History buff lived when famous aviators ruled the skies

June 09, 2010|By Joyce Rudolph
(Roger Wilson )

Chuck A. Bausback was 8 years old when Bob Hope Airport opened in 1930 as United Airport.

The 87-year-old moved with his family to La Crescenta in 1928. He graduated from Glendale High School because La Crescenta High School hadn't opened yet.

When the airport opened, his father, Charles L. Bausback, owned the coffee shop on the ground level from 1930 to 1940. A few doors down was a banquet hall that seated 250 people, Bausback said. Upstairs was the Sky Room Restaurant.

"Our waitresses used to put me in the dumbwaiter and send me upstairs," he said, referring to the elevator lift to the second floor.

Former California Govs. James Rolph Jr. and Frank Merriam held many lavish parties in the banquet hall in the 1930s, he said.


They liked to go hunting in Utah and brought back the deer to be served at the dinners, so a compartment had to be built in the refrigerator to hold the meat.

When Lockheed bought the airport in 1940, the coffee shop and banquet hall were removed and the area was reconfigured, he said.

Bausback spent weekends and summers at the airport and made friends with historic pilots, like Amelia Earhart, Roscoe Turner, Will Rogers, Jacqueline Cochran, Paul Mantz, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker and Charles A. Lindbergh, for whom Bausback is named.

Lindbergh was a second cousin on his dad's side, he said.

Bausback remembers that before wire services, William Randolph Hearst would reward the fastest aviator to fly news photographs from the West Coast to his newspapers across the country.

"He would bring two sets of photographs to the airport and call Amelia and Roscoe to fly them out," Bausback said. "The first one to walk into the newspaper office was given $1,000, and that was an amazing amount of money in those days."

Bausback has an incredible memory forCalifornia history. For more than 20 years he has been research director for Huell Howser Productions, providing facts for "California Gold," said Phil Noyes, a segment producer.

"He is a walking encyclopedia on California history, and especially obscure California history," Noyes said.

One of Bausback's memories that falls under the category of obscure would be that of Roscoe Turner's flights advertising the Gilmore Oil Co. A lion cub named Gilmore was provided and rode in the cockpit with Turner, Bausback said.

"I used to walk the lion around the airport," Bausback said. "He liked vanilla ice cream, and we tried to smuggle him into my dad's restaurant to get him the ice cream, and my dad would find us and yell, 'This is no place for a wild beast.'"

Quirky things he remembers about Jacqueline Cochran include how she used to hurdle a fence instead of opening the gate, and she always used the men's restroom.

In the early days, the aviators would race, and Cochran would often win, which would make the men mad, he said.

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