|From the Glenn Curtiss Museum
The Curtiss Aviation School had officially opened on January 17, 1911. Glenn Curtiss had obtained the rights for the land from the Spreckels (sugar) Company. Curtiss wrote, "It is a flat, sandy island, about four miles long and two miles wide with a number of good fields for land flights. The beaches on both the ocean and the bay sides are good, affording level stretches for starting or landing an airplane. Besides, the beaches are necessary for the water experiments I wish to make. North Island is uninhabitated except by hundreds of jackrabbits, cottontails, snipe and quail."
The first class consisted of Lt. Theodore G. Ellyson and five other students. Ellyson, a big red-haired man who loved chocolate candy and potatoes, was called "Spuds." Later, he became U.S. Naval Aviator Number One.
Walter arrived at the flying school on North Island in the Spring of 1914.
Shortly after he arrived in Buffalo, Glenn Curtiss had several of the pilots for dinner. It was the first time Walter really socialized with him.
Curtiss raised his eyebrows when Walter refused a glass of champagne, but he found out later that Curtiss actually admired him for keeping a promise to his mother that he wouldn't touch liquor while she was alive.
In February, 1918, Walter applied for a commission as Captain in the Signal Corps. He included three glowing letters of recommendation.
Glenn Curtiss wrote, "Mr. Lees learned to fly in our school at San Diego, California, several years ago. He was one of our principal instructors on both land and water flying at Newport News for about two years. He is a quiet, conscientious and dependable young man, and a first class aviator and instructor, and I believe has the qualifications of a good officer."
Editor's Note: I have found an especially complete and interesting biography of Glenn Curtiss on the Curtiss-Wright Homepage.
You may click on the "History" icon for a chronological listing.
On July 8, 1999, I received an email message from Ray Ettington who reported that the Glenn Curtiss Museum of Hammondsport, NY has just launched it's first web site. It can be found at Glenn Curtiss Museum