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The Spirit of Tehachapi

 

Photo provided

Green Street mural in full, painted by artist Mark Pestana, shows Harry Beauford, Jr. just before the historical flight.

It was a sunny day on May 19, 1938 when my eldest brother, Everett Davis, drove my sister, Evelyn, my brother Buster and myself to the local airport in my father's 1928 Hupmobile. I had asked to go as they got into the car and they grudgingly assented. Ten year old sisters can be a trial to older siblings and I was perfectly cast for the part.

The occasion was a commemoration marking the 20th Anniversary of National Airmail Service with a flight from Tehachapi to Bakersfield. Local pilot, Harry Beauford, Jr. was to fly the plane and a U.S. Postage stamp was even printed to mark the occasion. There was a small crowd to witness the flight; mostly students from the high school. The side of the plane had words printed that said, First Flight, May 19, 1938, U.S. Air Mail, Tehachapi to Bakersfield. Pilot Beauford was there in proper attire for the trip; a leather jacket and helmet to match.

It wasn't long before I was ready to go home; the sun was too bright and even though airplanes were still somewhat of a rarity in most small towns of that day and age, I had seen enough. Why didn't he take off so I could go home and stop standing around in the hot sun? Someone was there taking pictures and talking to Harry. If anyone made a speech, my ten year old ears did not listen. I did not complain verbally; not when I was low man on the family totem pole with three older siblings ready to blow the whistle on me and report that I had been a pain in the neck.

One of my former grammar school classmates, Don Beauford, youngest brother of Harry Beauford, told me recently that his brother was a daredevil when it came to flying; skilled but not overly cautious. Harry's good friends, the Frahm brothers, Bob and Don, were also flyers and that caused the count to rise to three local daredevil pilots!

Finally, Harry climbed into the plane which was very similar to a Piper Cub and took off entering into the "wild blue yonder." I noticed the McDaniel twins, Lucy and Lucille, from high school, waving as he left the ground. "Why?" My ten year old brain asked, "are they doing that? He can't see them waving." A fifth grader, such as I, none too bright in body language simply did not understand. However, I wonder if the occasion arose today, would I feel the need to wave at a plane just to be symbolic?

Harry Beauford did not leave it at that in daring feats. Every Fourth of July, he would have either Bob or Don Frahm, his pilot friends, fly over the city and he would parachute to the ground by the airport. Harry always had to jump out south of town and the wind would carry him to the airport area to be deposited in the correct spot where people awaited him. This entertainment would be an added attraction along with Tehachapi's Free Barbecue in the City Park.

He lived to a good age and became a business man showing movies in the old two story building on Curry Street once known as the OddFellows Hall and now known as Family Life Pregnancy Center. This was before the BeeKay Theatre days. Later he became the owner of the Oasis Movie Theater in Mojave. Don Beauford said he recalls getting to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs five times.

Photo Provided

Green Street mural in full, painted by artist Mark Pestana, shows Harry Beauford, Jr. just before the historical flight.

On September 8, 2007 a dedication of a mural, painted on the outside wall above a former Tehachapi Post Office located on Green Street, showed Harry standing by his plane, in preparation for takeoff. Talented artist Mark Pestana painted the commemorative scene from a black and white photograph. It was created so accurately that Beauford's features are absolutely correct, according to his brother, Don.

Pestana, himself, a retired Colonel from the United States Air Force, flew over 200 combat intelligence missions when on active duty.

I guess, Harry Beauford, Jr. , son of a local barber whose shop was on Tehachapi Boulevard in the city's earlier times, took a little chink out of the old adage touted by flight instructors:

"There are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old, bold, pilots."

Just a few, maybe.

 
 

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