Letter from George M. Foster to Roberto Sarmiento

The Transportation Library would like to thank Mr. Jeremy Foster for forwarding this letter to us.

George М. Foster
Berkeley, CA

Dear Mr. Sarmiento,

Why did I make the collection?  I have always been interested in the history of all transportation forms.  Air travel is the only form, however, where I can say I began near the beginning.

In late August or early September 1935, I first flew commercially on a United Airlines В-247, a twin-engine, 10-passenger, low-wing, all-metal monoplane from Oakland, California to Cheyenne, Wyoming, for a wedding of a fraternity brother and roommate at Northwestern.  As I recall, we took off from Oakland just as the sun was setting, rose into the air, and watched the sun rise from the west.  We then landed in San Francisco ten minutes later and picked up a half-dozen passengers, and began our flight east.

We stopped in Reno and Winnemuca, Nevada, and Salt Lake City where we had a major servicing on the plane before continuing to Green River, Wyoming and finally, reaching Cheyenne about eight in the morning after a flight that was at least ten hours long.  The fastest trains at that time required thirty-six hours.  It didn't dawn on me that this was the beginning of a lifetime of flying.

I first flew in a DC-4 in July, 1945, from Mexico City to Los Angeles.  To make this flight in seven hours non-stop seemed quite magical.  Returning to Mexico City two weeks later, the same flight was a DC-3, which took about fourteen hours.

Up to this point, I had not experienced any airline food other than a ham, cheese, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I first flew the Atlantic in October or November, 1948; TWA was a successful competitor with Pan-American Airways on the southern route to Europe.  I left Washington shortly after lunch in a DC-3 and we flew to LaGuardia Terminal, where I was shifted to the International Terminal, a small shack in a distant corner of the field.  We took off about five and flew to Boston in an hour, stopped there to pick up a few passengers, and then made ready to depart for Gander, which was the principal refueling spot in eastern Canada.  Unfortunately, one of the engines would not start.  We were told we would have to wait for 45 minutes while they changed the engine.  Meanwhile, we were served a hot meal in the seats just as if we were at 16,000 feet.  Time dragged on, and about 10:30, TWA officials appeared and announced that we had to wait for a new engine from LaGuardia, and that we would be put up at the Parker House Hotel for the night.

We had a good night at the Parker House and were roused from bed about 6:30 and taken to the airport.  We took off about an hour later bypassing Gander and flying directly from Boston to Santa Maria because we had so few passengers, that we had no problem with increased distance.  We flew all day and close to midnight, landed at Santa Maria, which was a bustling international airport built by the U.S. military during the war.  I remember the beautiful Azorean and Portuguese linen tablecloths, handkerchiefs, blouses and the like were for sale at ridiculously low prices.  We then refueled for a half an hour and took off for Lisbon, where we arrived about 7:00 in the morning, and after a brief stop, continued to Madrid, which we reached about 10:00.

Two weeks later, I returned to Washington on a TWA DC-4.  We stopped in Lisbon, Santa Maria, Gander, and Boston, a flight that at 170 miles per hour required almost 28 hours in the air to reach LaGuardia in New York City.  Му legs were swollen and cold. Fortunately, I didn't appreciate the danger of blood clots forming and blocking a heart artery.  I flew on to Washington, D.C. a couple of hours later,  but I have few memories of the flight I then did not fly trans-Atlantic until late May, 1952, in a Pan-American 4-engine Lockheed Constellation.

Sadly, Mr. Foster passed away before finishing this compelling narrative.