"(F)requently constrained to overnight in the the desert to meet an early-morning flight schedule, he whiled away the evening at Pancho's. Not given to garrulity, more often than not he sought out the solo company of Millie Palmer, one of the lovelier specimens who found temporary refuge at the Happy Bottom Riding Club."
HOSTESSES, SOUND BARRIERS, AND BIG BA-BOOMS: ACES HIGH: The Race For Mach 1
Photos Number 1 and 2 above, showing an image of woman seated in the center surrounded by a bevy of other women is the famed aviatrix Pancho Barnes. The bevy of other women sitting in a circular fashion around Barnes were associated with her through what typically fell under, nomenclature-wise, the term "hostesses." The two photographs, circa late 1940s early 1950s, were taken at Pancho's high desert "Happy Bottom Riding Club," a so called dude ranch she built near Muroc Dry Lake right on the edge of Edwards Air Force Base. Pancho's "ranch" featured a motel, an abundance of riding horses and thoroughbreds, a restaurant, three landing strips, a dance hall, gambling den, an ever present bevy of hostesses, and a world-famous bar that catered to military personnel from the nearby air base along with all of her Hollywood friends.
Pancho's Club, although off to a slow start before the war, continued to grow throughout the war years, really taking off big time shortly after the war ended starting around that 1947-1948 time bracket. In 1952 it was still reaching upward for the top of it's game when suddenly everything came crashing down. The following is how it written up as to how that crashing down occurred as found at the source so cited:
"In 1952, following a change of command at the air base, friction between Pancho and the base commander began to increase because of the number of flights in and out of the Club's landing strip and what the commander called an encroachment into the base's airspace. When the government attempted to buy her property allegedly to expand the air base runways and Pancho refused, a series of unproven allegations surfaced that the Happy Bottom Riding Club was, among other things, a brothel. The Air Force slapped an off limits on the ranch, effectively banning servicemen from going to the club. Falling on hard times and basically deserted when the government moved to appropriate the ranch, Pancho sued. Then, on November 13, 1953, shortly after she beat the government and won the lawsuit, the ranch, under very, very suspicious circumstances, burnt to the ground, some even say, although it was never proven, from a possible strike from the air."(source)
With Pancho's ranch shuttered suddenly out of nowhere, catching almost everybody top-to-bottom off guard, the hostesses along with the employees, bartenders, stable hands, cooks, etc., found the need to scramble to survive. The high desert from Muroc Dry Lake for a hundred miles around in almost any direction didn't offer a whole lot of opportunities, especially so for the people with the type skills and talents of those working for Pancho, who was as well, a most generous employer. Finding the same kind of work for the same kind of pay wasn't going to be easy.
Then, as sensitive dependence on initial conditions would have it, my stepmother just happened to return from a two-year extended excursion to Mexico and South America with my dad. During that same two-year period their marriage, for reasons unknown to me, deteriorated to such a point it simply disintegrated. With my stepmother, or ex-stepmother as the case may be, now finding herself seeking a pathway of resurgence using what came naturally to her, that is, her former experience and expertise, a miracle in the desert occurred as fate, timing, and karma came together unexpectantly to reunite two old friends, re the following:
"My ex-stepmother stepped into the picture when the Air Force placed the off limits decree on the Club. She had a California liquor licence and owned several bars in Los Angeles. Pancho, as a friend from their old Laguna Beach days, in a casual conversation with my ex-stepmother, who supplied hostesses for the club on and off over time, suggested she open a facility similar to Pancho's now, or soon to be, defunct Club --- only far enough from the air base that they could not mess with it, but still close enough that it was easily accessible --- AND with NO known or on the surface affliation or ties with Pancho. So she did, opening the closest bar in those days to the air base south gate, somewhat east and south of Pancho's old place, duplicating almost all of the same amenities and wide open services except for an airstrip."
After a several months period trying to get everything off the ground, which at least for a few years afterwards anyway, provided anyone who wanted a home and employment at my stepmother's newly opened "ranch" were able to if so interested --- all done of course with Pancho's blessings from behind the scenes. Interestingly enough, one of Pancho's hostesses pictured above, Pauline Page, who also had been affiliated with my stepmother in some fashion at one time, didn't move over to her when the chance came up. Instead, she got married, and because of that marriage she eventually played a major role in my life.
