Saturday, June 11, 2011

OSU Skydiver Reunion/ POSPR

Originally posted in February, 2010

OK this epistle turned into a book but I got carried away. Stick with me.

The OSU skydiver reunion participants consist of Steve Head, Jerry Ward, Jon Moore and myself that were roommates at the Skydiver house during my last semester at OSU in 1965 and Marilyn Head who was an OSU skydiver but not a roommate no matter how much time she spent there. What ever my former roommates did after I left OSU I take no responsibility for so don't be calling me. We have had several reunions since that time and decided that having one in conjunction with the Pioneers of Sport Parachuting reunion (hereafter known as POSPR ) would be a good deal.

The OSU Skydiver reunion commenced on Tuesday Feb 9 at Steve and Marilyn Head's house in Mesa and consisted of Jerry Ward, Steve and Marilyn and myself. Jon Moore was to attend but passed away just after Christmas. We hoisted a glass to Jon which was the best we could do because he couldn't be there. As a newly current Sky God John Christoff came along a resident groupie. His team name on our 4 way team in the olden days was "Terminal puke". Whether his team name came about as a result of his skydiving abilities or the color of his jump suit I don't remember.

On Wednesday morning we flew to Skydive Arizona in Eloy in Steve's T-210 and honed our skills in the wind tunnel. I am not sure that the wind tunnel is necessary for getting back in the air but it gives you confidence you can fly stable again at any rate. We looked around the facilities at Skydive AZ but couldn't do any training or jumping as the school is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

We flew back to Eloy on Thursday morning and at 8:00am Steve and Jerry started the supposedly refresher and check dive course. Skydive AZ is reluctant to just do a refresher and check dive course for anyone that hasn't jumped in ten years and Jerry and Steve hadn't jumped in 35 years. In the end it didn't make any difference as they only had a first jump course going that morning anyway so they ended up in the First Jump course. The course lasted until 1:30pm and they emerged fully trained, got manifested and suited up and . Christoff and I had done a retraining course and jump in Houston in November so we were current Sky Gods with low D numbers (well at least John had low B and C numbers, or at least lower than mine) and we just signed some releases, bought a jump ticket and went with them.

Of course Steve and Jerry each wanted a video guy to go with them to preserve this moment for posterity so that made Christoff want one also. At any rate after a lot of mugging for pictures we got in the air. We were jumping a Super Twin Otter carrying 23 jumpers and it fair-lee-well zoomed to 13,500 feet. During the climb John was about to crush a sweet young female jumper of about 95 pounds sitting beside him, so as soon as we took off our seat belts at 1500 feet (Yes they use seat belts) she got up and set on my knee. There ARE some advantages to jumping with Christoff. John and I didn't get to watch Steve and Jerry jump as we jumped first but we got to watch their videos later in the bar and that was a Hoot. John was paying for his video so his Video guy wasn't interested in filming me but he was forced to when I pinned John. John was real interested in watching me pin him which tended to put him in a backslide. My vast experience on one jump in the last thirty years( in November) allowed me to catch him, that and I motioned him to come to me. He WAS harder to pin than my instructor in Houston. We did our 360s and then it was John's turn to pin me. The video guy farted me off and started trying to catch John so I did my own thing and tracked and pulled about 2500 feet. Less canopy time than in Houston but more freefall time. I used the time to see if my altimeter that I hadn't jumped in 30 years, was reliable and matched the other one I was carrying. They matched and now I have my own equipment. However my own equipment consists of altimeter, gloves and goggles. Donna may want to buy me a rig for my birthday.

Jerry and Steve went out with an Instructor on each side of them, or at least Steve did. Jerry was a bit quick for one instructor but he caught up later. Jerry was always quick. Jerry got a bit more canopy ride than Steve but a good time was had by all. If you want to see their videos go to and click on the week of Feb 8 thru 24 and find their picture. Whoa, THAT may be harder than you think if you haven't seen them in 35 years so Steve's video number is M2-W2-12 and Jerry's is M2-W2-14.

While we were at Skydive AZ they were running three Twin Otters all the time and had a lot of people in the air all the time. They also have two more otters, four Sky Vans, a DC-3 and a balloon. When we jumped In Houston we had to stay away from the hotdog swoopers (which was good) but in Eloy they had two landing areas, one for advanced and one for students. However even the supposed student area also had a lot of hot dogs. Frankly I didn't have any apprehension about the jump or my landing but I was getting paranoid about somebody swooping in and colliding with me as I made the approach on a comparably slow canopy. It worked out OK as there were very few people above me getting ready to land so I didn't have to worry about traffic on landing.

