Includes nylon parachute wedding dress, ‘crusher’ officer’s cap.
SANTA ANA, Calif., Sept. 27, 2010—A World War II-era altitude correction manual “computer,” an aircraft engine starter hand crank and a wedding dress made from nylon parachute material – all from Lyon Air Museum (LAM), a premier Southern California showcase for vintage WW II-era aircraft and automobiles – are part of a new arts display at John Wayne Airport (JWA) in Orange County, Calif.
The memorabilia on loan from LAM are part of JWA’s Airport Arts Program aimed at traveling art aficionados and featuring rotating art exhibitions shown along both concoursesof JWA’s Thomas F. Riley Terminal. The aforementioned items and numerous photos of LAM exhibits are in Plexiglas enclosed display cases near the security check points of Terminal A and Terminal B. The exhibit runs through October 25.
“This exhibit is a natural fit for both the airport and Lyon Air Museum,” said Mark Foster, LAM president. “Our museum is just on the other side of the airport and many people who land here are curious about our hangar. Nearly nine million passengers come and go through the terminal annually, so we wanted to show some of them a bit of what we have on offer at the museum.”
Photographs on display include:
- Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress”—It once carried General Dwight D. Eisenhower who later became the 33rd President of the United States.
- The Cessna L-19/O-1 Bird Dog—Considered by many aviation experts to be the finest liaison and observation aircraft ever produced. The planes saw extensive duty during the Korean and Vietnam wars.
- Douglas DC-3 “Flagship Orange County”—A C-47A built during World War II, the plane was later converted to its present airliner configuration. It flew with the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) famed 440th Troop Carrier Group and dropped members of the 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles, to support the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion in Normandy..
- 1941 Cadillac Series 62 V-8 Convertible Sedan—Only 400 were produced, with this particular vehicle being originally purchased by New York socialite Princess Diane Eristavi in Stockbridge, Mass.
- 1940s Divco Helms Bakery Truck—Painted in the Helms Bakery company colors of ivory and medium blue, these vehicles were used throughout Southern California from 1931 to 1969 for door-to-door bakery deliveries.
- 1943 Ford GPW Military Jeep—One of the most famous military vehicles of World War II, the jeep was hailed as “the Savior of World War II.”
- 1934 Packard Eight convertible.
- Douglas A-26B Invader “Feeding Frenzy” attack bomber.
- Douglas C-47 “Willa Dean” troop carrier—One of the most complete and original C-47s currently in operation. “Willa Dean” now carries the colors of the 440th Troop Carrier Group’s 97th Troop Carrier Squadron, complete with D-Day invasion stripes.
- North American B-25 “Mitchell” / “Guardian of Freedom”—Flew combat patrol missions in Alaska and around the Aleutian Islands during World War II.
But two of the most interesting elements of the display are the wedding dress made from nylon parachute material, and the “Crusher” flight officer’s wool garrison service cap.
Shaskys and the Nylon Parachute Dress
On July 19, 1945, First Lt. Alvin Shasky, 23, a USAAF B-17 bomber pilot, wed his fiancée Jean Crouse, 22, in the chapel at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Hollywood. The groom was attired in his military uniform. The bride wore a nylon dress that she had sewn herself from a parachute personally donated to the proceedings by First Lt. Shasky. Sixty-five years later, that dress is an historic part of Lyon Air Museum.
The young couple had met the previous year in Newport Beach at a dance held in the Grand Ballroom of the Balboa Pavilion. Shasky was a cadet at the Santa Ana Army Air Base (now Orange Coast College) in Costa Mesa.
The parachute dress began its journey to the altar as part of First Lt. Shasky’s gear as he flew B-17s for the U.S. Eighth Air Force. The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber aircraft primarily employed by the USAAF in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial and military targets. The Eighth Air Force, based at Thorpe Abbotts airfield in England, complemented England’s Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command’s nighttime area bombing to help secure air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe in preparation for Operation Overlord—code name for the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced with the Normandy landings on D-Day.
In total, First Lt. Shasky flew 33 missions. Following Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) on May 8, 1945, he returned to California on a one month leave to get married. The shortage of commercial goods caused by the war necessitated some creative thinking on the part of the couple. During World War II, the U.S. was unable to import silk from Japan, and parachute manufacturers began using nylon fabric. The material turned out to be superior to silk because it was more elastic, more resistant to mildew, and less expensive.
Alvin Shasky produced the parachute and his bride-to-be got to work.
“I sewed all my own clothes in those days,” recalls Jean Shasky, now a spry 87. “I used a pattern and it was no problem. I sewed it in two-to-three days.”
Following the wedding, the couple honeymooned for a week in Lake Tahoe. When his leave ended, First Lt. Shasky was preparing for future combat missions in the Pacific theater when the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 ended the war. The couple settled in Pasadena, where Shasky attended City College while Jean worked in display advertising at the Hollywood City News copy desk. The Shaskys were married for 56 years until Alvin’s death in 2001. They reared four children—Carl (who died in 2007 at age 55), Bonni, 56, James, 53, and Gary, 48. Currently a La Habra resident, Jean Shasky moved from her home of 50 years in Whittier just over three years ago.
The Shaskys did not escape the war unscathed. Jean’s brother Carl Crouse, age 23, was a first lieutenant navigator with the USAAF Eighth Air Force flying a Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. On D-Day, the B-24 he was navigating exploded on take-off — the only aircraft lost that day. In honor of him, the Shaskys named their first-born son Carl.
In addition to the nylon parachute dress, the family donated to Lyon Air Museum First Lt. Shasky’s officer’s wool garrison service cap. With a wool body, soft leather brim and back strap, the popular caps were called the “Crusher” because they could be rolled up and “crushed” to the heart’s content of the wearer. The caps quickly returned to shape when worn.
Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Daily – Seven Days a Week. Admission rates: General admission–$8; Seniors and Veterans–$6; Ages 5-17–$4; Under age 5—Free. Groups of 10 or more–$1 off each visitor. Pre-arranged school groups—Free.
Rodheim Marketing Group