Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear (Episode 15) “Getting The Widgie Air Born”

The good news (for me) was that Michelle’s relationship with her current boy friend appeared to be coming to an end, so I used just about any excuse to hang around the Goodeve household.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone.

As word got out that Michelle would soon be “unencumbered”, Paddy became the most popular teen in Willowdale. It was amazing how many of his studly, macho friends began coming around on the weekends … and as I was still a scrawny, 118-pound weakling, I soon realized I was very much “the low man on the totem pole.”

So I was taken completely by surprise when Michelle brought the newspaper into the Goodeve’s living room one afternoon and said, “You want to see a movie tonight?” As my jaw had dropped – yet again – Michelle kindly ignored my spluttering attempts at an answer and searched through the paper until she found a film she liked.

“Hmm. How about “Wild In The Streets?” she asked.

“Um … er … Yeah … Sure … Okay,” I blathered in response. “Where’s it playing?”

“At the Drive-In,” she answered, without blinking an eye.

“Please dear God – don’t let me faint,” was the thought I hung onto as Michelle went off to change.

Lest you suspect the obvious, I should point out I was on my best behaviour on that first date because, a) I was terrified of doing anything that might drive Michelle away, and b) no sooner had we parked at the drive-in than who should pull in next to us but – her brother, Paddy.

To this day, he swears it was a coincidence.

I have never believed him.

To my surprise – and delight – Michelle and I were best friends from the moment we met. I had never – have never – felt as at ease with anyone as I do with Michelle. And to my relief, the feeling appeared to be mutual.

Years later, Michelle told me that her reaction on seeing me that day in her Mother’s kitchen was, “Ah. There you are! I’ve been wondering when you’d turn up.”

I had the same feeling.

It was as if we’d always been together.

And if there is such a thing as “a soul mate,” I knew I had found mine.

Mind you, I wasn’t about to take any chances. And to make sure I’d sewn up this seemingly impossible opportunity, I decided to make our second date unforgettable.

In retrospect, I’d have to say I most certainly succeeded.

On August 3rd, 1968, I booked a Cessna 150 from Buttonville and invited Michelle to go flying. As Paddy still had to get his license, the honour of taking Michelle aloft for the first time fell to me. Because I also wanted to make a really good impression on her parents, I gave them a portable aircraft-radio-receiver before we left the house.

“Just turn it on when we fly over,” I said, “and we can talk to you.”

All went well at the Airport. They gave us one of the newer airplanes and Michelle took to the skies with a wide-eyed enthusiasm that made it seem she’d been in the air for all of her life. It only took about ten minutes to reach her North Toronto home, and as we circled overhead, I saw Michelle’s parents, dog and brother, Danny, pour out of the house.

So I picked up the microphone, selected the frequency assigned for air-to-ground chatter, then began to broadcast…

“Hi down there, Mr. & Mrs. Goodeve. Wave if you can hear us…’

The dots below began to wave.

“Great. We can see all of you just fine. There’s Mama & Papa Goodeve … there’s Danny … and we can see Bandit running around. It’s a beautiful day up here. The air’s nice and smooth and you can see for a kazillion miles…”

I released the microphone’s press-to-talk button so I could catch my breath, and as I did, a deep booming voice filled the cabin.

“That’s all very interesting,” said the voice, “but would you mind using a frequency other than YYZ?”

My eyes flashed to the radio and I was horrified to discover I had accidentally broadcast my very long message on Toronto International Airport’s frequency – which meant every Airliner within a hundred miles had just heard every word I said.

After answering a brief, “Roger,” I quickly turned off the radio.

As I waited for my burning red cheeks to settle down, Michelle turned to me and said, “I don’t know how you can make sense out of that radio … I couldn’t understand a word he said.”

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Despite that glaring error, the flight was a magic one for both of us, and Michelle said going aloft made her feel she was finally “coming home.”

As things now appeared to be going my way, I decided to “seal the deal” by making Michelle’s next flight extra special.

After we took off, I kept the little 150 climbing and would only answer Michelle’s query as to the reason we were going so high with a cryptic grin.

I kept on climbing till we reached 5,280’ above the ground, then I reached into my pocket and extricated the box I’d purchased at Buttonville’s gift shop earlier that week.

I pointed to the altimeter, handed the little package to Michelle, grinned and said, “In honour of your first flight one full mile above the Earth.” Widge opened the box, saw the tiny pair of gold wings, laughed in delight, then proudly pinned them onto her blouse.

As we checked in with the busy dispatcher at the end of our flight, I told him, “Hey – Michelle just joined ‘The Mile-High Club.’” As the man looked up in shock, and the waiting line of Pilots almost snapped their necks to see Michelle’s reaction, she nodded in confirmation and proudly displayed her brand new golden wings.

For the life of me, I couldn’t understand the stunned silence that followed.

It would be years before I found out the real meaning of “The Mile-High-Club.”

And as God/Manitou/Diety-Of-Your-Choice is my witness, I swear I knew no other meaning on the day we made that proud announcement to the shocked onlookers at Buttonville Airport.

Widge and I had led very sheltered lives.

Despite that gaffe (unknown to either of us at the time), in the weeks that followed, Michelle fell more and more in love with flying and – much to my utter, and ongoing, amazement – she also fell in love with me!

On Christmas Eve, 1968, she asked me to “go steady” (in the vernacular of the day).

We’ve been together ever since.

Glenn & Michelle at the C.N.E. Air Show, September 1968
(Note the infamous Aircraft Radio Receiver in Glenn’s hand)

***

Watch for Episode 15 of Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
“Enter Richard Bach” on Sunday, July 11th, 2010.

Abridged excerpt from Glenn Norman’s book, “Living On Stolen Time”.
Due for release in the fall of 2010.

4 Comments

  1. Very Kewl account!! I only wish the first girl I took flying had felt the same. Unfortunately she didn’t and threw up all over me while I was trying to be cool and macho and show her zero G. Needless to say, it was a rushed flight back to King City. Boy oh boy! Have I ever learned a lot since then!

  2. Love that picture. Nina and I have one similar.. well, sort of….. I was just as skinny as Glenn there!

  3. I am pleased to say I was there. In fact I was therebefore you got together. Somthing about patio doors!!!!

  4. Kobo – now THERE’S a story that needs telling some day! (Now if we could only find an aviation angle. )

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