Although the Secret Service was anxious about the ride, Chief Civilian Flight Instructor Charles Alfred Anderson—“The Father of Black Aviation,” piloted Mrs. Roosevelt over the skies of Alabama for over an hour.
Flying with Anderson demonstrated the depth of Eleanor Roosevelt’s support for black pilots. Press coverage of her adventure in flight helped advocate for the competency of these pilots and boosted the Institute's visibility. Roosevelt established long-term correspondence with some of the airmen.
Back in 1955 on an Alabama bus, one woman sparked the Montgomery bus boycott that lasted for 381 days and brought about massive reforms when she said NO.
In her autobiography, My Story Rosa Parks said: People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day…… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.
On the day she went to trial:
"We are...asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial ... You can afford to stay out of school for one day. If you work, take a cab, or walk. But please, children and grown-ups, don't ride the bus at all on Monday……"
It rained that day, but the black community persevered in their boycott. Some rode in carpools, while others traveled in black-operated cabs that charged the same fare as the bus, 10 cents. Most of the remainder of the 40,000 black commuters walked, some as far as 20 miles (32 km).
Can you imagine walking in the rain and oppressive sweltering humidity of Alabama for 381 days—that's over a year? Getting to work exhausted, already foot sore, hot and sweating like a pig, then doing a full day’s work for awful wages and walking home again?
It changed things though.
One woman…started a spark…
We forget that once:
Women were not allowed to vote and had few rights.
It was legal to have signs in windows of businesses saying "No blacks, negroes, colored allowed."
It was illegal for gay people to marry like any other human being.
Despite being hetero and a woman to boot, I’m still happy to be counted as one woman who cares. I hope that possibly something I write will bring about a small change somewhere for someone regarding gay relationships, rights and equality. I hope I research well and am sensitive to the gay men I write about and love.
I wake up to the gorgeous smell of freshly brewed, pure Kona. Thank you, there is a God. I wrap a sarong around my waist and join Rach on the lanai. My time clock is still on LA time; otherwise I’d never make it up this early. I’m a night owl and usually paint all night, sleeping in the day. But being here on the island means beach and water days. The best action is in the morning, before the off-shore breeze comes up in the afternoon.
“You ready to go in half an hour?” she asks.
I nod. Speech isn’t one of my just-waking-up skills.
* * * *
We’re paddling back from the Kealakekua and have had a fantastic morning out there. The snorkeling is some of the best in the
Hawaiian Islands. Twenty-five odd feet of clear aqua-blue water, teeming with multicolored tropical fish and the odd honu, or turtle. We pay our respects to Captain James Cook. His white obelisk monument is out there on a wee patch of British soil. The Hawaiians killed him approximately where the monument stands. He made a slight miscalculation and found himself on the arse end of things. A wee bit embarrassing.
We Kiwis know about Captain Cook because his ship the Endeavour is on our fifty-cent coin. He was the first European to circumnavigate
and map its coastline. They don’t usually mention we Maori were there well before him, but I don’t care today. I feel sun-bronzed and tired but good. We’re on a slow, easy paddle back. Rach is getting tired, and I’m doing most of the arm work. New Zealand
I look around; what’s that noise?
Rach stops paddling and looks too. She points up, and I see the blue of the body fabric, with the distinctive bright-yellow double wings.
“That looks like a Stearman,” she says.
“That’s what I was thinking. I didn’t think anyone here had a biplane. I wonder if that’s Bruce from Oahu?”
“Could be, but I heard a rumor there was a guy here with one too. I wonder if he’s at Keahole or
. He might be on the other side of the island.” Hilo
Suddenly I’m seized with an overwhelming urge to find out where this plane is landing and who’s flying it. My heart squeezes in my chest when I think about it.
Rach turns and looks at me. “What?” she asks. Christ, she’s tuned in.
“I need to know who’s flying that plane.”
We grin at each other, and she says, “Let’s paddle.”
She digs her oar in, and we set a good pace for the kayak landing at
Napoopoo Road. By the time we arrive, we’re both sweating heavily. Thank God the guys are here to haul the boat out of water and tie her to the truck. I’m almost hopping up and down with impatience to be off. Rach grabs my arm and points. The Stearman is still flying around, back and forth along the shoreline. I chuck a tip at the guys loading, and we race off up the hill. We nearly throw the kayak off when we get to Kona Boys and step on it down the hill into Kona.
It’s still flying, and I pray she doesn’t suddenly keep going south over to
. I’m driving as Rach checks with the binoculars out the sunroof. Hilo
“She’s turning again…”
We’re through Keauhou, past the turnoff for Kona itself and heading for the airport.
“She’s coming this way, starting her descent, I think. Yeah, she’s flying the pattern. She’s going to land at Keahole. Bet you.”
My heart is pounding. What the hell is this? I guess we’re about to find out.
I turn left into
Airport Roadand cut through to the private tie-down area in Ulu Street. We stand at the fence and watch her land on runway one seven then weave back and forth on the taxiway so the pilot can see. A woman’s flying, long hair in a thick braid down her back. The face under the goggles and helmet looks Hawaiian. Rach will love this. There are so few women pilots, and both of us love open-cockpit biplanes to fly in.
