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. Great background coverage.

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

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.

Our DC-3 flight crew, Robert Montanarella (pictured in DC-3 left seat) and Robert Chambers, 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” our story becomes.

For instance, inclusion of Arthur Brenner of Newark, N.J. strengthens the story because Arthur is 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.

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 had surfaced about him. Until then, I only knew there was a Walter Haag * from his name listed in an AIR TRANSPORT, July 1946,* article. It was a fantastic three-page feature beginning on Page 37 written by George Herrick entitled Veterans Air. Flies…Anything, Any Place, Any Time.

Soon, we may know more about Walter Haag. 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.

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 young 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 Veternas Air. I had one excellent newspaper clipping 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, 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+, 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 will come of the shear force of your will and encouragement!]

So, Dear Reader, 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, it grew and snuck up on me. As I progress, I intend to * Document previous Posts as well. Yikes!

*** More of the story…

  • Al Stettner discovered the November 30, 1945, news clipping in The Louisville Courier-Journal that we’ve reviewed above. His father was Jack Stettner, a Veterans Air co-founder, our international and domestic pilot, and the first of Dad’s men that I met face-to-face.
  • Arthur Brenner. Encouragement and help from this produce man influenced Veterans Air founding. An article in Newark Evening News, one of few that mentions Brenner, is a treasure. Don’t miss it on the Veterans Air timeline: 1945-09-13 Veterans idea for express delivery of perishable produce.
  • Walter Haag. Good authority has confirmed Walter’s last name is, indeed, spelled as you see it here [not Hague as presented by our otherwise meticulous journalist.] Who, Dear Reader, you ask, could such an authority be? Someone who may also grace us with a “new” news clip. Watch this space!
  • Robert Montanarella. Despite a distinctive last name and distinguished flying career, he remains on my “more information WANTED” list. Meanwhile, the photos below are among my favorites…with my Dad and from the cockpit of “my” DC-3.
  • Robert Chambers. A mix of photos. Standing guard as DC-3 Chief Pilot before the Gooney Bird was even painted in Veterans Air livery. A thumbnail of his military service. And the Chambers family across the years.

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