KY journalist covers people, plans, glider, turkeys.

1945 photo of Captain Robert Montanarella seat to the left of Copilot Harold Chaplain discussing aircraft instrument panel in background.

November 30, 1945: Friday morning edition. Background coverage.

Actually, until November, 2021, when Al Stettner sent me this lengthy Louisville, KY, clipping from The Courier-Journal 1, the details of Veterans Air first cargo payload, let alone a glider story, were sketchy.

Thanks, again, Al. 2

The unnamed journalist could claim particularly thorough research. Previously unknown or unconfirmed details pepper this article. My Uncle Jim is even mentioned, and I had no idea he was involved in Veterans Air.

The DC-3 flight crew, Robert Montanarella (above, pictured in DC-3 left seat) and Robert Chambers (not pictured here), were no strangers to my research before this clipping surfaced. I had met the Chambers family and collected a number of photos and snippets about Montanarella. But Al Stettner’s new clip was gold for the wealth of other details it contained. Every time Veterans Air shows up in any research, the “more real” the story becomes.

For instance, inclusion of Arthur Brenner of Newark, N.J. strengthens the story because, although he is introduced here as a “produce wholesaler,” Arthur was a cornerstone in founding Veterans Air. He also became a member of the Board of Directors. Yet, his name seldom appears in documents or the press. His company, Brenner Produce, purchased the turkeys in Louisville from Stoker’s Poultry, another important new company identification for our research.3

The next paragraph mentions a totally new name. Laister-Kauffman, the aircraft company that, according to the article, “conditioned” our first DC-3 (the Gaye Lyn) for its first payload flight. Also, the article reveals that Laister-Kauffman had loaned us a glider.

Ranking high in the midst of all this journalistic research is mention of Walter Haag, 29, Chicago, pilot of the glider. This is the first and only time any details surfaced about him. Until then, I only knew there was a Walter Haag from his name listed in an AIR TRANSPORT Magazine , July 1946, article. It was an engrossing three-page feature written by George Herrick entitled “Veterans Air. Flies…Anything, Any Place, Any Time.” 4

Soon, we may know more about Walter Haag. 5 His daughter came across our research and contacted me. Nothing puts a bigger grin on my face than to know there are folks out there interested and reading about our story — not to mention if they are actually “related” to Veterans Air.

PHOTOS of VETERANS AIR first pilot hires – the DC-3 flight crew

  • Robert Montanarella. Despite a distinctive last name and distinguished flying career, Montanarella remains on the “more information WANTED” list. Meanwhile, we do have these photos below…with Saunie6, from an exterior shot of him in the cockpit of “my” DC-3, Gaye Lyn 7, and a close-up photo with co-pilot Harold C. Chaplin8.
  • Robert Chambers. A mix of photos show DC-3 Chief Pilot Chambers standing guard at the Gooney Bird before it was painted in Veterans Air livery9. A thumbnail of his service introduces Bob’s proud military career10. Three more photos bring you some of the Chambers family across the years11.

Quick detour…

Before we sign-off, something I do not want you to miss, because I almost did. You’ve just been introduced to the name Stoker’s Poultry. Now, scroll up and take a closer look at the news clip, in the far right column. Dollars to gobblers, that is a Stoker’s newspaper ad…the rest of which was cropped off by the news clipping service. They didn’t know how interested we’d be in seeing it 70+ years later! 🙂 I may trace Al Stettner’s research steps and see if I can find the full advert. Would be fun.

A committed, essential endeavor…

Undoubtedly, by now you know I am Saunie Gravely’s daughter. When I was a child, he told me stories about an airline he founded. By the time I was four years old, Dad had his private pilot’s license and took me flying in his Stinson Gullwing. I was 32 years old when I got my private license and took him flying! Then, in April 2015, after thinking about it for years and having attempted it several years prior, I decided to “do some research” into Veterans Air. I had that one excellent AIR TRANSPORT article and basically no memory of anything Saunie told me when I was a kid. [I like calling him Saunie sometimes. I love the name.]