Nothing beats the run along a grass strip, a gentle pull back on the stick, and she’ll waft into the air. Light as a feather, it’s a completely freeing moment for me.
We stand listening to the clack-clack as the big wooden propeller comes to a stop. The pilot flips off the switches and pulls off her gloves. Big hands for a woman. She gets out and walks down the wing, dropping onto the ground. Tall too. The pilot bends down to push chocks under the front wheels of the beautiful plane. All dope and fabric, gleaming sky blue, standing out amongst the private heavies and small private planes like Cessnas and Piper Cubs.
She’s checking the plane. Damn, if I were into women, she’d do something for me. She’s got a very graceful way of moving, tall and lithe. I have to laugh. She’s wearing slippahs. I point at her feet, and Rach grins. She hates flying in shoes and would fly in jandals any day. Flip-flops to the Americans.
She finally unwinds her white silk flying scarf and chucks it into the cockpit. Her back to us, the helmet and goggles go next. When she turns around, I’m in for the shock of my life. I literally feel like my heart stops beating. It’s not a woman pilot. It’s a guy, and he stares straight at me. My hand tightens on the hurricane wire fencing we’ve been leaning on. Shit, what the fuck is this?
He continues to stare. It feels like he’s assessing me on some level, probing around in my soul, whipping through the chambers of my heart, checking out the lay of the land.
He’s beautiful. There isn’t another word to describe him. Exotic looking. His features are fine, almost Tahitian but not quite. He’s mixed with something else, a touch of the East in his eyes. Long, braided, jet-black hair reaches to his waist. He unzips his flight overalls and ties them around his stomach. Broad brown shoulders stick out from a red tank, Polynesian tattoos in a lei across his chest area, arm band ink just above his elbows. Two earrings in one ear. I’m getting a hard-on.
Now he’s finished the inspection of the plane, he takes a tow hook and connects it to the front of the aircraft. Another guy comes over, and they pull the plane into a hangar. I wonder if we’re going to have to track him down, but he comes out a few minutes later, walking toward us, unbraiding his hair. He combs it out with his fingers and flips his head down, then back up, letting it stream out behind him in the wind.
“Fu…ck…” whispers Rach beside me.
I’d agree with that assessment. Thank God I decided to wear togs under my shorts. The Kiwi swimsuit might contain my erection slightly. And if I could find some breath for my lungs, it would help.
“Aloha,” he says as he approaches the gate.
“Aloha. We love your plane. Are you giving rides?” asks Rach.
“Not today. Wind’s getting up a bit for a biplane, but tomorrow, if the wind’s good, sure.” He has soft, gentle energy.
“Can we book in with you?”
Thank God Rach is talking. I’m struck dumb. I feel like a complete idiot. He comes through the gate and sticks his hand out to me. I shake it automatically. Then he turns to Rach and shakes her hand too.
“Where are you guys from?”
He has a melodic voice, but that’s not what has me mesmerized. The handshake went straight to my balls. Then he’d smiled, and his eyes lit up. A deep brown abyss I fell right into. Hook, line, and sinker.
“We’re Kiwis, but I live here. I’m Rach, and this is my brother Matt. He’s visiting. We were out paddling at Kealakekua, heard the lovely sound of the radial engines, and followed you in.” She grins.
“Are you a pilot?” he asks her.
Rach points at me. “We both are.”
“Hey, that’s cool. You ever flown in one of these before?” he asks quietly.
We both nod. I can’t even speak. Every time I open my mouth to say something, no words come out. I feel completely gormless.
“I’ve flown in a couple of Wacos, Stearman, and Tiger Moth. Matt’s flown in a Gruman too, haven’t you?”
I croak out a yes.
Then he does something which floors me. He bites his lip and smiles shyly. His long eyelashes flick down onto his cheeks. That makes him even more attractive. It’s a very feminine gesture. Not something I’m expecting from a biplane pilot.
He turns back to Rach, and I hope the muggy heat out here by the tarmac will account for my labored breathing. I wave my hand in front of my face. “Hot,” I manage to say.
“She’s a hot one today, yeah. A lot of bugs too.”
I nod again. He’s got the slight island lilt you hear in native Hawaiians who have grown up here.
He glistens; tiny rivulets of sweat run down his chest, disappearing into the tank and soaking the front. His chest is smooth, like a lot of Polynesian men.
“What time do you want to go up tomorrow—the earlier, the better for the wind factor?”
Rach nods. “We’ll work in with you.”
“You both going to fly?” he asks.
“Well…good.” That shy smile again.
“What time works?” asks Rach.
“You want to come out early. Let’s say an eight and nine o’clock flight? I can put the stick back in the front too, if you like. Then you can get some stick time.”
I finally find my voice. “I’d love that.”
“Me too,” he says softly again, and my breath is caught in my throat. “See you tomorrow. I’ll meet you here.”
“Okay, groovy, sounds good,” says Rach.
“Oh hang on; let me give you a card in case you need to call for any reason.”
He rummages around in his flight bag, pulls out his wallet, and gives us a card each.
Beau Toyama—his phone number and a picture of the plane.