Early Flying Days

"Every child has dreams. They catch them like balloons,
as they float past, and let them go just as easily.
-- Marie Johnson, August 1985
Below, our parents about 1965, all 11 children born by that time.

In 1985, our mother, Marie Johnson, wrote an article about our father's early flying days. This article was published in the McLean County Journal, which was the local weekly newspaper published in our home town of Turtle Lake North Dakota. This year, 2012, I asked my mother's permission to publish a copy of this article in this fashion. The article has been reproduced, to the best of my ability as it was first written on typewriter and published via a printing press of that era. This was and is an article about our father's dreams, but in fact, this article was created as a result of our mother's dreams.

Our mother grew up on a farm in eastern North Dakota and graduated as Valedictorian from High School in the town of Hope. It was her dream to go to college and to get a degree in Journalism. It didn't happen as she dreamed. Marriage intervened, and then in 14 years, she bore 11 children. The youngest child was born in 1963 and by that time she and my father were farming 960 acres and had a cow herd of 150. It was a busy time, yet our mother made the time to begin taking journalism classes by correspondence. She went on to write first as a contributing columnist to the Bismarck Tribune, one of the largest daily newspapers in the state, and then wrote a weekly column in the McLean County Journal for decades.

Dreams don't always come true in the manner at which they are conceived.

This article was originally written for a local audience, of course many of the names are of no interest to those from another area, yet they may generate great interest from local people.

Local Flyer Helps Rebuild, Restore His First Airplane

When Leonard Johnson answered the telephone one evening in December of 1982, he surprised the young man on the other end.

He didn't know either, that evening, that he was going to renew an association with an airplane he worked with for seven years, over fifty years ago. An association that would take him twice across the western part of the United States to California and Oregon.

Tom Murphy, the young aircraft mechanic on the other end of the phone call didn't expect to have Leonard Johnson, last registered owner of the newly purchased remains of a Curtiss Wright Junior, to be around to answer the phone. The last registration was dated in 1936.

Tom was heard to mutter that it just couldn't be this easy, but his first words to Leonard were, "Do the numbers 670V mean anything to you?" When Leonard admitted they meant a great deal to him, and were the registration numbers for his first airplane, Tom explained he had purchased a wrecked Curtis Wright Junion at an antique airplane auction in New Mexico.

Leonard was the last registered owner and Tom's first duty was to get a release (bill of sale). He had expected that to be difficult after such a long time and was quite prepared to find that 1936 owner dead.

Tom explained that he was the aircraft mechanic for Brandt Orchard Machinery Co., Yuba City, Calif., and they planned to rebuild and restore the airplane. As they discussed the airplane and the difficulty of finding original parts to restore it, Tom invited Leonard out to help him work on it.

Leonard, and the few extra parts he could find, went out to California and almost two years later to Oregon where it had been moved and where the work was finished. Before he left Oregon he had been able to fly the Curtis Wright briefly.

With mechanics :