Uncle Bill, Mr. Braniff and the aviation bug

Topeka Capital Journal
July 10, 1987

Judge Roy Bulkley showed up at the Loafers lunch the other day wearing a new pair of suspenders. He said he’d gone to the Alco store in North Topeka to buy them, and they were such a bargain he bought two pairs.

The pair he had on were wide, and gaudy. But they were doing an admirable job of doing what they were designed to do, which is hold up his pants. He had such confidence in them, he wasn’t wearing a belt.

Still, some smart aleck at the table looked at them and asked, “if you bought two pairs, why are you wearing those?” He was implying, of course, that the other pair had to be better looking.

All this brought on a general discussion of suspenders, and some of the elderly in attendance recalled they once were called galluses. The dictionary says the word comes from gallows, and I suppose the idea there is that pants hang from the end of your suspenders.

Only a couple of us real experts, however, Remember that they also were known as braces. I qualify as an expert because my uncle, Bill Garthoeffner spent much of his life selling them. Continue reading

Soaring Memories of Britton, Okla.

Topeka Capital-Journal
October 28, 1994

Please bear with me this morning while I shed a tear over the passing of one of the great landmarks of my youth. They’re going to tear down the hangar at the abandoned airport two miles west of my old hometown of Britton, Okla. With it will go a lot of memories.

It was the workplace of many of my early heroes. It was the original headquarters for the airline founded by Paul and Tom Braniff of Oklahoma City, and Braniff pilots who lived in Britain would come into my dad’s drug store. They would be in uniform, and they would speak to me, and I’d be walking on air.

My uncle, Bill Garthoeffner, learned to fly there in 1930. I saw him take his first lesson in a Waco biplane, and after he got his license and bought a tiny Viele Monocoupe, I was one of his first passengers. I held the control stick while he said, “keep the wings level in the nose on the horizon.”

My brother Al work there before he went away to become a Navy pilot. He flew in World War II, flew for United and Pan-American after the war, and then went back to the Navy and made it a career.

Wiley Post used the hanger to prepare his Lockheed Vega, named Winnie Mae, for his historic solo round-the-world flight in 1933. He was visited at the field by Will Rogers, and they would die together in 1935 when the plane Post was piloting crashed on take-off near Point Barrow, Alaska. Continue reading