In Photo Number 3 Pauline Page is shown standing to the right of Fifie, albeit on the viewers physical left. In Photo Number 1 Page is photographed, it would seem, in connection with her sometimes association with an ever present bevy of hostesses. She is shown next to Barnes in the middle row also on the viewers left. The middle photo, Photo Number 2, is basically wider view of Number 1 with some minor shuffling and reseating. In Number Two Page is the woman on the far left.
Between the last photograph and the start of the paragraphs on this page is a list of seven links with the top link of the list reading: PAULINE PAGE I. Clicking that link takes you to an online article that opens with a paragraph that pretty much sums up Pauline Page:
"Pauline had been an entertainer with the USO during World War II, billing herself as Pauline Page and Her All Girl Band.(see) Near the end of the war she became associated with both Brenda Allen and Fifie as well as my stepmother, and then, eventually, after meeting my father through my stepmother, to whom of which he was still married, falling madly in love with him. Seeing it was not going to work she married a former sergeant she met while touring with the USO who had never stopped pursuing her. They bought one of those look-alike every other house had a reverse floorplan tract homes that sprang up all over in former stoop-labor farmland south of Los Angeles while he went to work for one of the aircraft factories and she stayed home wearing an apron and no underpants."
During the two year period my dad and stepmother were gone my brothers and I once again found ourselves in a position to be parceled out. Both my brothers had somewhere to go but because of my history nobody was really stepping forward to take me. My uncle, after relentlessly begging non-stop for hours as he recalled, was finally able to convince the foster couple who was taking in my younger brother to take me as well. That foster couple was Pauline Page and her newly minted husband. Pauline, of course, at least as I saw it, only taking my brother and I in to somehow maintain a continuing connection with my father. Me being the odd one out, it wasn't long before I began searching for alternative ways to improve my own personal situation, and as I had done in the past, I decided to run away.
As soon as I was able to put together enough information, knowledge and resources to do so I did just that, run away. Under the guise of spending the day with a friend and without anybody's knowledge, including even my younger brother, I took a Greyhound bus north to the Mojave Desert searching for and eventually finding my then just divorced-from-my-father stepmother basically with the following results:
"Although impressed that I ran away just to be with her she thought it best to get in touch with my dad and see what she should do next. Unwilling to talk with my grandmother she called the woman of the foster couple I ran away from, who she knew and was friends with, hoping to find out if I should be returned to them or to locate my father, telling the woman that I was in good care and everything was OK. The woman of the couple, Aunt Pauline, told my stepmother to 'keep the fucking little asshole, I don't give a shit what happens to him.' Then she added, 'Don't forget his prick of a little brother, either.' My stepmother, taking into consideration there were no subtle or hidden messages in her response, being quite clear as well as taking her at her word, contacted my uncle to see if he had any idea where my dad was. He didn't, but told my stepmother if she could find no other solution and she could get me to Santa Fe he would deal with situation until everything could be hammered out. With that, having no success locating my dad for whatever reason, rather than sticking me on some grungy multi-day cross desert bus ride to my uncle's and not knowing for sure if I wouldn't just get off somewhere on the way, she arranged for the same former World War II P-47 pilot that flew my uncle and me to Sacramento a few years before to fly me to Santa Fe, ensuring, she hoped, I would be less likely to get out mid-trip."(source)
Before I went to live with Pauline in the first place, my stepmother, within hours if not minutes of her departure for South America, seeing there was a good chance I was going to end up living with Pauline, and always thinking of me in a good light and the best for me as she viewed it, handed an envelope to my uncle to give to me with strict instructions that I was not show it or give it to anybody else except to the person it was addressed to --- in other words, keep Pauline out of it. Re the following:
"The envelope was addressed to a man named Russ Miller, the owner of the Normandie Club, one of six legal poker casinos in the city, with those six being practically the only legal poker clubs in the whole state. I knew enough about gambling places to know that no 12 or 13 year old kid was just going up to the front door and walk right in."
