A new documentary on PBS called The Legend of Pancho Barnes,is so inspirational and amazing I encourage everyone to see it. How could we possibly not have heard before of the true mother of American Aviation?
Born Florence Lowe Barnes, “Pancho” would go on to break every barrier in a time when doing so was unheard of.
She was a rebel at the time of her marriage to a minister, often buzzing the church every sunday with her biwing plane. When the minister refused to grant a divorce, she rode into church naked on a horse. The divorce was granted.
Pancho was a woman of big appetites, she married four times and loved the ladies as well.
Frustrated that a POOF like Amelia Earhart was getting all the press, she struggled and purchased a new plane – The Mystery – because it was so secret it had been developed entirely in secret. She broke Amelia’s air speed record with it.
She began to fly for hollywood and established the first union for pilots in film, raising their daily wage from $5 to $50 dollars since so many were dying from the dangerous stunt work.
When competing in the first women aviator’s cross country race her plane was sabotaged and crashed. She still raced to the destination city to congratulate all the winners. The person who did it? EARL HALLIBURTON, a huge critic of females doing anything but being barefoot and pregnant, is suspected. Where have we heard that name before? Hmmmm.
When the depression hit, Pancho was forced to sell her beloved Mystery plane and she decided to move way out to new mexico on a plot of barren desert land. She began to farm and her and her son survived a tough life. Slowly she built a airstrip and friends would fly in. Her hospitality naturally spread and a little cafe/saloon was set up which grew and grew. No matter how barren a place on this earth she landed or how broke she was, her SPIRIT would overcome it she would be successful.
The military wanted to expand their nearby runway and it went straight through Pancho’s successful nightclub – the Happy Bottom Riding club – a favorite hangout for Hollywood glitterati like Ronald Reagan and Test Pilots like Chuck Yeager. The Air Force wanted to tear it down. They made a bid for the “land price” and ignored the buisiness and airport on the land. She sued and the Air Force began a defamation push calling her a madam running a house of ill repute. She sued. And fought. And won. Then a terrible fire (cause “unknown”) ripped through her place completely destroying it.
Her plane that broke the speed record, the “mystery” was sold off during the depression to raise assets. Years later at age 70 she found out that the plane had been discovered and it was going up for auction. She had little money, but went anyways. The asking price was expected to reach millions. The bid was opened at 50,000. Pancho raised her pallot along with many others in the house. Then slowly, a hush went through the audience (Pancho is in the front row, shes here!). One by one, every other bidder lowered their signes. Pancho would get her plane back. When was the last time you ever heard of anything like that happening in greedy America. That was how much people knew and loved her.