harry. Headquarters have done some calculations and they say for any chance of success we will have to jettison the under carriage shortly after take-off."


"Do you mean they want us to drop everything like we did in that experiment back in Brooklands? Just for emergencies they said~~ I thought that was to be practiced only to give us the best chance of a successful ditching at sea." answered Harry in an angry tone. "What am I supposed to do if we have a problem shortly after jettisoning the under carriage with close to 300 gallons of fuel on-board?  I have to send them a message right away." He started to storm away, consumed by his obvious frustration. "I need confirmation that they are advising dropping the gear immediately after takeoff, or waiting  for a emergency conditions over water.  I understood that this aircraft in normal configuration had more than enough range to compete this crossing,"


"Are we going to do this test flight today Harry? said Mike, wiping the grease from his hands with the oiler's rag he had pulled from his back pocket.  "I have finished  replacing this magneto and she is all set to go. That is if you are ready to sign her out?"


" Right-o! Come on Grieves lets do our walk round check before I pass out from the heat; hope it's cooler upstairs."

The aircrew started their walk around inspection, checking the control surfaces for free movement, that the gust locks had been removed, noting that the life boat positioned on the turtle deck was firmly attached, checking the propeller was free of cracks and erosion damage, that the engine cowling was properly latched and so on.

When they were satisfied that everything was in order the crew buttoned up the flaps of their flying suits and climbed into their cockpits. Within a few minutes they had the big 12 cylinder Eagle running smoothly and ready for flight.

Mike inquired if Ike knew of anyplace where his men could take a swim to cool down; they had been working hard all day in the direct sun and some of them were near exhaustion including himself.

"Sure I knows just the place and it's not far away-near the place where the train tracks crosses the road coming down from the highway." enthused Ike, who himself could do with some cooling off just now. "They calls it The Twin Falls and it's a perfect place for a swim on a day like this."


"This is only going to be a short half hour flight. Do you mind hanging around for a while, then you could show us where this swimming place is located?"


"Sure!" said Ike, who'd been waiting for an excuse to cool off himself.  Also, there was nothing he'd rather do than spend more time watching the Sopwith take to the sky and ask the young mechanics about aircraft.

He stood in amazement as the Sopwith taxied to the far end of the field and spun around into the wind, with the aid of a burst of power and the crew men positioned at each lower wing tip. Then, with a sudden burst of power the craft slowly gathered speed as she bounced and skipped over the rough ground.  Looming close to where he stood, she made one final bounce, then majestically she rose into the air and climbed out steadily until she was a tiny speck in the blue cloudless sky.

While he waited around Ike, struck up a conversation with a group of Sopwith men.  He was full of questions:  how they got their training to work with aircraft, where they lived, was Hawker a good airman, where was he from, how come he talked so differently than the rest of them and so on. He learned that that most of them got their training in the war with the British Air Service. That Hawker was the very best, the highest paid pilot in the world at this moment. That he hailed from Australia where he started as a bicycle mechanic. That as well as being a talented and fearless pilot, he loved motor racing and he owned his own fleet of expensive racing cars.  That he wasn't married and was still only 31 years old.  Finally Ike asked how the trials were proceeding and learned they were experiencing a little problem with the cooling system and they were still experimenting in order to find the cause and solution.

Ike's mind flashed back to what he had heard at the press conference in Trepassey from the chief mechanic for the Nancy's Expedition~~why does it always come down to overheating~~what is it with these big in-line engines?


Before he realized it, the half hour flight was drawing to a close and the Sopwith was preparing to land.  The aircraft was making a straight in approach on the same heading that she used on the takeoff.  She settled to the ground serenely, touching down no more than 100 feet from the fence and coasting to a stop 150 feet from the buildings.  After a short debriefing session with the  aircrew, Mike approached Ike saying. "Son are you ready to show us where this swimming place is now? We can take the Lorry over there."
"Ready any time you are" replied Ike.


Ike cimbed into the cab of the truck and sat next to Mike who drove. The rest of the workers scrambled into the back. Motoring along, dust rose up from the gravel road through gaping holes in the floorboards and settled everywhere, covering the occupants and interior alike.  They rattled on until they came to a place where the railway tracks intersected the road. "This is it. Stop here!"  Ike bellowed over the roar of the engine and the rumbling and rattling of the body.