Miller looked the letter over for a few minutes, asked how my "mother" was, then after a bit of small talk wanted to know what is was he could do for me. I told him I was looking to earn some money and was hoping for some kind of regular after school or weekend work. He asked what grade I was in and stretching the truth a bit I told him I went to Gardena High. He said come back in a couple of days and ask for Rick. Which I did. See:
THE NORMANDIE CLUB
HOSTESSES HELP BREAK THE SOUND BARRIER
(please click image)
"Prior to heading back to North American to brief the engineers, George telephoned Millie Palmer. Excitedly, Millie related that a terribly loud ba-boom had nearly blown her out of bed. The time was noted and it corresponded to George's dive."
In the late 1940s, and especially so following the end of the war, the U.S. Army Air Force, with no real competition other than themselves, began putting a tremendous amount of extra time, money, and effort into breaking the sound barrier. To accomplish that end they focused all of their time and expenditure on one single pilot, Chuck Yeager, and one single aircraft, the Bell X-1, a rocket-powered supersonic research airplane built by the Bell Aircraft Corporation. At the same time, although the Bell X-1 was a noble craft as was the attempt to break the barrier, there were those who felt that planes that were actually more akin to the fighters being developed, i.e., jets, was where the strength of the efforts should placed. Dropping a plane that couldn't take off on it's own from the belly of a high altitude B-29 and carrying only enough fuel for a three minute flight didn't quite fit the picture for some. Thus entered North American Aviation's jet-powered XP-86, a prototype of the F-86 Sabre and their pilot George S. Welch. Although not officially sanctioned by the powers that be like the Bell X-1, for North American and Welch it didn't matter.
Welch, who had risen to fame for being one of two pilots, along with Ken M. Taylor, to take out eight Japanese planes between them over Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, as found in Taking Out The First Meatball, had become a civilian by the time he became a test pilot attempting to break the sound barrier. In the spring of 1944 while still in the service, North American Aviation approached him to be a company test pilot. Welch, by then a three-times over fighter pilot ace was becoming increasingly concerned with the lingering effects from the malaria he contacted in the South Pacific during the war and how it might adversely impact upward mobility in the military, especially as a pilot. With potential peacetime on the horizon, he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army Air Forces and accepted the job.
As a civilian Welch wasn't able to avail himself of the officer's quarters on the base. Instead he stayed at Pancho Barnes' Fly Inn. The Fly Inn, built and owned by Barnes, eventually came to known throughout the latter part of World War II and for several years afterwards as the Happy Bottom Riding Club, a dude ranch built near Muroc Dry Lake right on the edge of Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of the Mojave.
Her place featured a motel with quite a number of rooms and several suites, an abundance of riding horses and thoroughbreds, a restaurant that served up fabulous western-style meals and breakfasts to die for, three landing strips, a dance hall, gambling den, an ever present bevy of hostesses, and a world-famous bar which catered to military personnel from the nearby air base along with all of her Hollywood friends. The ranch became famous for it's all night parties and high-flying lifestyle of her guests.
Welch and the North American team knew that the official National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) equipment was being used to officially track Yeager and the X-1 and them only. There wasn't a chance of getting use of the equipment before Yeager and their crew did their thing and held the official record. Welch was on his own.
Welch had become quite close to, some say even excessively over enamored with, one of Pancho's hostesses who went by the name of Millie Palmer, taking her into his confidence. He told her that on a certain day at a certain time he was going to break the sound barrier and wanted her to go outside and listen for the sound, documenting where she was, what she saw, heard, felt and time, telling her not to mention a word to anybody. Sure enough, just as Welch said would happen and what time it would happen, did. Re the following:
"Prior to heading back to North American to brief the engineers, George telephoned Millie Palmer. Excitedly, Millie related that a terribly loud ba-boom had nearly blown her out of bed. The time was noted and it corresponded to George's dive. 'Pancho,' Millie related, 'is really pissed. You know how she feels about Yeager.' Apparently, Pancho claimed the boom was a result of mining operations going on 30 miles away to the north. Of course, no one had previously heard any mining explosions, nor could that account for rattling windows only on the east facing side of the Fly Inn. Welch chuckled and swore Millie to secrecy."
