Fred Burlingame

Fred writes:

Autobiography - resume you say? Sounds ostentatious and superfluous. Who wants to hear about me?

Well, O.K., so the way I got associated with the Class of '42 was by being very ill when I was in the 4th grade and missing school from March to the end of the year. I had colitis and went from 90 lbs. to 35 lbs. before I turned the corner. When I went back to school in the fall, back to 4th grade - all you guys were there. Well not all, 'cause some came from the Townships later, and some transferred in like you did, Carl. It was really hard to give up all my classmates in the Class of '41, but what's a body to do?

When I was 10 or 12, I became enamored with airplanes and knew I wanted to fly. Taylor was building E2 Cubs at Bradford and I watched them fly over Smethport and Bob Cleveland was building an Airstrip at East Smethport so there were lots of things to keep my interest. Kerm Peasley, Bob Keenan, and I built a glider and got Bob Kerr to get his dad's Dodge to tow it to the stadium. Bob Keenan was appointed test pilot because he was the smallest. He got off the ground and everything was going pretty good until Bob Kerr stopped the car and Keenan, reacting instinctively, stalled the glider and pancaked it in. In all my life, I have never seen such a shower of toothpicks in the air - before or since! Kermie and I rushed up and asked Bob if he was hurt and, thank the good Lord, he said, "No, I don't think so!" (Read that quote like you just had your breath knocked out.) We stripped the fabric off (unbleached muslin) and tossed the rest of it over the fence at the west end of the stadium. As far as I know, it's still there. I called Bob Keenan a while back to remind him of the upcoming 50th Anniversary of that epic flight and suggested that we should to a Commemorative Flight and suggested that he could be the Test Pilot again, but he said, "No, I don't think so!"

So you guys all know about my job at the Star Theater. You know Carl, you worked there, too. About how I worked at the gas station for Art Straub and about how I was janitor at the Post Office and handled Special Deliveries. Times were tough and I needed the money. That wasn't too good becaused I missed out on a lot of the fun activities - like I never saw a Big Band at Celeron - or a host of other things, but we all hae to do what it takes. Working loused up my football career (not that I would have been very good anyway) but it was fun to try.

Well. So we finished high school and I wanted to go to the Army Air Corps for pilot training, but like some others, I couldn't get parental consent (overly protective parents) and had to wait for the draft age to get down to 18. When it did, we all went to Buffalo and enlisted. Ed Head and I were sworn into the Organized Reserve Corps December 14, 1942, but we did not report until February 28, 1943 at Harrisburg. We went to Miami Beach for Basic Training and I eventually graduated for Twin-Engined Advanced Pilot Traning at Pampa, TX on June 27, 1944. I had 15 days leave, went to Childress, TX to be trained to fly student bombardiers, but soon was transferred to Keesler Field, Biloxi, MS for B-24 Co-Pilot School, then on to Ft. Worth, TX for B-24 Airplane Commander School, and in May of 1945, when the war was really winding down, I was sent to Randolph Field, San Antonio, TX for B-29 Co-Pilot Training and then to Davis-Monthan Field at Tucson, AZ for B-29 Phase Training, the last stop before overseas duty. But Colonel Tibbets dropped the bomb and we all went home. It was great to have the war at an end, but a hell of a disappointment to spend all that time getting ready for a job that we never did. All those questions: "How will I be in combat?" "Will I be a coward?" "Will I be able to do my job?" All the things I never found out about myself.

So I worked on the drilling tools at Cyclone until the fall of '46 when I went back to Fort Worth to attend Texas Wesleyan College. Came home for the summer in 1947 and worked on the drilling tools. Had so much fun I didn't have enough money to go back to Texas, so Martha heped me to get into St. Bonaventure. Commuted with Peanuts, Pit, Mickey, Jim Hull, seems like Sample was in there somewhere, but I withdrew at mid-term.

I worked on the tools, worked for Huffman Brothers, worked for the Borough Electric and worked at the Sterling Station. In 1950, I went to work for W. I. Womeldorf & Sons with Bob Clark, driving tractor-trailer. Drove seven years and made a decent living, but I wanted to progress, so I took a job as a dispatcher.

That lasted until 1962, when I got fired! I was in the PA Army National Guard, so I went to some Army Schools to advance my military standings, and while at Ft. Sill, OK, I was privileged to have dinner with Jim Sample, and his lovely wife, Roy, at their home on the Base. I worked there until 1968 when I was hired by Howard Graves as a Corporate Pilot for Piper Aircraft Corporation at Lock Haven, PA. I remained in that position for 16 years and enjoyed it very much. I flew 16,000+ hours and received an award from the NBAA (National Business Aircraft Association) for more than 2,000,000 miles without an accident. In 1984 Piper ceased operations at Lock Haven and I was invited to transfer to Vero Beach, FL, but I was very close to retirement from the PAARNG (PA National Guard) and did not wish to risk losing it, so I stayed in Lock Haven.

I tried operating a Radio Shack, appliance and furniture store, but I did not choose my partner very well and he ate my lunch. In 1986 I became interested in Taylorcraft Aviation Corporation and have been with it through its ups and downs ever since. We have certified four new models during this time and now are about to launch our National Sales Campaign. Hopefully, things will take a turn for the better in General Aviation. It has taken a severe beating during the last ten years.

In 1949, I married Margaret Cochran from Windy City, PA (near Kane) and we have six wonderful children, three boys and three girls. The fact that they are all doing well is probably more to Margaret's credit than to mine, but they all make me proud. Terry is a First Officer for American Airlines, so I like that a whole bunch! Phil has a Ph.D. in Education and he is an Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Penn State University, Mike is Circulation Manager for the Fort Wayne, IN Newspapers, and Diana is married to Rich Faes (SHS '65) and they live in Lakeland, FL. Leah is a dispatcher for the Pennsylvania State Police. Pamela married Jim Miller, an attorney with Sciarinno, TeWinkle and Miller based in Erie, PA. I have two grandchildren from Terry, two from Phil, three from Mike, two from Leah, and one from Pamela.

After 27 stormy years, Margaret and I divorced and I have been married for 17 years to Judy Coleman, who grew up in Snow Shoe, PA. Judy works at the Office of Aging here in Lock Haven and says she not only works there, but has to take care of one at home. Hell to get old!

As a pilot, I have probably had more UPS and DOWNS than most of you, but so far, I have always found that, no matter how dark the horizon, things will work out okay, if you just keep the faith.

I am really looking forward to seeing all of you at the "Big 50" - as they say around here - "If the Good Lord is willing and the creeks don't rise." I remember my Uncle "Finny" (so called because he was such a good swimmer at such an early age) attended his 50th. I couldn't believe I would ever see the day - and now it is almost at hand.

Please, let's have everybody make a special effort for this 50th Reunion of the Class of 1942 of Smethport High School. We were the only class that was so bad that - in his infinite wisdom? - Stan Bright denied us our Class Pictures. Besides this, the only 50th we'll ever have and we need to ALL be there for each other, this one time!

Fred's email address is