So, Dear Reader, here you and I are, seven (7) years later! Sitting in the middle of people and story and findings I never imagined in any dimension. Beyond the fact that it has changed my life, brought me great joy, made me a registered owner of a 24′ Class-C RV named Gracie, and extended my family to 30+ fascinating folks, beyond all that, has come a huge responsibility to “do something” with all the findings. First to better organize it, second to better document it, and third to share it beyond this website.

[I hear my dear, dear childhood friend, Jane, clapping her hands and saying, “Finally, she’s going to write a book!” No, Jane, that’s still not the goal. But keep after me. Something good will come of the shear force of your will and encouragement!]

What’s the “committed, essential endeavor”? Documentation – as best as I can provide, beginning with this Post. It will require more time. But I owe it to the story. I “should” have started sooner, but, like Topsy, the story grew and snuck up on me. As I progress, I intend to document previous Posts as well. Yikes! Gaye Lyn

1 “Veterans’ Air Line to Haul Turkeys In Glider.” The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY, 30 Nov. 1945, pp. 20–20.
If each newly-discovered person, company or tidbit of information about Veterans Air in this Courier-Journal article were properly footnoted, this web Post would look like it had freckles, not to mention interrupting the story. Instead, boldface type draws attention to new topics (like Stoker’s Poultry, Lasiter-Kauffman, a glider, and glider pilot Walter Haag). In addition, the reader’s attention is drawn to an advertiser on the “banner,” that is also subject of the article.
2 Al Stettner, who found The Courier-Journal article, is the son of Jack Stettner, a Veterans Air core-founder, our international and domestic pilot, and the first of Dad’s men that I met face-to-face.
3 “Veterans’ Haul Turkeys.” 30 Nov. 1945.
4 George Herrick, “Veterans Air. Flies…Anything, Any Place, Any Time.” AIR TRANSPORT, July 1946, pp 36-38
The bedrock of my earliest research, this was the only major news article Saunie had to give me — way, way back before research was even a glimmer. Somehow, Dad had procured it stamped "COMPLEMENTARY COPY in lieu of interlibrary loan provided by LOAN DIVISION, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS."
5 Walter Haag, 29, Chicago, pilot hired to fly the glider.
Good authority confirmed Walter’s last name is, indeed, spelled as you see it here, Haag [not Hague as presented by our otherwise meticulous Courier-Journal staff writer]. Haag's daughter may also grace us with a “new” news clip. Watch this space!
6 C.J. Photo. "Vets Turn An Idea Into Air Cargo Express." The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY, Sunday, 25 Nov 1945.
7 "Veterans' Air Express. With a C-47 and some elbow grease..." AIR TRAILS Pictorial, a Street & Smith Publication, New York, NY, April 1946, Vol XXVI, No 1. Cover mention, pp 28-29, 76.
The DC-3 and head-and-shoulders photo of Montanarella are used without permission [publication out-of-print] and the article gave no photo credits.
8 "N.J.Veterans In Air Express. 21 Former Fliers in Army Start Company to Handle Freight."The Sunday Call, Newark, NJ, Dec 9, 1945, 16.
No newspaper photo credit of Montanarella in DC-3 cockpit with co-pilot Harold C. Chaplin was given no credits by the newspaper.
9 Chambers, Robert C., Pilot Running Log, November 1945 to February 1946".
Two entries log delivery of VAE's first DC-3: 11-16-45, VD-LV, 4:00 Daytime Hrs. (Pick up from U.S. Government & delivery to Louisville, KY for refurb and livery painting. Photo taken prior to painting. 12-3-45, LV-NK, 4:30 Daylight Hrs. Delivery to VAE at Newark. SOURCE: Page from Running Pilot Log Compliments of Chambers Family.
10 CHAMBERS, Colonel Robert, 1974. (1922-2015). WWII Army Air Corps Pilot. Retired NY Air National Guard 3-state Wing Commander & Base Commander Westchester County Airport.
11 All photographs in this group are Compliments of Chambers Family.

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