Photos That Planted the Seeds
As a kid I remember shuffling through my mother’s scrapbook and seeing these photos. My mother, Lucie Baxter (Dulin), must have shot them. They show her older sister, Betty Baxter (Hayes), getting ready to solo in a Piper Cub. The photos were shot sometime in the mid-forties. The images stuck with me all these years—what was she like as a 20-something woman? Why didn’t she keep flying? What might she have accomplished? Could she have become a WASP? This is the airplane that my character Billie Hardwicke solos in. These are the images that started it all. Check my BLOG for more of the inspiration.
Billie officially takes off
Billie Heartwing officially took off recently at the Carolinas Aviation Museum with a Book Launch. Lots of friends and visitors filed through the museum to catch some local and national aviation history. And of course to see the famous “Miracle on the Hudson” airliner. The Museum figures into the storyline of Billie Heartwing. I got to talk with folks who’d never heard of the WASPs or the 1944 event that occurred at Charlotte Douglas Airport (see BLOG).
Thanks, everyone, for making the Book Launch such a great event!
WASPs in Khaki Town, USA
During World War II the small textile town of Cramerton, North Carolina, was a beehive (or WASP hive) of activity. The mills were cranking out khaki for Army and Navy. The 8.2 ounce twill fabric was developed by Major Stuart Cramer, Jr. In 1942 Cramerton Mills received the Army-Navy “E” Award for Excellence. Khaki uniforms became the standard uniform cloth for the fighting men and women. You’ll notice in this new mural celebrating Cramerton’s contribution to the war effort a woman pilot walking away from a North American P-51 Mustang. She’s a WASP, a Women Airforce Service Pilot, same as Billie in my novel. Heck, maybe she is Billie.
Of course I had to insinuate myself into the frame.
In my acknowledgments page I mention the inspiration that kickstarted the idea for the book. Many years ago, when I was just a wisp of a child my Aunt Betty (Betty Baxter Hayes) told me of an event that occurred in 1944 at Charlotte’s Douglas Airport. She and her friend Peggy Parsley, both Eastern Air Lines employees, were on duty when a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber overshot the runway and settled onto the Southern Railway tracks. Just then . . . Well, I’ll skip ahead: Peggy took matters in her own hands and saved the day. Eddie Rickenbacker, CEO of Eastern Air Lines, came out to give her an award for heroism. There was even a comic strip depicting the event. Where was this famous comic, I wondered. No one seemed to know. I figured Aunt Betty would have one, since she was there and saw it all happen. Nope. Fast forward again: After I finished the book and was writing the acknowledgments I made one more stab at tracking down news clippings and the elusive comic. I found it on eBay. Of course. The illustrated event ran in an old comic book series called Real Heroes. So here are the pages from a 1946 issue. No, the event doesn’t figure into Billie Heartwing, but this is what sparked my imagination. Enjoy!