My First Flight: Bill Christman
It’s truly amazing to me how vividly I can recall my travel experiences from that Labor Day weekend in 1964 and yet have no recollection of the weekend I spent with Helen and Don at Journey’s End itself.
I recall arriving by train at the Brattleboro station, looking at my watch to see that it was about 2:30 am Saturday morning and seeing my brother-in-law looking fresh and bright all set to drive me to their Journey’s End cabin. But from that time to Monday late morning my mind is a blank, and so it goes.
My game plan was to fly home as I had never flown before. Just like my first real train trip on Friday night, I wanted to experience flight for the first time. Come Monday, I remember getting more and more nervous as the time drew closer for us to leave for the airport, but not so nervous that I would back out. Mother Nature helped granting me a clear day of beautiful weather so that would not be a factor. Don drove me to the Keene airport while my sister Helen and my mother stayed back with my infant niece Anne-Marie.
The trip to the airport was memorable in one aspect. Most of the ride was on a simple two-lane winding country thoroughfare that had the necessary traffic lines dividing the road. A broken line on your side of the rode meant passing was permitted; a solid line meant don’t even think about passing. Somewhere along the way two young punks drove immediately in front of us and would crawl at say 20 mph when no passing was allowed and then speed up to the point where you could not attempt to pass when it was permitted. They seem to be in front of us most of the 20 or so miles to the airport but eventually went their own way.
At that time, Dillant-Hopkins Airport, (The airport’s official name) offered non-stop service to JFK on Mohawk Airlines. I bought my ticket at the counter, spending about $20 for a coach seat. My thinking was that I would figure out how to get home from there with the limited resources that I still had, meaning I was damn close to broke.
The flight was about half-full and uneventful although for a while I believed that my fellow passengers owed me a debt of gratitude for my keeping that plane in the air through sheer willpower. I remember being disappointed that the plane flew as high as it did since this minimized my view of the ground, but this was a minor annoyance and we arrived on time and in good order.
Relieved and safely on the ground, I exited the terminal and walked toward an area where several green municipal buses were waiting to begin their next runs. One of the first I saw had “World’s Fair” as its destination and I knew the Fair was relatively close to home if only I could find a local bus there. On arrival at the World Fair’s bus parking area, I found a sign showing where different buses stopped. One of them was the B-58, the Flushing-Ridgewood bus, that ran down Grand Street in Maspeth, within walking distance to my house. Almost safe at home, I boarded the next bus to arrive and handed my transfer to the driver.
Unexpected Encounter: John Delach
Mary Ann and I were seeing each other on a regular basis by Labor Day of 1964. We spent at least part of that holiday weekend together. Like, Bill, I too cannot remember the details of our experiences that weekend. However, I do recall that I left her family’s home that Monday afternoon to begin my long bus trip home. First, I grabbed any one of three buses of opportunity to Flushing followed by the long trek via the B-58 that would meander to the World’s Fair, then on through Corona, Elmhurst and Maspeth before finally reaching Ridgewood. Once on board, I opened my paperback book to pass the time, likely a James Bond novel or a book about World War II.
The Fair always drew my attention so when the bus stopped at the Rodman Street’s Worlds Fair Terminal, I put down my book to pay attention to what was going on. Lo and behold, entering the bus, shoving a paper transfer to the driver was my cousin and just-graduated, former college buddy, Bill Christman.
I saw him before he saw me. I know I fired the first salvo but I’m certain I wasn’t so quick to think of a line so clever that it blew his socks off.
Bill recalls, “I heard from the back a familiar voice shouting, ‘So you’re going away for the weekend, huh?’ It was my cousin and good friend John. Eagerly and anxiously I could not wait to talk about the topic then upper most in my mind; my first plane ride. Visiting Journey’s End, my sister Helen and her husband or my mom, forget about it. I flew in a plane. Wowzah!”