Class Clowns?

Ralph McMillen, Capt. Ralph Taylor, Edgar Bagnell, and Ivan Wheaton clowning in front of a Curtiss JN-4, in Mineola, New York. 1916

Ivan (on the right) is posing here with three aviators who came to the Curtiss school together, from Nebraska.  I believe the first fellow (from left to right) is Ralph McMillen, and I'm certain the others are Capt. Ralph Taylor and Lt. Edgar "Happy" Bagnell.  There are a lot of photos of Mr. Bagnell in the coming photos, and you'll see that his nickname suited him well, as I've already mentioned.  I don't think we saw McMillen at the Curtiss school, and it may be because he was already a pilot.

I particularly love this photo because it brings to mind any number of places I've worked where I have fond memories of the people I was blessed to have known and had fun with.  Ivan spent just shy of a year at Mineola with these guys, clowning, flying, drinking, playing and perhaps weeping together.  Ralph Taylor would die in an a crash a few months after this photo was taken.  McMillen died in September of the same year when his plane abruptly dived into the ground from 200 feet.  Ivan and Edgar lived long enough to see grandchildren.

While I hate to even write about the deaths of these carefree looking gentlemen, it is something that was a regular part of early aviation, and can't be avoided without revising the story.  It may have been the reason Ivan left aviation in 1920.  Early aviation was pock-marked by the deaths of many of the best pilots of the time.  At the same time, Ivan's logbook is filled with the names of students who would go on to fly for decades with nary a scratch.

Here is a newspaper article regarding Ivan's change of address, and a mention at the end that gives a clue that he and Captain Taylor may have been friends off the airfield as well.

Newspaper article describing Ivan's move to Mineola, New York, where he joined the Signal Corps. 

Another old photo of the early aviators at Mineola.  Ivan is standing directly in front of the flag, with Edgar Bagnell to the left in the photo. Happy apparently didn't get the dress code memo.  Captain Taylor is seated on the far left.  Directly in front of Ivan is Major Hysop, of the New York National Guard, as Ivan has marked him in another photo.  Right of Ivan is a fellow marked Carolyn in another photo, and on the far right is a fellow marked Osborne.  As we work through the scrapbook, I'll attempt to discover more about these fliers, and as always, you're welcome to add any input via the comments at the bottom of the blog, if you know the identity of any of these men.

  A group of aviators sit for a portrait in Mineola, New York.  Ivan is standing directly in front of the flag.

We're very close to the end of the first scrapbook, but there are some fascinating photos of an airplane I'm unable to identify which I hope will amaze you as much as it does me.  I'll post those photos next.


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