|WALTER & LOA LEES
CURTISS F-BOAT, 1915
|The associated news clipping reads:
Mr. and Mrs. Converse W. Lloyd, 3441 West Monroe street, announce the marriage last Thursday of their daughter Loa to Walter Edwin Lees. The young couple will be at home after June 25 at 625 South Central Park avenue. The bride is a "Mayflower descendent" and also a direct descendent of Elder William Brewster, who got up that little party. She is grandaughter of T. L. Kennan of Milwaukee, Wis., a relative of Martha Washington and President Grant. Mr Lees is pilot of the passenger carrying hydro-aeroplane of the Illinois naval reserves
|The Newlyweds in a Curtiss F-Boat, 1915|
In April, 1915, Walter received a letter offering him an attractive salary to work for Pancho Villa. Villa was known to some as a "bandit," to others as a revolutionary leader and popular Mexican Hero.
I was all for going right down there, but luckily, Morris talked me out of it.
This was a time of bloody political and military strife in Mexico. Flying for Villa would have been an extremely dangerous adventure, if not fatal.
Shortly after that offer I received a letter from a friend of mine, Jack Vilas, in Chicago. He owned a Curtiss F-boat of his own and had a friend, Steward McDonald, who was having a Curtiss boat built and needed a pilot. I hadn't soloed the Curtiss boat at North Island yet, because I didn't have the money to put up the bond, but Morris said to take the Chicago job anyway and bluff it out.
In May, Walter rode the day coach to Chicago. When he arrived, he found the boat wasn't set up yet. Jack Vilas said not to worry, when it was ready, he would test hop it before Walter had to fly it. Then Vilas was called out of town. Before he left, he took Walter aside and told him, "If there's a strong wind from the west, of from the shore, don't try to test it."
"But Jack, there are always strong winds in Chicago." Walter joked.
When the plane was ready, the wind blew strong for seven days, coming in from the west.
The owner couldn't understand why I wouldn't try it out. Finally one night, he got really mad and said if he could find another pilot in town that night who would fly it, I wouldn't have a job the next day.
Fortunately, he couldn't find anyone, and the next day the wind switched to a lazy east wind. I made two test flights and then proceeded to carry several of his friends for rides. Luckily, none of them knew how inexperienced I was.
That summer, Walter carried many passengers in "Alice" as the Curtiss F-boat was called, off the lagoon at the Reserve Yacht Harbor at Grant Park in Chicago and also at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
I had my first airplane ride there in Chicago. It was in a Curtiss flying boat called "Alice". Jack Vilas had helped to build it and it belonged to Steward McDonald. Pops flew for him. That was Pop's first job and I think he got $300 a month. We had just come from the San Diego flying school to Chicago and had no money. I think Jack Vilas got him that job.
It was a nice day. The plane was docked at the Chicago Naval Reserve dock. We were only in the air for 15 to 20 minutes, but I loved it. Lots of fun. I didn't get airsick at all, although I have on other occasions.