Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dave & Betty DeBace Part Two

Again, I'm pleased to present Dave & Betty DeBace to our postings of North Central Retirees histories and stories. Today's posting is Part Two from the original post last weekend that followed Dave's career with the it's Betty's turn!

Betty began her career with North Central in March of 1969, as a Secretary who was assigned to mail delivery. As she recalls, "I lived on Pleasant Avenue in Minneapolis, with no car, so getting to work required a city bus. The bus dropped me off at the end of the drive going to the new building (General Offices). From there I had to walk through the shell of the building, and into the new hanger/office area. I got to see the General Offices being built day by day going in and out of work, until the Grand Opening later that year.
NCA was my first 'real' job, and I loved it. I was hired by Emily Heller, who was Les Keely's assistant. For the first 6 months I sat in the 'secretary row,' but was assigned to mail delivery. That got me out of the office and into the hangers sometimes. I used Les Keely's golf cart to deliver the mail to the hangers - FUN! I would also relieve our receptionist, Ruby Gray, when she took her breaks. The Flight Kitchen was housed between the hangers and the General Offices, and at lunch the office staff would go there and eat wonderful and inexpensive meals. It was pretty close to fine dining at McDonald's prices."

I asked Betty what were some of her fondest memories of working with North Central, to which she replied, "Friendship, concern and care for all employees and the airplanes - people considered the airplanes part of the NCA Family." (I've added this question here to segue into the following history from Betty).

"When Maintenance Control was started, the new manager of that, Dan Lee, whom I had met while delivering mail, asked me if I wanted to work in M/C. Working with Dan, Don Brown, Ken Boutang, Bob Broemer and Bob Kohls was great. Gus Carlson and Dave Burns joined us a little later, as the Fleet Crew. The job was very interesting and I enjoyed typing and filing the maintenance/delay reports, which were used in the morning meetings. I got to know each airplane and their personalities. It was also interesting to follow an airplane's problem for several weeks before one of the mechanics finally had an 'ah ha' moment and found the root of the problem. The airplanes felt like living, breathing creatures. After many years with an excellent safety record, one of our 580's went down. The office was devastated. The loss of passengers and crew was the worst loss, of course, but losing the airplane felt like a death as well. Removing the aircraft records from our files felt like a funeral and made me cry."

With that being said, Betty replied with, 'the airplanes we lost' as her worst memories of her years with North Central. Even with such sad occurrences, Betty would give the number '10' on the scale from 1 to 10 in her rating of her career with the airline. If I'm not mistaken, this is our first 10 rating!

Betty continued, "It may be hard to imagine it now, but our office and the hangers were like one big family, bound together by a love of airplanes and flying. Meeting David was the best thing that happened to me there, so I also have NCA to thank for that! We had been saying 'hi' in the hangers occasionally while I delivered the mail on the golf cart. One day in late 1969, he held up a sign on a piece of cardboard that said 'How about a date?' I didn't date people from work, but I changed my mind and dated him. 38 years and three children later, I'm still glad I did."

"We stayed with NCA until July of 1973. David had been working on his pilot licenses, and he got a job in Pine Bluff, Arkansas as a pilot/mechanic. So we packed up our stuff and moved away from the airline. I was expecting our first child at the time so my time with the company would have been limited anyway, but we both missed the work very much."

Back to David, remembering the years not working for NCA: "At Astro Airways in Pine Bluff, there were long days doing whatever had to be done. We had a flight school and a freight operation, along with working outside A/C. Five days a week we flew to MSY Lakefront Airport, with a plane full of computer cards for the power company. We also picked up car parts from several towns around Arkansas for the auto companies in STL. We flew baby chicks all over the country and into Mexico. We used B-18 and De Havilland Dove and Herons, plus we had a Lockheed PV 1 for the very long range stuff. There was a long list of Piper products for the small loads. The owner was good to us and we enjoyed the fine weather in ARK. By chance, I was offered a job in southern ARK flying for a large hardware chain with Twin Bonanzas. When not flying, I again worked other aircraft and even helped maintain the airport operation. In 1976, I can into two pilots who were flying for a company in PA. They had two Convair 580s and a Saberliner 60. They took my name and soon I was asked to come to PA for an interview. I worked for this company until November 1979 when the company had cutbacks and the Flight Department had layoffs. By this time Betty and I had 3 children and we needed to find something stable.
I reapplied at NCA and found myself back on nights working DC-9's and Convair 580s. In 1986 I was asked to come in and interview for a job in Maintenance Control, which I got. I stayed in M/C until 1997 when I was again asked to interview for a job on the MSP B side hanger/ramp. I worked this job until the Fall of 2005. As we all know, things were very had at NWA. It was taking a toll on my health so at age 59 1/2, I retired. I didn't stay retired long though as I was asked to come back as a consultant and just work aircraft problems. I didn't have to get involved with the politics! I did this until August of 2006 when I finally said goodbye."

THANK YOU to The DeBace's for sharing their stories and histories with all of us!!! Please consider sharing your own stories and histories with us as well by contacting me through my email address...we'd love to hear from all!! :)

1 comment:

david santos said...

Great work.
Thank you.