Just a plug for getting back in the air for some of you old jumpers. For the past 30 years I really haven't had much desire to make another jump. It was kinda like "been there, done that". However being around the old guys that are still jumping gave me the itch. You should try it, it is a piece of cake. The free fall comes back easy and the harness is almost what I was jumping in 1980. The canopies now are different even though I was on a square when I retired. They are faster but are really bullet proof. I have yet to see a malfunction in the times I have been hanging around the DZs, and even though they still teach malfunctions, it seldom happens. The canopies have the capability to be faster at full drive but are really easy to land and you land like a butterfly with sore toes. Even without square experience they are easy to handle. At least those student canopies are that I have jumped which are 280 sq. feet. They are fast if you need to get back to the DZ but really let you down easy. Dave Pitts, they would even let you and your bad knee easy. And Fred Hill, if you want me to I will do a harness hold with you and help you get stable. Drake you too and Pitts if you want, but Fred was always a little light on stability. Just kidding Fred, I know you would eventually get stable. I have seen you stable in a style tuck with huge welding gloves. Mike Sizemore said he would jump if Fred Gifford would. They spot by GPS now and the spots are good so nobody needs to know how to spot anymore.

After the jump we retired to the Bent Prop saloon to watch the videos and for some adult beverages to celebrate. Steve and Jerry's instructor Adam, who had never heard of Rumble Seat Cardinal Puff (Nobody has heard of it anymore), came in and we convinced him that he could taste a slice of history if he tried for Cardinal. (he didn't make it but I gave a really superb demo). While trying to determine the highest ranking Cardinal in attendance a gray haired guy at the bar said that he had made Pope under Frank Carpenter at the Rumbleseat lounge in 1965 or 1966 so we allowed he was the highest ranking Cardinal in attendance. It turned out he was Mike McGowan of free fall filming fame. He didn't stay long but while talking about the olden days he said that he had jumped at Stroud and that Mike Sizemore, also of free fall filming fame of Tulsa was his mentor. Mike was a Dave Woolsey student and jumped with Fred Gifford and the Tulsa Paradivers at Stroud.

On Friday we left Mesa and flew to Eloy to try to get another jump so Steve and Jerry would feel like the jump they made on Thursday was not a fluke and they were REALLY current. It was not to be as we would have had a three hour wait so we decided to go to Yuma instead. I had been working with the Skydive AZ people to send down some rental gear in the Porter that Larry hill was taking down as the jump plane for the POSPR. They said they would have no problem of sending the gear if it wasn't in use. We found out while we were there that they could not spare any rental gear to take to Yuma as they had a military class that weekend and would need all their student gear. That meant that we were not going to get to make a jump at Yuma. Larry Hill who is the owner of Skydive AZ really tried, but even for him, they couldn't spare any gear.

We took off to fly to Felicity California which is just outside of Yuma AZ where the POSPR was to be held. Shawn Hill gave us the GPS coordinates of the field in Felicity they were using to fly jumpers. We found what we thought was the strip when we saw the Porter parked on the end of it. It wasn't overly long, had Xs on both ends, was in the middle of a watermelon patch and had an airplane sitting on the end of it so those factors made Steve fly around for a look see. When we heard on the plane's radio frequency that If Cliff Davis, the guy who was selling Delta IIs was on board, we couldn't land. We knew then we were at the right place and that Bob Scott (The man that holds the worlds record for the most Cardinal offices) was there. However there was nothing in sight that looked like civilization except for the Porter. We landed and John Christoff and Larry Homestead came driving up in our Limo to take us to the "Center of the World". OK it was an open pickup but at least it was a ride.

We were taken to the town of Felicity, California which proclaims to be the "Center of the World" and is the brain child of none other than Jacque Istel D-2 , the Father of American skydiving. He is also the mayor and the town is named after his wife. It has a chapel and engraved granite walls of American heroes and a Hall of Fame of Parachuting wall and the Center of the World pyramid, all located on five square miles of desert, but it also includes the watermelon field where we landed. The building complex was where the Pioneers were landing after jumping out of the Porter. Jay Stokes, USPA president was giving free tandem jumps, so Marilyn Head, who didn't jump in Eloy, also got her knees in the breeze. So this week all the OSU Skydivers reunion participants got a jump in sunny Arizona. Pat Moorhead, SOS#1 was there and all of the OSU people got their Skydivers over Sixty (SOS) memberships.

While at Felicity Brian Williams SCR #8 was taking pictures and a lot of the old people were jumping. At the Center of the World where the induction of the honorees into the Hall of Fame was held, Jacque also had a memorial service in the chapel for those skydivers that were pioneers that are no longer with us. It was a real nice ceremony.

Tony Fugit and Linda Forney showed up at cocktail hour one night but did not stay but I got to talk to him some. He looked a lot better than he did at Salt Lake when he had just had his knee replaced. On a four way team jump in Dallas way back when, Tony, Fed Hill and Dave Pitts and I made a team jump. I swore off team jumps on that jump as the ground temperature was 14 degrees and the ceiling was 5500 feet and they made us jump.

