The Barnstorming Days

The years from 1919-1939 were a time of record breaking flights and famous aviators, air racing, dramatic advances in aviation technology, and the barnstormer. It was the barnstormer thrilling crowds at air shows and county fairs with aerial feats of daring-do that helped make the American public air conscious.

Charles Lindbergh's 1927 solo flight from New York to Paris ignited a generation of flyers. Lindbergh was a hero to young American aviators.

Peter Provenzano and his buddies, Warren Peterson and Joseph Gayford, grew up during this period of aviation. As young men, they were preoccupied with airplanes and flying. Peter and Warren were childhood friends, growing up on Chicago 's northwest side and attending Foreman High School. Joseph grew up in Chicago 's Bucktown neighborhood. While attending the Aeronautical University in Chicago, Peter and Joseph met.

Since flying was still considered dangerous, Peter took flying lessons in secret (hiding it from his parents). Peter, Warren, and Joseph bought their first airplane together in 1933. A damaged Lincoln PT. Storing the disassembled airplane in the garage of Peter's parents, they made the necessary repairs to make it airworthy once again. When the work was completed, a trailer was rented and the Lincoln PT was move to Harlem Airport, where it was assembled and flown.

Joseph's flight log indicates he first flew the Lincoln PT on March 7, 1934 .

Owning an airplane was an expensive proposition. To pay for it the three of them began giving rides for five dollars a hop. A farmer in Lake Zurich, Illinois allowed them to fly out of his cow pasture. Peter's future wife Fay and sister Martha would often fly with them.

Martha tells the story of the time a very portly woman paid for a ride, but due to her weight the airplane could not get off the ground and ran through the farmer's fence breaking the propeller. Another time the three barnstormers were banned from Curtiss-Reynolds Airfield, later Glenview Naval Air station, for skylarking over the airfield.

They also flew out of Stinson and Elmhurst airports.

One of the last airplanes owned was a Piper Cub powered by a Continental 40. Joseph said they did not care for it, because its handling characteristics were not as good as the bi-planes they flew.

By 1939 Peter, Warren, and Joseph had married. Joseph went to work as an airframe and engine mechanic (A&E) for Braniff Airways. He spent the war on the home front, working as a mechanical instruction for the military for 18 months in Texas and spending the remainder of the war overhauling military aircraft under Braniff contract. Warren became a pilot for Trans World Airlines (TWA), and enlisted in the United States Army Air Force (USAAF). Warren disappeared in June of 1942 flying a C47 over the Hump to China (learn more). In 1940, Peter went to Canada to join the Royal Air Force (RAF). The fall of 1943, Peter was killed while flying a submarine patrol on the eastern coast of the U.S.


Airplanes Owned:

Commandaire NC939E Challanger

Eagle Rock NC3660 Curtiss OXX6

Fleet NC770N Kinner

Lincoln PT NC185N Curtiss OX5

Parks NC90H OX5

Piper Cub NC16698 Continental

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