Dec 19, 2010
Celebrities in Gander (continued)….Anne Goff Andrews, SP Class of 1966, asked if anyone remembered seeing famous people arrive at the Gander airport…or any other celebrities met while living at Gander. That sparked a flurry of activity as people recalled famous people that they had seen or met…Keep it up, send in your famous person story to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll include it in upcoming discussions here…thx,
Faye Lewis Raynard, GA Class of 1959
My father tells me about working in Gander during the war. One evening walking up a street, him and his buddy pass this US Army Airforce Officer. He greets them with a “Hello fellas,” followed by a wave-type salute.
With a response from my father “Evening officer,” and they look at each other and say “I know that guy from somewhere.” They discover this is Clarke Gable who is in Gander on a USO visit--a thrill for my mother when he told her this story, I’m sure.
As for me, working at the airport, I saw a lot of VIPs. One in particular I will always remember, Hugh Hefner strolling about the terminal with Barbi Benton, a recent centerfold and girlfriend, on his arm. I didn’t pay much attention to Hugh. And there was a bevy of Playboy Bunny flight attendants following them around. At 2:00 AM, this was quite a sight. A couple of the guys got out to walk through the Playboy DC9. It was a choice I had to make. Look at the inside of a DC9 or look at those bunnies. I had flown in a DC9 but I subscribed to Playboy.
There is another story of one of the local tough guys trying to take on John Wayne one evening but that didn’t work out too well for him. Not that John Wayne handled the situation Hollywood style but security (Ralph Christian) cooled things down.
As we all know, one of the goals of going up to the terminal was to see someone important or interesting. Most of the time we did.
Jack Pinsent , GA Class of 1960
I sure did like to visit the old terminal building and watch for the many passengers and aircraft that passed through Gander. On some days I bet I spent as much at 5 to 6 hours loitering around the terminal, and enjoying some of the snacks from the old snack bar.
My dad worked with Allied Aviation and quite often he was called upon to show movies to passengers that were delayed at Gander, and again, on many occasions my brother and I tagged along to view the many shows, which included films from the National Film Board of Canada, along with short movies and cartoons. As a young boy growing up in Gander, this was always a treat. Lots of good memories.
Don Carter, GA Class of 1967
Do you know that I did not see one famous person during my great life in Gander. How is that for dull? We spent so much time at the airport too. I did see the Queen as a Princess when she came to Halifax and I lived in New Glasgow, and the Girl Guides went to Halifax to see her; saw Princess Diana and husband in a Church in Halifax, but nadda site of anyone while living in Gander. Sad eh!
Audrey Mingo Grantham, GA Class of 1958
I worked for Wilson Porter, who owned an aircraft servicing company-Air Trans (formerly Trans Ocean) in dispatch for the Summer of 1965 and then with Allied Aviation, also in dispatch, for three Summers while I was in University. I saw many people pass through Gander airport.
One night I met a corporate jet and when the door opened Frank Sinatra shook my hand (1966). He came to the office and talked while his jet was refuelled. Castro from Cuba passed through a couple times. Also Maureen O'Hara and her husband Charlie Blair passed through Gander Lake several times in the early 1970's in their personal Sunderland, four engine, double-decker flying boat. They lived in St. Croix, Virgin Island's and would fly back and forth to Maureen's home in Foynes Ireland, landing in the Shannon River. This was a flying boat and had to land in Gander lake for fuel.
Charlie Blair was a friend of my father from the flying boat days in Botwood. He was a pilot with Pan American at the time and flew the PAA Clipper ships out of Fort Lauderdale-Buffalo-Shediac, NB-Botwood-Ireland. Charlie Blair was later the chief pilot with PAA on the Boeing 707. After retirement, he and Maureen started Antilles Air Boats out of St. Croix flying the Virgin Islands and San Juan.
Maureen O'Hara stayed at our house on a couple of these flights through Gander. In 1974 I flew with them from Gander to St. Croix via Boston in their flying boat. A 6-hour flight to Boston and then 13 hours to St. Croix. Reg Batson from Gander (now ATC) came with me. We stayed with Maureen O'Hara and Charlie Blair at their house in St. Croix and made several flights on their Grumman Goose, Albatross and the Sunderland during our stay there.
Charlie Blair wrote a book "Red Ball in the Sky" about his flying days and mentions Gander. A good read if you can find it. The Flying Boat museum in Botwood is also worth a visit. So there's a little story for you. Lots of others from my days around Gander airport.
Keith Lacey, GC, class of 1964
Absolutely delicious story from Keith which reminds me of flying boats landing on Gander Lake in the 50s. The men would be on the big wharf pulling on towlines to ease them in. As kids we would play on the wharf while all this was going on, with nothing more to protect us than a stern warning to be careful.
Bob Pelley, GA class of 1962
(Celebrity stories—Gander style, to be continued, send in yours to email@example.com)