On this link you will find all the chapters I have written for our family story of "The Lost Plane." This Depression Era story of a plane wreck on the mountain called Lone Peak has all the adventure of a fiction story, but is a true tale. Someday, maybe I'll get it all put together in book form for my family. I should have written it years ago...now some old gaffer in Alpine has beaten me to it...however, many of his sources were ones he borrowed from my dad. It's all good! These tales need to be told.
Chapter 2...Finding the Lost Plane...My Father's Account!
When I wrote about the Lost Plane a few months ago, I was writing the story for my grandchildren to read. My information came mostly from newspaper accounts, my grandmother's scrapbook and stories Grandpa Mel told me. My father, Thomas A. Devey (TAD) was only a toddler at the time of the crash. A few years ago, he sat down and began writing his personal history which included a chapter on the Lost Plane. We had never talked about the crash...I would have liked to have heard his version of what happened. Here are some excerpts from his account:
"...like a Hollywood drama..."
Tad writes, "...After several weeks and still no sightings, the crash was beginning to play out like a Hollywood drama, complete with romance, suspense and mystery. The stewardess had recently been involved in a romantic triangle, some of the passengers were socialites and the plane was rumored to have carried a very valuable package in its cargo of mail. And on top of all of this, the plane seemed to vanish into thin air.
Sounds in the night...
My family was living at the top of Fort Canyon above Alpine [Utah]. In those days most rural houses were not equipped with indoor plumbing and ours was no exception. My father, Albert Melvin Devey, was making his nightly trip to the outhouse when he heard a plane fly over. It was overcast and he could see no lights. It was not unusual for a plane to fly directly over what we called the North Mountain [Lone Peak], however in those days it usually happened during the day. Dad had noticed that when a plane flew over the top of the mountain, the sound of the engines gradually faded. In this case, the noise ended abruptly...[it appeared]to be coming from slightly east of the house in Fort Canyon.
The picture, from Zetta's scrapbook, is of Will Healey and Frank Bateman who found some mail from the plane.
"...With the arrival of early spring, searchers made their way up Dry Creek Canyon to an area where many springs surfaced forming a bog. Traces of oil were found floating on the water in the bog, [bringing] renewed interest in the area. [Unfortunately] the traces of oil proved to be naturally occurring vegetable oil which is found on the water in swamps every where. The increased interest did pay off however. Two men from Alpine were searching in Dry Creek Canyon when they came upon letters which obviously had been carried aboard the plane...[proving] the wreck was in the general area.
Now the search began in earnest. The airline set up camp in upper Dry Creek. They hired men and horses to carry supplies and to conduct a complete search, even going to the extent of having lines of men armed with long metal poles probing the snow banks of the area.
Dad and his friend Emery Andrews were both farming on their respective properties in Fort Canyon. As the trail got hotter, their interest grew. They decided they would pool their knowlege of the area and of the circumstances surrounding the crash. They would each go on the mountain on opposite days, reporting where they had been and what they had seen...After a few weeks of looking into all the nooks and crannies of the lower elevation...they came to the conclusion that the wreck had occurred high on the mountain.
Dad went over the published reports of the accounts of witnesses and he talked to several local people who claimed to have heard the plane...and came to the conclusion that the crash mush have occurred somewhere around Lake Hardy.
"Now $1000 does not sound like much, but in 1937 it was a fortune! Dad decided that he would split the reward four ways...equal amounts to the two men who had found the letters, to Emery Andrews, and to himself. This may have sounded like a good plan, but someone else had other ideas. The other man who had found the piece of wreckage the same day, claimed to have be the first one to find the plane. It took a court hearing to determine that the other man was employed by the airline and that employees of the airline were specifically excluded from sharing in the reward."
To be continued...
My father's account continues with recovery efforts and life after the discovery of the wreckage. I will continue his story in another chapter. I'm so glad my father took the time to write down his stories. I can't wait to share more of them with you. I was prompted to post this today because two bloggers I follow, A Vintage Chic and 521 Lake Street have inspired me this week with their family stories.
A Letter Arrives From New York City...
According to my dad, the publicity Grandpa Mel received for locating the crash site, and the "hub-bub" which followed the lawsuit over the reward, made him a minor celebrity in the tiny town of Alpine, Utah. The reward money, and the salary he received while working for the Airline on body recovery was enough for the family to live a little better than they had in the previous few years.
If you recall, Grandpa was able to buy a radio so he could listen to the news without having to leave Fort Canyon to get the news at the local store. Radio was the main entertainment for people all over the country...with soap operas, game shows and sporting events along with news and weather.
All in all, life was getting back to normal for the Devey family...until January 1938 when the letter from "We The People" arrived in the mail.
"We The People..."
One of the most popular radio shows of the day was called "We The People." It was a talk show from Phillips H. Lord Inc. Radio Productions. Mr. Lord is the gentleman on the left. The program billed itself as "truly a cross-section of American Life." All races and ages appreared on We The People...some examples:
- A 91 year old Negro slave.
- An eyewitness to the Chicago fire.
- Indian Chiefs.
- The granddaughter of Charles Dickens.
- Mary and her little lamb. (I am not making this up)
- The man who owns the universe.
- Casey Jones's fireman.
- A man who assisted Pasteur in the first innoculation against rabies.
"Dear Mr. Devey," read the letter, "Would you be willing to come to New York and appear on the radio with us, if all your expenses were paid?" The letter explains a little bit about the radio show, then continues, "We would like to know whether you would be available for a possible broadcast some Thursday night in the very near future necessitating your arrival the preceding Tuesday." They then asked him a lot of questions about the Lost Plane and asked him to send them the information as soon as possible:
- What were you doing on December 15th?
- Did you notice the plane in the air?
- When did you first hear of or see the wreck?
- Exactly when did you first reach the plane?
- What first met your eyes?
- Were there any survivors?
- Give us a full description of the wreck.
- How many persons were killed?
- How many people were in your party?
- Where did you take the victims?
- What was done with the wreckage?
- Were you the first person to reach the wreck?
- What are you doing now?
Here's the problem...one of the sponsors of "We The People" was Western Air Express...the very airline who owned the doomed aircraft that crashed on Lone Peak. He would be flying in the same type of plane and Grandpa Mel's expenses would be paid if full if he were to fly to New York on Western Air Express.
But Grandpa had gotten his fill of airplanes, working at the crash site. He knew what burned and twisted metal looked like. Could he please travel by train? After some negotiations, the sponsor backed out and Grandpa did not get his trip to New York. He would have nothing to do with flying for many years.
There is still more of this story to tell. Tune in again...same time...same station.