By Peggy Walters
Frank, Chuck, and I drive on a fast-moving freeway on our way to the Chino Airport Museum. They go the first Saturday of every month to attend informative talks and to see flights of featured aircraft. I’ve been invited today because the P-38 is the Plane of the Day, my favorite.
We are in luck. Brilliant clear blue sky with magical cloud formations. I see a shaggy dog to my left, a dragon to the right, a space ship in front. Frank comments: “I’ve never looked for any shapes in clouds but they will be marvelous backdrops to photograph today’s flight.”
After the presentation, we go out to the tarmac to watch the P-38 take-off and circle the crowd. As I watch, my mind drifts to my back yard in Eagle Rock, California. I am a teenager in my two-piece white bathing suit, one of the first of its kind. I’m stretched out on a beach towel lathered in iodine and baby oil in search of a quick, perfect tan.
A plane passes overhead, turns in a big circle, passes by again at a lower altitude, and gives me a wing wave as it flies away. I wave back. The same scenario repeats itself over the next few weeks. I fantasize about the pilot. All my friends are in the Navy. It would be fun to know someone in the Air Force.
One day Papa stays home from work in bed with a bad cold. I’m in the backyard in my bathing suit waiting for the plane. It has been flying lower lately. Today, even lower. The house shakes, windows rattle to the breaking point. Papa bursts out the back door in his pajamas. As the plane turns to make a second pass I see Papa shake his fist and yells soundless unmistakable words skyward at the plane as it roars by.
The P-38 never returned. I was so disappointed; my romantic fantasies never to be realized. I’ve been told that it was probably a pilot in Burbank where P-38s were tested, not an Air Force Man. Never mind, I still would like to meet him. As I watch today’s breathtaking flight. I scan faces in the crowd. Lots of former flyboys here. Could he be one of them?
Sadly, I know he will not recognize me. I’ve never parted with my fantasies, but I’ve long since parted with the white two-piece bathing suit, the tan, and my figure.