Editor’s Note: From the inception of the Carson Valley Times in July 2013, our aim has been to provide a venue for unique, sometimes non-linear and usually unorthodox storytelling. We enjoy the luxury of being able to tell broader stories in bits and pieces over time, layering over previously published stories as we obtain more information with the onset of time. We take a special kind of glee in being able to share unearthed treasures of Valley history with the greater community because we know there is a common thread among our readers that no one can really seem to pinpoint or quantify. At best, we can simply boil it down to a great number of people loving the same patch of space on the map, but I think we all know it goes deeper than that. This has held true, as we’ve discovered, for those now located far beyond the walls of the Sierra and the Pine Nuts.
A man named Peter Youngblood contacted us last week in an effort to begin to cross off a bucket list item. Youngblood, now 72 and living in Kennesaw, Georgia, was a crop dusting student (and later flight instructor) at the Agricultural Aviation Academy based at the Douglas County Airport in the 1960s. He roomed at the Adaven Hotel and ate dinners at the Golden Bubble (later Sharkey’s). Ultimately, he hopes to locate as many of his old friends from that time and place in life and organize some sort of reunion. If that isn’t possible, then his aim is to bring as many individuals with a connection to the Valley that served in Vietnam together for a reunion. We hope to aid him in his effort and we have a strong feeling that many of the readers out there will too. As Mr. Youngblood states, “Nostalgia exerts a strong pull and I can’t justify not trying before the years run out.”
Here is his story, in his words. If you would like to contact Mr. Youngblood, or know someone who might, please send a note to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make sure he gets it.
From Mr. Peter Youngblood:
To better explain my Gardnerville-Minden connective history, grab a cup of coffee; I’m long-winded.
In the summer of 1964 while still in college, I enrolled as a crop dusting student at the Agricultural Aviation Academy at the Douglas County Airport. I roomed at the Adaven Hotel and ate my dinners at the Golden Bubble Casino diagonally across the street (Hwy. 395).
As crop dusting students we flew an old Piper J-3 without doors, two Stearman biplanes and a Piper Pawnee (the “BMW” of the fleet).
Water was all that came out of the spray booms, so I’m guessing that was acceptable to the land owners on the receiving end because I don’t recall any complaints.
At the time the combined population of Gardnerville-Minden was approx. 2,000. Small town life was peaceful if somewhat Spartan, the area gorgeous, and what little time off we had was spent exploring Carson City, Reno, Virginia City, Genoa and a torturous ride over Kingsbury Grade to dive into the cold waters of Lake Tahoe.
Training and summer ended much too soon and I went back to resume college studies, not easily forgetting how captivating was the Carson Valley.
In 1966 with a BA degree and additional pilot ratings acquired, I purely on a whim, called the Agricultural Aviation Academy not expecting to find a job. Remarkably they had an opening for a flight instructor and my resume was good enough to get me hired, influenced no doubt by my having been a student there.
It was mid-February and my employment would end by Labor Day when student enrollment dropped significantly. O.k. by me. I had already passed Air Force flight physicals and my recruiter said I’d be inducted in the fall. Within a week of getting hired I was on the road in my Triumph TR-3 sports car. The lingering winter weather from Pennsylvania to Nevada wasn’t the best, but I arrived in Gardnerville without incident. More unexpected luck was
a room I could rent at, where else, the Adaven from Mrs. B….?, the kindly Basque lady who said she remembered me from two years prior. By the way, it wasn’t until I went to work one morning, glanced in my rear view mirror, and finally understood Adaven was Nevada spelled backwards … duh!
Changes from 1964 to 1966 weren’t noticeably many although the Golden Bubble had become Sharkey’s where I still ate my dinners and chatted with a few regulars. The Ag. Aviation Academy flight instructor uniforms resembled those of Greyhound bus drivers, an amusing encumbrance on occasions where travelers asked us where was the bus stop. The airport was much the same with one hangar, a repair shop, few ancillary buildings including a small cafeteria where we ate breakfast and lunch. Flying in and out of the valley was a joy!
Several aircraft had been added to the fleet. I taught in everything the school had including a twin-engine Cessna 310D, my favorite. Of course, we also towed sailplanes releasing them to find almost always present thermals over
the ridges of the Sierra Nevada.
Speculation was that the more Lake Tahoe real estate values escalated, the more valuable Gardnerville-Minden undeveloped land would become. I believed it, but as a transient employee with insufficient funds to risk borrowing and investing on speculation alone, I failed to investigate further, a missed opportunity I regret to this day, especially when I see from current web sites how much the area has grown, how it has developed while still retaining its beauty.
Kudos to all involved.
Uncle Sam reined me in at the end of August 1966 and I left Gardnerville. Life’s events took over. I served in the USAF for nine years including 127 combat sorties in Vietnam as a fighter pilot flying F-100 Super Sabres (or “Huns” for 100s as we called them) attached to the 150th TFG, 188th TFS out of Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, then moved on to a career as an airline pilot from which I retired.
Almost 50 years (yikes!) now since I left the Carson Valley and a yet unfulfilled promise I’d visit once again. Friends from long ago and geographically distant are difficult to find, too many perhaps no longer living. It would be so nice to reestablish contact with those that are, and if possible, reunite as a group in Gardnerville. I suppose my wish is a weakness common to those senior years.
Now that your coffee is cold, here’s how I’m hoping you might help. I’ve lost contact with fellow flight instructors Bill Judd, John “Mac” MacLoughlin, Dick Thompson, Tom Treadwell, Phil (?) in Aircraft Repair & Service, all of whom lived in the area at the time (1966). I cannot find them via computer locating sites, Facebook, etc. Slim chance, for sure, but some of the older locals might have a clue. Karen Flynn, a 1966 graduate of Douglas High School whose family were residents with a home in Gardnerville (or Minden), I also couldn’t locate.
I believe her father, Jerry Flynn, worked for a local utility (?) company. Karen and her girlfriends would come into Sharkey’s while I was eating dinner and eventually got up the courage to invite me to their high school graduation play. I wasamused and flattered. Thereafter we played poor tennis at the school court on the few occasions I
had time off. I tried the Alumni site for contact information, but drew a blank. The Adaven I read changed hands, but Mrs. B—? would be long gone by now. I remember her as a wonderful landlady.
So there you have my novella of an e-mail landing in your computer out of the blue. I live in a suburb of Atlanta, am semi-retired with a lovely wife, blessed with grand children, am 72 years young lucky to be in excellent health.
Most of all my sincerest thanks to anyone who might be able to give me contact information or news about these long lost friends. It’s a long shot, but I’m still hopeful I can fill that bucket on the “Bucket List.”