Parking near the tracks in an open grassy area they piled out.  Looking around they noticed a scattering of summer homes, a tennis court and pavilion. "This looks interesting." remarked one of the mechanics as he jumped down from back cargo platform.  Ike took the lead as they ambled down a narrow footpath which took them to a wooded area, stretching parallel to the railway.  Another five minutes walk through the woods and they arrived at a 20 foot drop leading down to a 30 foot wide pool in the river.  The pool was fed by 2 streams of water, cascading down from notches in the cliff wall.  Between the twin falls was a ledge  where the young people could dive or cannon ball into the pool below.

There were few swimmers there that day, because it was early in the season and school was in session.  Not to mention that the water was very, very cold.  Only the bravest decided to take the plunge; the rest sat around the pool with their feet immersed in the water. "No one knows how deep this pool is. We all try to reach the bottom but no one can go that far down, without drowning." exclaimed Ike in a voice that echoed with pride. "Nonsense!  I'll show you the bottom." proclaimed one of the young Sopwith men as he plunged headlong into the black water from the ledge.  Fully three minutes later the diver surfaced again, all red faced and gasping for breath.


"Show us the bottom Caleb?" shouted Mike in a sarcastic tone.


"Red was right. There is no bottom" Caleb answered, when he had finally finished the spitting and sputtering.

As they lay on the rocks drying in the hot sun the group lit up and had a smoke. "You'll never enjoy a fag as much as the one ya have after a swim at the Twin Falls" exclaimed Ike as he offered a Flag from  his ten pack to Caleb who was sitting next to him.
  

When they arrived back at the farm Harry Hawker passed Ike a hand written message for transmission to Sopwith's in Brooklands demanding confirmation of the need to drop the landing gear.
"Red! I want you to send this message by Priority Telegraph as soon as you get back to your office." said Harry Hawker, as he walked quickly towards the truck and handed the folded paper to Ike "I have to find out if they mean what they said, in their last message~~this is very urgent, please have it sent tonight."


"Yes Sir! Leave it to me."   Ike placed the note in his leather pouch, quickly picked up his bicycle which was propped up against one of the empty crates, and was off on his way down lane way, in a flash, after performing one of his famous flying mounts.

As he approached the woods on Brookfield road, Ike decided that since the trip home is going to be fast, he can spare a few minutes to check on his traps and is elated when he  finds a brace of rabbits in his snares, but appalled to find a skeleton in a trap that was set by a negligent trapper who, after setting his traps, never bothered to returned.  Such a waste thought Ike, who himself believed that killing of animals could only be justified by necessity. He hated having to kill animals and now that he was the man of the house he was called upon on too many occasions by relatives and neighbours to drown their litters of newly born kittens of which there seemed to be far too many lately.


Coasting down Waterford Bridge road with his prize slung over the handle bars he was glad that the trip back to the office wasn't anything like the long uphill struggle he had to make earlier in the day.  It had been a long day and he was beginning to grow weary.  Only one more thing to do before he was finished for the day.


He parked his bike at the railway station building.  Clutching the precious furry bundle which he knew  there was little chance would still be on his bike when he returned, he mounted the stairs two at a time, to the telegraph (8) office.  Pushing open the swinging door, he exclaimed.  "Got something from the Hawker team that needs immediate attention."


Looking up through his green visor, Micky Flinn the only employee still on duty answered. "We do telegraphy here not, taxidermy.  Don't you remember!~~ Where the hell have you been anyway? The boss bin looking for you all day."


"I'm not talking about them." said Ike, pointing to his rabbits. "That's me supper~~I have an urgent message written by Harry Hawker himself that needs to go out right away."  as he opened his pouch, and handed the hand written message to Micky. 


"I'll get right on it~~ Sir!" quipped Micky
. 
With that Ike was out the door and down over the stairs and free at last, to drag his tired body and his trusty bike up the steep grade to his home at  28 Barter's Hill.

 (8)- Later that same year, the colonial government persuaded Reid's company to take over operation of the bankrupt Newfoundland Railway Company and its sister Harbour Grace Railway, as well as the government-owned Placentia branch, in order to unify the system across the entire island (known as the Railway Contract of '98). The Reid company agreed to operate the lines for 50 years, in exchange for outright ownership and land grants. They also purchased the government drydock in St. John's and the telegraph system. The Reid company purchased eight new steamships to operate as coastal ferries around the island and into Labrador.