first Woman Licensed Pilot parkersburg virginia - Mackey's Antiques & Clock Repair

Wood County first Woman Licensed Pilot

Mackey's Antiques & Clock Repair
1249 Gihon Road
Parkersburg WV 26101

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Wood County first Woman Licensed Pilot


Back in the 1930's flying in the Wood County area was still pretty much for men and the birds until Pauline Ash Darrah came along to become the first licensed woman pilot in the county, That was in 1935 just after she had become the bride of Glen Ash and opened her own beauty shop to earn the money to pay $6 per hour for her flying lessons at the age of 21. Although her father probably never knew it, and certainly didn't intend it, he was at least partially responsible for her taking up flying.


The infamous outlaw Pretty Boy Floyd also had an earlier hand in it. It was her father who said "no" to her youthful but serious ambition to become a nurse, and talked her into going to Mountain State Business College instead. Dutiful daughter that she was, she faithfully commuted from the family home at Belleville to college in Parkersburg every day and won her degree in secretarial science along with letters in girls basketball.


But while she was driving the old family Essex on her daily treks she was also watching the airplanes taking off and landing at the old Stewart Air Park. She had gone along with her dad's "no" to nursing, but she hadn't been able to shake the nursing ambition she had envisioned since childhood. "Pretty Boy" Floyd And she had never been quite able to forget the two exciting plane rides she took at a

July 4 picnic at Belleville with Pretty Boy Floyd who was at that time a barnstorming

pilot traveling about the country selling airplane rides.


She remembers that Floyd was having trouble getting people to go up since planes were still viewed by most around there as dangerous contraptions. At 17 and just graduated from high school, Pauline Morehead was fascinated with the plane and when Floyd realized her interest he said, "Little girl would you like to go up?" While she was a little miffed at his reference to her as "Little Girl" she was so anxious to ride in the plane that her answer was an enthusiastic and eager yes. That started things off and a lot of people went up after that, and the next day Floyd took me up again to show his appreciation for my having helped him break the ice," she said.


It was beautiful and exciting and I knew I'd never forget the thrill of flying, but I really didn't expect to learn to fly then," Mrs. Darrah said. But as she kept watching the planes in Parkersburg, an idea began to take shape why not learn to fly and become an ambulance plane pilot, realizing the thrill of flying and coming as close as possible to her original ambition of being a nurse. She also realized that the fact that she was a woman and that flying lessons were going to be expensive  if she could get them would be obstacles she would have to overcome if she hoped to fly.


Being a woman where the action was had never really been a problem she couldn't handle but the money might be something else.

This prompted her to begin night classes in cosmetology while still in Mountain State College in order to be able to make more money at a given job or perhaps to hold two jobs at one time to pay for her flying lessons. Her father was not aware of night beauty classes either. She earned her cosmetology license before she received her degree from Mountain State. but took a position as a secretary for Kibler Real Estate for a short time for $7 a week before putting her beauty training to work for $15 a week at the Lilac Beauty



But, she "sort of led her parents to believe she was working as a secretary at the Lilac," since they had their heart set on her getting settled in a "lady-like" office job. She said, I don't want to give the impression that my father was an unreasonable man  he was a wonderful man with whom I spent a lot of time as the youngest child, 12 years younger than my next sister. He had a personal experience which prompted his decision against a nursing career for me, but he knew I was always knew I was to be something of the Nancy Drew type girl and woman, and often contributed to it in his own way.


Raised at Lock Locations


Her father was a lock man until retirement and she was born in Putnam County while he was employed on Lock 8 there before soon moving to Lock 22 at Ravenswood. From there he was transferred to Lock 21 at Portland, O.  Meigs County where the family spent 13 years and where she went to high school at Racine now Southern Local) graduating in 1932. It was soon after her graduation that her father was transferred to Belleville Dam (Lock 20).


It probably wasn't really too much of a surprise to her father to learn that she was flying airplanes. She had helped him in the lacksmith shop and with other outdoor chores around the locks through the years. And despite her petite size, she lettered four years on the Racine High School girl's basketball team, was captain of the team, and a star player - and has the letters to prove it. She said, "I was small enough and quick enough to sometimes go between the other players legs. When she came to Mountain State, she immediately went out for the basketball team. Bill Clinger, veteran recruit and purser at Mountain State for nearly 50 years, who was instrumental in instituting girls athletics in business colleges, told her she was too little to play basketball.


She said. "I'll show you." And she did earning two letters and the nickname of "Wildcat" during her years there. And neither she nor her dad have forgotten the time she won a harness race at the Meig County Fair at the age of 16. She explained that they had a neighbor in the Portland area who had race horses and a training track on his property. Pauline used to enjoy helping work out the horses and was no stranger to the sulky.


Won In Horse Race


It happened that the owner and driver hurt his leg at the fair and was not able to drive the race. He sent his daughter in search of Pauline and when she came to the barns she asked her "to just drive the horse around the track" in order to keep him from being disqualified. She agreed and was togged out in the owner's silks and joined the other drivers on the track. He told her to just let the horse have his head and let him go. "I didn't know it was a real race until it was over, and I came in third," she said. Another emorable moment in her life was when she substituted for her girlfriend to cut the ribbon at the dedication of the now nationally known Silver Bridge. She sort of got cold feet at the last minute, so I just took the scissors and cut the ribbon, Pauline said.


She has also served as the first woman juror in Wood county in 1957. Her flying lessons began in 1935, the year after she was married to Ash, who owned a grocery store on 25th St. She earned her private license after only six hours of solo time. and logged soma 300 hours in light planes before giving up flying when she started her family in 1940. , Her husband later bought the Gibbons Insurance Agency and she helped with the bookkeeping and became a licensed agent before his death in 1961.


She said As a woman I was discouraged from trying to operate the insurance business. so I sold the agency and went back to the beauty shop to put my two children through school and college. Today her son, John William, Hazel St., has two children, and her daughter, Martha Grim. Toledo. has six, five of them adopted. In 1964,she married L. F. Darrah, owner of Darrah's Auto Service, Marietta, and they now live along Rt. 2 North near the Wood County Airport. While she still remembers the thrill of flying, she finds it more fun to travel on four wheels now and she and her husband travel thousands of miles each year in the United States including Alaska and Canada with their two vans.


"Old Granny" on CB


She had no radio in the old airplanes, but today she's an avid CB operator who goes by the handle of "Old Granny," a handle that is known nearly across the country, since 'having travel some 60,000 miles a year. she is also a 40-year member of the Order of Eastern Star, past secretary of the White Shrine of Jerusalem, Chapter 4, and as a member of the Camden-Clark Hospital Auxiliary' operated the snack bar there on Sundays for 10 years. There are still a lot of memories from her flying days including a visit with the late Amelia Earhart when she stopped at the Wood County Airport in 1936, and flew to Columbus for typhoid serum during the 1937 flood.


Local persons with whom she flew included Rob Wilson, Jan Sadowski, Bernice Lane. Eugene May, Ralph Boso. Pete Peters, Harold Hupp, and many others whose names she can't remember. "There were little things we used to do with planes you wouldn't expect to see

today she said. She still recalls buying a pair of shoes at Dils' for her sister, Thelma Orr, who lived in Meigs County. O. and who needed the shoes to match a dress she was going to wear to a teachers' meeting that day. I got the shoes, got in the plane and flew down to Bashan to their farm, circled low, took aim at the front lawn and dropped the box which landed in the top of a big pine tree. and her husband, Paul, had to climb up and get them," she said. These are just a few of her many memories - she's led that kind of exciting and active life. and she's still going 60,000miles a year and doing the bookkeeping for her husband's business.



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