The following is how Al Blackburn, a test pilot himself, writes about the same scenario in his book ACES HIGH: The Race For Mach 1 (1999). Although a test pilot with North American Aviation like Welch, he wasn't there during the attempts to break the sound barrier not joining the company until 1954, around the same time Welch died. Blackburn writes:
"Such was the aphrodisiacal lore told with a shrug at Pancho's and Patmars' and other watering holes from Hollywood to the beach communities of Los Angeles. So it was with George Welch, frequently constrained to overnight in the the desert to meet an early-morning flight schedule, whiled away the evening at Pancho's. Not given to garrulity, more often than not he sought out the solo company of Millie Palmer, one of the lovelier specimens who found temporary refuge at the Happy Bottom Riding Club. It was Millie that George confided on an early autumn evening that she should be listening for his historic boom, and returned for for a subsequent tete-a-tete to learn that she had indeed been nearly blasted out of her bed by the ba-boom of the sonic shock wave emanating from his supersonic Sabrejet."
As for running off to engage in tete-a-tete's with more lovelier specimens after just breaking the sound barrier for the first time, a few paragraphs later, as found at the same source as the first quote above as sourced for both below, the following shows up:
"(As soon as Welch landed) he was informed that his wife Jan had gone into labor with their first child. Welch flew the company plane up to Los Angeles, but arrived after his son had been born. That evening, Jan phoned her family to announce the birth of Giles, and of course, tell them about George breaking the sound barrier. Years later, Jan's brother Jimmy would recall that he could not determine if Jan was more excited about her new baby, or her husband's supersonic adventure."(source)
Seven years after his attempt to break the sound barrier, on Columbus Day, October 12, 1954, Welch's F-100A-1-NA Super Sabre disintegrated during a 7g pullout at Mach 1.55 over Muroc Dry Lake. He was still in the ejection seat when found. Critically injured, he was evacuated by helicopter to the Air Base hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Welch left a wife and two children. Millie Palmer would be well into her 90's if still alive. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
GEORGE S. WELCH, SEEN WITH HIS 1946 MG TC AND
A BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER XP-86 SABRE JET
(please click image)
TAKING OUT THE FIRST MEATBALL
KENNETH TAYLOR, GEORGE WELCH, PEARL HARBOR, AND THE P-40
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
On November 13, 1953 Pancho Barnes' place burnt down, totally destroyed by fire. In 1958 or 1959 my ex-stepmother's place burnt down, totally destroyed by fire. On January 22, 1962 Willie Martello's El Rey Club burnt down, totally destroyed by fire.
When Pancho first built her place in the high desert of California near Muroc Dry Lake prior to the war the air base for the most part didn't exist. As aircraft continued to developed and required more and more landing area and room for support facilities Edwards Air Force Base began to expand, eating up property all around Pancho's until they reached a point they were actually eating away at hers.
Following a change of command at the air base in 1952 friction between Pancho and the base commander began to increase because of the number of flights in and out of the Club's landing strip and what the commander called an encroachment into the base's airspace. When the government attempted to buy her property allegedly to expand the air base runways and Pancho refused, a series of unproven allegations surfaced that the Happy Bottom Riding Club was, among other things, a brothel. The Air Force slapped an off limits on the ranch, effectively banning servicemen from going to the club. Falling on hard times and basically deserted when the government moved to appropriate the ranch, Pancho sued. Then, on November 13, 1953, shortly after she beat the government and won the lawsuit, the ranch, under very, very suspicious circumstances, burnt to the ground, some even say, although it was never proven, from a possible strike from the air.
However, in regards to Pancho's place being a target for "a possible strike from the air," there is an article that was published on April 23, 1953, page 33 of the New York edition of the New York Times with a headline that reads: "Threats to Bomb Ranch Charged to Air General." To view the complete article requires a purchase of the article from the Times through their Order Reprints service. However, prior to any purchase of that specific article the Order Reprints page offers the following thumbnail sketch of the article which includes the headline and the first paragraph:
Threats to Bomb Ranch Charged to Air General
Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES APRIL 23, 1953
LOS ANGELES, April 22 -- Alleged threats by Brig. Gen. Joseph Stanley Holtoner, commanding officer of the Edwards Air Force Base, to bomb her resort ranch were related to Federal Judge James M. Carter today by Miss Florence Pancho Barnes, also known as a flier. She asks $300,000 damages for injury to her resort business.