Prior to the banquet Saturday night, Deke Sonnichsen and Ken Hirschberg D-74 joined the OSU bunch at a cocktail table around the pool. Really old jump stories evolved and the conversation came around to the first Skydiving films. It turns out that Hirschberg was the Exec Producer of "Sport of the Space Age", USPA's first promotional film. The Oklahoma Parachute Assn. bought a copy that we used to promote skydiving and for training in the 60s. It seems that nobody knows if a copy is available but probably USPA has a copy. I have asked USPA to look into the conversion of a 16 MM copy of the film onto a DVD that could be made available for sale by USPA. I have told USPA that a lot of old timers would be interested in buying a copy. I will be back to you on that if we can make it available.

The Saturday night banquet had as featured speaker Deke Sonnichsen who was the founded the California Parachute Club in 1956 and who along with Lou Sanborn D-1, and Jacque Istel D-2 comprised one of the earliest US Teams. Of course Jacque who was our host for the 2010 POSPR was a speaker also. Linda Miller made an appeal to the POSPR attendees to make a donation to the National Skydiving museum. If we as the Pioneers do not support the museum, who will?

Some of the really low D license Pioneers that were at this 2010 POSPR were Jacque, D-2, and Lee Guilfoyle D-50 who has a great web site with early parachuting pictures and started jumping in 1950. He is also in the Parachuting hall of fame. Jerry Bourquin D-22, Bill McCarthy D-83, plus a lot of three digit D numbers. Kim Knorr D-221, Tee Taylor early US Team, D-462, Lynn Chapman, early US Team and one of next year's Parachuting hall of Fame honorees. Ken Hirschberg D-74, Exec Producer of "Sport of the Space Age". Pat Works who used to jump at Texas A&M who is a skydiving author. Bill Booth, one of this year's hall of fame inductees and inventor of the three ring release that are on virtually all parachuting harnesses manufactured today was there. He also was involved in the development of the tandem parachute. Bill and his fiancé were at our table and we had some really interesting conversations. He told us that he has to date taken over 800 people on jumps over the North Pole. Barbara Roquemore US Team and the first female Diamond wing holder was there. She made the Okies that went to the 1969 Nationals in Marana feel welcome and helped us to find our way around. Garth and Donna Taggert early RW expert who doubled for Bert Lancaster in Gypsy Moths was there and was also in Salt Lake City. Thomas Vasquez and Manual Cabrera attended the POSPR for the first time and are celebrating the 50 year anniversary of their club, the Latin Skydivers which is just north of Yuma. Daryl Henry, skydiver author was there also but I didn't get to talk to him and I don't remember the name of the book that he wrote. John and Paula Wolf celebrated John's birthday( God only knows for how many years) at the banquet. John was the 1973 US accuracy champion with 9 out of 10 dead centers and was within one place of making THIS years 2010 US Team. How is that for longevity. There are a lot of people that attended this year 2010 POSPR that I don't remember that I talked to, or didn't get to talk to, but hopefully next time.

At the banquet our table was the last kicked out of the hall at midnight. I don't think I moved from the Table all night. We were joined by Pat and Jan Works, renowned author and early RW guru, Bob Scott, with the most Cardinal offices (Though not a Pope), Larry Homestead, Vicki Hurst 1972 US Team, and many others. Dennis Henley that used to jump with the Tulsa Paradivers at Stroud was there and he has started jumping again. I don't THINK I gave a Cardinal Demo. I do know if they had run us out sooner I would not have been blessed with a 48 hour hangover.

Notable exceptions at the POSPR were Loy Brydon D-12, one of the Golden Knights founders and a member of at least the 1962 US Team. He also had the patent for the modification that made our round parachutes steerable. Loy passed away last year. Kevin Donnelly (Gypsy Moth and Break Point movie maker who regaled us with movie making stories) and was at Raeford last year, didn't make it as he had an audience with the Queen of England. Also absence was Doug Garr, whose book "Between Heaven and Earth" helped motivated me to make another jump as it was about his coming out of retirement. It was a good book except the parts about kiss passes among the guys. They must do that on the East Coast a lot. Lou Sanborn D-1 who was at Raeford also didn't make it this year.

You should consider attending a future POSPR even if we weren't one of the earliest pioneers. Just being around the earliest pioneers makes you feel that your are surrounded by Parachuting history, not the museum kind but the personal kind. In addition to that there are many people at the reunion that started jumping when you did that you never met or heard of, but it is amazing to share the similar experiences and common friends that we have in the sport.

The ladies that made this year's POSPR possible, and have made others possible, are Kim Knorr D-221 of the 1962 US Team that medaled in the World meet, Elizabeth Foster an early Pioneer and Linda Miller of the 1974 US Team. They put a lot of time and effort in making these events fun and memorable.

Cliff Davis D-1594, USPA I/E, USPA Life member #377

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