Monday, July 22, 2013

B stand for Barnstorming

ABC Wednesday

The letter is B, and B stands for Barnstorming,

as it was in the early days of aviation, and as it is now, with relevance to political  activity.

When I was a small child I remember standing with my parents and their friends on the second story balcony of a house that skirted the small airport in Edmonton, watching an airshow, -  that popular form of entertainment in the 1920's in which stunt pilots would perform tricks with airplanes. 

Sometimes it might be an individual, and sometimes it was a group of pilots who would present what was called a Flying Circus.

And sometimes they would offer rides to inhabitants of the small towns where they were performing.

Most barnstorming shows would begin with a pilot, or group of pilots, flying over a small rural town to attract attention.  After landing at a local farm and negotiating with the farmer for the use of one of his fields as a temporary runway (hence the name Barnstorming), they would then drop leaflets over the adjoining town, advertising the show.  It is said that in many cases the whole town would shut down to come and watch this new and exciting entertainment.

And it was exciting - Barnstormers would perform a variety of stunts and acrobatic maneuvers, involving spins, dives, loop-the-loops and barrel rolls, while aerialists would perform feats of wing walking, midair plane transfers, and Google says even playing tennis, target shooting or dancing while on the plane's wings.  I don't remember seeing any of that, but I do remember some family association with bush pilots, (and their off spring) as Edmonton was a great aviation centre during the twenties and thirties, and became known as the Gateway to the North when the entertainment aspect of the industry evolved into mapping of the north, mercy flights into northern communities, and eventually mail service and transportation.

Politically Barnstorming is defined as a campaign or speaking tour, making brief stops in many small towns, - a practice which seems to reach a particular frenzy towards the end of a political campaign and as the day for the vote draws near....

For more interesting takes on the letter B hop on over to ABC Wednesday here, with thanks to Denise Nesbitt, Roger and all other blogging helpers who make this meme so popular.


Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

That was so interesting Hildred. I remember airshows and how they offered plane rides and we got to take one once, oh joy! But the barnstorming was a little before my time I guess.

The Weaver of Grass said...

How interesting to hear the origin of the word Hildred. I don't remember these events in the UK although you and i are of a similar age. These days the dreaded Health and Safety Laws would not allow it.

Reader Wil said...

Hi Hildred! This is very interesting and something I didn't know. It must have been very exciting ! This is a very nice post for B !
Wil, ABCW Team.

photowannabe said...

What an interesting choice of words for the letter B.
I don't think I have heard that in ages.
Thanks for the information and definition.

Roger Owen Green said...

my BALANCE isn't good enough to BE a BARNSTORMER!
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

richies said...

I like reading the history of the early barnstormers. Most of the ending up dying, doing what they loved.
An Arkie's Musings

Leslie: said...

Wonderful memories for you, but I find it too hot to go out and stand on the asphalt to see the airplanes perform in an air show. It's very popular here.

abcw team

Beverley Baird said...

What an interesting post! Love your choice for B - sure learned a lot!

uberrhund said...

Lovely, evocative post Hildred! I could pretend to stand beside you on that porch of long a go and watch the amazing aerial feats of daring!
We still have airshows at the local airfields here in So Cal. Three that I can think of off hand and they are still fun to watch. Even if one does not go to the show you can see the planes gathering at the airports and practicing all week before the event!

Kay L. Davies said...

I certainly know the word, and remember being told about the early airshows, but I don't remember any of that being done in the Okanagan when I was growing up there. Penticton had the only airport in the early 50s, so maybe there was more air oriented entertainment there.
Edmonton must have been an exciting place to be. I certainly remember stories about bush pilots and mapping in northern BC and Alberta.