I have however, for my readers, been able to retrieve a complete and unabridged United Press version that appears for all practical purposes, at least information-wise, to be basically the same as the Times article, albeit as it appeared in the Lubbock Evening Journal, Lubbock, Texas, Thursday, April 23, 1953, page 3, and presented here for educational purposes at no charge:
THREAT TO BOMB RANCH CHARGED
General Accused By Woman
LOS ANGELES. April 23 UPI: Florence Pancho Barnes, pioneer aviatrix, charged in federal court Wednesday that Air Force Brig. Gen. Joseph S. Holtoner threatened to bomb her out of her Mojave Destert dude ranch. Miss Barnes accused Holtoner of making the threats because of efforts to serve a subpoena in connection with her S300.000 civil suit for damages against him. Holtoner is commanding genera] of Edwards Air Force Base near Muroc, Calif., which adjoins Miss Barnes' dude ranch. "He said he'd bomb my place; burn it up with napalm bombs," Miss Barnes told Federal Judge James M. Carter. "I'd like Congress to answer for him," the round-faced aviatrix said. "They made him an officer but they didn't make him a gentleman." Mrs. Barnes appeared in court as her own attorney after her civil suit was transferred from state to federal court at the request of the U. S. attorney's office which is handling the general's defense. In her action. Miss Barnes accused the general of instituting a boycott against her as part of the government's effort to condemn the ranch she valued at $1,500,000 for only $180,000. She charged the alleged boycott in which service personnel were warned to stay away from her ranch was ruining her business.
Notice Pancho tells the Federal Judge, in court, that the good general had told her in no uncertain terms, "he'd bomb my place; burn it up with napalm bombs." Then what happens, the place burns down under mysterious circumstances with witnesses reporting they heard not only loud explosions but saw whole walls blown out. I'm with Pancho on this one, and as far as her place being a brothel, Pancho was no madam. That was left for others to do. The full story can be found by going to the following link:
THE CODE MAKER, THE ZEN MAKER
OF SHANGRI-LA, SHAMBHALA, GYANGANJ, BUDDHISM AND ZEN
CLOSE UP OF THE SAME P-80 SHOOTING STAR GRAPHIC BEING HELD BY THE HOSTESS
"'Pancho,' Millie related, 'is really pissed. You know how she feels about Yeager.' Apparently, Pancho claimed the boom was a result of mining operations going on 30 miles away to the north. Of course, no one had previously heard any mining explosions, nor could that account for rattling windows only on the east facing side of the Fly Inn. Welch chuckled and swore Millie to secrecy."
-------- CHUCK YEAGER BREAKS THE SOUND BARRIER OCTOBER 14, 1947. BOTTOM RIGHT SHOWS YEAGER AND PANCHO
TOGETHER. NOTICE PICTURE OF SAME P-80 SHOOTING STAR IN BACKGROUND THAT HOSTESSES WERE HOLDING.
NORTH AMERICAN XP-86, 45-59597, PU957, FLOWN BY GEORGE WELCH TO BREAK SOUND BARRIER BEFORE YEAGER
Shortly before the X-1's famous flight, North American test pilot George Welch had been conducting high-speed dives of the XP-86. During these flights, he had noticed odd behavior of the aircraft's speed indicator which jumped erratically as he approached Mach 1. Later on, this phenomenon would come to be known as "Mach jump" and is indicative of encountering shock waves at transonic speeds near the speed of sound. Witnesses on the ground had also reported hearing the tell-tale "BA-BOOM" sound indicative of the sonic boom created by a supersonic vehicle.
Welch flew two of these possible supersonic flights before the X-1 officially broke the sound barrier, one on 1 October 1947 and the other on 14 October, mere minutes before Yeager achieved Mach 1.06. Unfortunately for Welch, his aircraft was not equipped with instrumentation to determine conclusively just how fast he had gone. It was not until 13 November that ground stations were used to measure the speed of the XP-86 in a dive, during which the aircraft was clocked at Mach 1.02 and 1.04 on two separate attempts. Since the dive angles during the measured attempts had been the same as those on his earlier flights and the aircraft had not undergone any modifications, it is quite possible that George Welch was not only the first to fly supersonically in a jet-powered plane, but the first to break the sound barrier as well.
DR. JOSEPH N. YOON