REPA History - Vance

Since most of the founders of REPA have taken their last flight and since no one has told about the birth of REPA, I would like to tell you what I know.

One day Captains E.M. Taylor and Lou Transou and another captain were talking about how many pilots were retiring and how many more were going to retire. There must be some kind of organization they could form to keep in touch. They met with Colonel Borman about their idea, and he agreed as long as it wasn’t political, and with that agreement, the first convention was held at Key Biscayne. Captain Paul Foster and his wife, Marie, presided.

My husband, Joe Vance, had not retired but we were invited to attend. After the cocktail party we went in for dinner where most of the seats were taken by people staying in the hotel. There was no way to tell hotel guests from EAL members so we had to try to find seats.

The next convention was held in New Orleans. Eastern had a lavish cocktail party for REPA, but we were only there about five minutes because Colonel Borman was being presented with the Honorary Member Award and he had to leave for the airport. There was no plan for a meeting! Individuals stood up and told about flying experiences or told jokes, then we adjourned, as dinner was on our own. Captain Jim Talton was elected President; Captain Vern Peterson was Vice President, Captain Harvey Watt, Secretary and Treasurer and Joe was the Convention Chairman. Captain Talton asked me to be in charge of the Ladies Activities.

The first meeting was at Captain Harvey Watt’s office in Hapeville, Georgia, along with a soapbox of unpaid bills from the New Orleans Convention. The first agenda was some form of identification for REPA members, so as to eliminate the experience in Key Biscayne. Also a name had to be given the organization. After much discussion the name Retired Eastern Pilots Association was adopted, shortened to REPA.

The third convention was in San Antonio, Texas, at the Hilton Hotel where Jim and Helen Talton had much to do. Being in charge of Ladies Activities, I suggested if the ladies had a good time, the men wanted to come. With this in mind a Ladies Luncheon was planned, with a guarantee of 40. Try as we did, we could only get 35 reservations. The reasons given for not coming, they didn’t eat lunch or it cost too much. So we came up with the idea of including the luncheon with the registration. We got one hundred percent registration for the luncheons after that.

We found the cocktail party cost Eastern fifteen hundred dollars. The officers went back to Colonel Borman and asked if he would give REPA the money and let us handle the cocktail party, he agreed. Captain Paul Greenwood handled the bar. He went to the convention site a couple of days early and shopped for the bar. The cocktail party was in the suite as the membership was not that large. The bar made money every year. All bills were paid before leaving the hotel. As convention sites were being considered and agreed on we would contact the Eastern city manager, advise him we’re planning a convention in his city and what hotel would benefit Eastern. Joe would advise the city manager when we would arrive. He met our flight, took us to the hotel, introduced us to the hotel management and negotiations began. Captain Talton and Captain Peterson went over the plans before agreeing on the hotel. Being in charge of the Ladies Activities I would write a note to the ladies about the convention, the time of year, the approximate temperature, and some planned activities.

For the first convention Captain Talton set up a speaker’s table and laid out a format for the program, thus adding stability to the convention. Changes were made to improve the convention, such as having a host and hostess at the door to greet people and make sure they had their REPA badge for the seated dinner.

After seven years, we felt it was time to use new talent. Each group of officers has made a more interesting convention of course. They have more money to work with.

As for me, I met Art Furchgott at the Country Club in Houston and told him that I was interested in flying. In fact, he arranged an appointment for me with Willie Peck, Supervisor of Flight Attendants at Braniff. But she advised that I was too young and that I should go back to college, and then contact her later. I did go back to college but later took a job with Duncan Coffee Company in their advertising department in Houston.

But one day I got a phone call from Art Furchgott saying Eastern was planning to hire a female in Houston and that he would like to offer me the job, to replace a man taken in the draft. Eastern had not hired women but things changed due to the war. So I gave proper notice to Duncan and, on July 1, 1941, accepted Art’s offer.

The Eastern office at the airport was the hub of all activities; reservations, operations and all communications. The city Sales and Ticketing Office was located downtown and we had one Ticket Counter for passenger check in at the airport. There was also a flight school at the airport and I frequently saw the students going to the restaurant. Later I learned one became a pilot with Eastern, that being Captain Bill Abraham.

I worked the 2:00 to 11:00 pm shift and interestingly I was on duty when the report about the attack on Pearl Harbor came in. A Mr. Ferguson was our radio operator and transmitted all company correspondence. It was there later during the war that we learned Captain Rickenbacker was lost at sea. And I was also on duty when we received word that his plane had crashed in Atlanta.

I met my future husband, Joe Vance, at the Houston Airport. He and Captain Erle Miles came in on Flight 21 and said they needed a doctor. A bird had flown into the cockpit through a window and they were afraid they had some broken glass in their eyes. Fortunately, they did not.

Eastern received a contract from the AAF to train First Lieutenants in instrument flying so I applied for the job and got it. I had never dated Joe while in Houston, however when I flew to Atlanta for my new job I found Joe was the co-pilot and Hamm Brown was the captain, so we got re-acquainted! Joe and I dated in Atlanta and married on August 20, 1943.

When the war wound down, we were given an honorable discharge from the AAF and the next day I became the manager of Eastern’s ticket office at Piedmont Hotel in Atlanta and worked there until I became a stay-at-home mom.

Not only did Eastern give me a job, a husband, and three fine children, but a life of the rich and famous. I am sure this is information most already knew, but thought you might like to know about the very beginning of REPA

As I have said many times over the years, what a wonderful life Eastern gave me!

Penned by Ann Vance

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