About Me

Marion Charles Pyles is my birth name but thanks to TV show Gomer Pyle USMC which aired from 1964-1969 coming along, I was known as 'Gomer'. These days I go my my middle name which is Charlie.

I have liked airplanes since the day I first saw one in the sky over my hometown of Elkins, West Virginia. My parents were involved with Ground Observer Corps and the Civil Air Patrol. Books from these two organizations fueled my interest in aviation, particularly the books that enabled me to identify airplanes by the silhouette in the sky. My parents bought an Encyclopedia when I was born in 1944. The original volumes were in alphabetical order. Each year we got 4 quarterly issues and a cover with the year on it's spine. Each quarterly issue had an aviation section and a disaster section. I read these two sections every time we got an issue starting probably around age 4.

My friends thought I was lying when I identified things such as the huge Convair B-36 Peacemakers flying over the Tygart Valley enroute to Langley AFB in Virginia not far away. These behemoths literally jarred the figurines off my mother's shelves and broke them. I can remember the first sonic booms made by fighter jets criss-crossing the skies overhead.

During my days in Junior High and High School in Elkins, my eyes and heart were continually on the sky. I took a correspondence course during my High School years with National School of Aeronautics. I planned to attend Business School, but scratched that because my resident training in Kansas City with NSA.

I met some interesting people at NSA and I still remember a few of them. I always figured I would go back, finish business school and then seek a job in the airline industry. As fate would have it, I got lucky. My hometown airline which was at the time Lake Central Airlines invited me for an interview in Pittsburgh. Palmer Holliday hired me and teh rest is this story. I hope you enjoy my musings. I was called for an interview with Lake Central Airlines at Pittsburgh almost as sooon as I arrived back in Elkins. This was early September 1963.

I always figured I would go back, finish business school and then seek a job in the airline industry. As fate would have it, I got lucky. My hometown airline which was at the time Lake Central Airlines invited me for an interview in Pittsburgh. I was hired and started working for Lake Central Airlines at Portsmouth, Ohio on September 10th, 1963. I never looked back. I'll never forget the friendship I had with Palmer Holiday who hired me. I'll never forget the friendship I had with Palmer Holiday who hired me. We were friends until Palmer passed away. The rest is this story. I hope you enjoy my musings.

I created this web site to keep a promise made to my friends. Some of these friends have shared historic items from their collections or loaned them to me to photograph, scan and return. I am especially grateful to Tom Cooney who loaned me his negatives for a long period of time. His collection was so vast that I never had the money to reprint all of them.  That was before I had a scanner. Tom passed away not long after I returned his negatives to him. At top left is one of Tom's shots.

Along the way I became friends with Captain Frank Petee who in turn introduced me to the AM '49er's Club. I was invited as a historian/guest of the AM '49er's at their yearly reunions for a period of time spanning more than 15 years. I try to stay in touch with those who are still around.

Some of these guys were unique characters. Frank Petee never flew the Pick-up. He was Company Historian for many years and also the co-pilot on the first All American Airways passenger flight. I miss Frank and all the things he taught me about the history of our airline. Victor Yesulaites was the first flying mechanic to reel in a bag of mail in pick-up service. He also patented a method of pick-up that eliminated the big loop with his 'monkey fists'. Ray 'Red' Garcia was another of the flying mechanics I've known since about 1969 or 70 after Lake Central was absorbed into Allegheny Airlines. Ray went in to Customer Service and retired from that department. As I write this, Ray is one of only a handful of '49er's still living. Ray was a Director of the Company when he left. I always considered him a friend.

Toby West befriended me and we worked very hard together on a project that would have resulted in an actual pick-up demonstration with one of the original Stinson SR-10C's.  Toby; wherever you are, I'll never forget the first real 'Virginia Gentleman' I ever knew. This project is also for you. Jim Thompson who still works for the Company in Washington, DC is now along with Flight Attendant Bill Lehman heirs apparent to the title of Company Historian as I write this piece in 2014. Nobody else in the Company that I ever knew has the knowledge or available information like Jim. Jim, Toby and I worked hard laying the groundwork for the Stinson tour. The Virginia Aviation Museum had a Stinson SR-10 that may have been available for our use had it happened.

Unfortunately, the Company didn't support our effort which would have celebrated the 50th anniversary of USAir and the project went away due to lack of that support. We estimated that we'd have to raise a minimum of $500,000.00 to support the preparation, spare parts, and fuel for the project. Without the Company on board, it was fruitless and we finally abandoned the idea altogether.

 

-Charlie Pyles-