Tuesday, March 7, 2017
HAP’S CLIPPINGS AND PIX
A journey into early aviation, art
and a little-known grandfather
Minor knee repair and poor weather has me off the motorcycle for a few weeks, and boxes of Mom’s memories have been stacked in the corner of my den for too long. No time like the present, I suppose…
Sifting through her stuff, I find an ancient box designed to once hold a ream of typing paper. Scrawled on the end of the rapidly deteriorating lid are the words: “Hap’s Clippings + pix.”
E W Bagnell was my mother’s father. Known as Hap to me, but others referred to him as Cap or Bobby, I knew very little about him other than that he was designated an Early Bird, wrenched on Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis, and later took up oil painting. And he smoked Lucky Strikes. We moved to Chico in 1957, he followed, lived with us for a year and then departed for Oakland’s Veteran’s Hospital where he died at about age 68.
Opening that ragged box of “clippings and pix” revealed some hidden history…
This from the Glendale Independent, Sunday, August 2, 1953:
Other clippings tell more of his story…
Among the other artifacts uncovered searching through Mom’s memorabilia is a model of and the patent application for a devise that when dropped into the steel pipe casing of a spent oil well, with a mechanical twist the unit can expand to press against the casing’s interior so the pipe can be craned out of the well for re-use. Early recycler?
Also discovered: two prototype electric toothbrushes – he didn’t get the patent application on these – the works of which were encased in Bakelite.**
I pour through this trove and think of the man I barely knew. His Army adventures began a century ago this year.
His work in the aviation industry saw him piloting an exotic Italian tri-motor…
…and flying folks hither and yon.
Clearly, he had other adventures, however…
…and a bit of a reputation…
Hanging over the piano in my den is one of his oils called “Splitting Headache…”
…the last oil he created before he went to Oakland.
*Early Birds Membership was limited to those who piloted a glider, gas balloon, or airplane, prior to December 17, 1916. The cutoff date was set at December 17 to correspond to the first flights of Wilbur and Orville Wright. 1916 was chosen as a cutoff because a large number of people were trained in 1917 as pilots for World War I. Twelve of the aviators were women.
Hap’s name is embossed on a plaque in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum along with the Wrights, de Havilland, Sikorsky, Glenn Curtis and others.
** Bakelite is one of the first plastics made from synthetic components. Bakelite was used for its electrical nonconductivity and heat-resistant properties in electrical insulators, radio and telephone casings and such diverse products as kitchenware, jewelry, pipe stems, children's toys, and firearms.
Church of the Open Road Press