Saturday, January 28, 2006

Come Josephine in my Flying Machine...

So... while we're on family again we come to another picture. This was taken in 1917, and illustrates the complexities of my family even then. Those of you who have heard this story can smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

My Grandfather, Eugene Auguste Coffin, joined the Revenue Cutter Service in 1907. You remember him, he's the one who was born in China. The Revenue Cutter Service became what is now known as the Coast Guard in 1915. He was a short, bandy legged man, with an attitude... He was married 4 times, one of the few Coffins to do so for reasons other than the death of a spouse. His first wife died, but then he just liked them younger... His personal life was, at the best, flawed, but his professional life was intriguing.

That aside, in December, 1916, he came to Pensacola Florida to the Naval Air station to learn how to fly airplanes. In those days, it was a much different challenge than now. Much different. He wrote about the intensity of training after 1917 when we entered the war, " Student aviators came in, in droves and were killed off at the rate of about one a week--they were too eager". He had several crashes: one in April 1917, practicing landings, and another than made the headlines while he was was flying patrols off of Montauk, Long Island. The plane quit flying about 300 ft over the water... To tie this all in with the last blog picture, he writes, " my first flight in any sort of an airplane was made with Lt. Cdr. Earl Spencer of the Navy, who was head of the flying school at Pensacola. He was then the husband of Wallis Warfield, who later because Mrs. Simpson and after that the Duchess of Windsor." He became the 59th Naval Aviator.

In the picture, he is the man just left of center, the first one in a white uniform... the short one. What makes this picture interesting beyond it's obvious historical charm is that the man standing next to him, on his left, is my STEP grandfather. My grandfather's wife's second husband.

Shades of desperate housewives, they were best friends!

But that's another story for yet another time...


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