The Beginning of Military Service: The National Guard, 116th Observation Squadron, 1930-1931

This post is the beginning of the series on Keith’s military experiences.  It is why this blog was named: The Man Who Lived Airplanes.  He loved airplanes, airplane engines and just being a mechanic.  His interests covered fixing anything with an engine including automobiles, boat engines and more…

It has been difficult to piece together the timeline for my Dad’s, military career. There is very little information written on the photos in his collection.  So I am doing a lot of guessing. We start with 1930 to 1931 when he served in the National Guard with the 116th Observation Squadron, 41st Division.

Keith by an airplane circa 1931

Keith by an airplane circa 1931

National Guard Document

National Guard Document

Keith B. MacDonald was appointed Corporal of the 116th Observation Squadron, 41st Division Aviation of the Washington National Guard on the 5 day of May, 1931 to discharge the duty of Corporal. Given under my hand at Camp Murray, Fort Lewis, Washington signed the 5th day of May, 1931 by Maurice Thompson, Brigadier General W.N.G., The Adjutant General.

Note:  I am pondering that the date of 5 May 1931 (underlined above) is not quite right but this is how the document reads. I think the next document is more accurate regarding his service.

He was Honorably Discharged July 16, 1931.

Honorable Discharge National Guard 1931

Honorable Discharge National Guard 1931

This is to Certify that Keith B. McDonald, Corporal 116th Observation Squadron 41st Division Aviation as a Testimonial of Honest and Faithful Service is hereby Honorably Discharged from the National Guard of the United States and of the State of Washington by reason of PP1 S.O. No. 90 A.G.O. 7-16-31 to enlist in Regular Army. 

Said Keith B. McDonald was born in International Falls in the state of Minnesota.  When enlisted he was 19-10/12 years of age and his occupation was apprentice machinist. He has Blue eyes, Brown hair and ruddy complexion and was five feet six inches in height. Given under my hand at Spokane, Washington this 16th day of July one thousand nine hundred and thirty-one by Edward J. Robins, Major 116th Infantry Commanding.”

On the back side of his discharge paper is his Enlistment Record:

He (Keith) enlisted January 5, 1930 at Felts Field, Parkwater, Washington. He served 1 year, 6 months and 12 days.  He had no prior service.  

Under marksmanship and gunner he is not qualified, and under Horsemanship he is not mounted.  No battles or engagements are listed.  His vocation was given as apprentice machinist, no wounds while in service, physical condition good, single, character: Excellent. Signed by Warren N. Wadsworth, Captain 116th Obsn Sq. 116th Obsn Sq. 

According to his many employment applications, Keith serviced airplanes with names like Ford & Fokker Trimotors, American Pilgrims, Douglas Basic Trainers, and Curtis Condor Bombers.  He was living his dream of becoming an airplane mechanic.

Here are some pictures of airplanes in his collection with the date of 1931 written on them. He was in several places in 1931 either Felts Field in Spokane, or Camp Murray, Fort Lewis, Washington which is south of Seattle. They might have been taken at March Field in California later in his service?  I am leaning toward Washington for these photos.  I have tried to identify these airplanes but I am not an expert on this subject. I do believe they are probably one or several of the ones he lists above.  I just think the photos are very cool. I have also tried to figure out the buildings in the background, because you can place events by doing that.  The two photos below looks like the same aircraft from different angles but maybe not?

MAirplane413USArmy1931 MAirplaneManwalking1931

There is no way for me to know the exact models that he worked on.  Following is a bit of trivia about some of these airplanes that he mentions in the above description.

Ford Tri-Motors – See History of the Ford 4-AT-E Tri-Motor, at EAA the Spirit of Aviation webpage:

Henry Ford mobilized millions of Americans and created a new market with his Model T “Tin Lizzie” automobile from 1909 to 1926. After World War I, he recognized the potential for mass air transportation.

Ford’s Tri-Motor aircraft, nicknamed “The Tin Goose,” was designed to build another new market, airline travel. To overcome concerns of engine reliability, Ford specified three engines and added features for passenger comfort, such as an enclosed cabin. The first three Tri-Motors built seated the pilot in an open cockpit, as many pilots doubted a plane could be flown without direct “feel of the wind.”

Fokker Trimotor at Acepilot web site:

American Pilgrim airplanes – the 1931 Fairchild American Pilgrim was restored and is on display in the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum.

Douglas Basic Trainer Airplane: You will need to scroll the following webpage link to this plane:

Here is the Virtual Aircraft Museum:

Curtis Condor Bombers:

Source: Aviation in the U.S. Army 1919-1939, online at Google Books page 430.

General White commanded some 7600 Guardsmen at camp. His aviation included the 116th Photo Section as well as the 116th Observation Squadron. Major Day and 12 other pilots moved with these units from Felts Field, Spokane, Washington, to Fort Lewis. They brought with them all 6 of the squadron’s airplanes (1 O-38, 2 O-38Bs, and 3 O-38Es) and borrowed 1 from the California National Guard. Six planes carried radios for working with infantry and artillery.  To avoid interfering with daytime operations, the squadron performed 20- and 40-hour checks on its aircraft at night. Since Fort Lewis lacked lighting for night flying, soldiers set highway pots to outline the field at night so the flyers could participate in operations with infantry…

About General White:

Keith writes another version of his experience with the 116th:   

Jan 1930 to July 1931: 116th Observation Sqdn. Washington, National Guard – Air Service Felts, Fld., WA. Operating of military aircraft, Supervisor: Maj. C.V. Haynes Commanding Officer. Left to enlist in Regular Army. Title: Corporal, salary $21.00 to $40/mo. Duties: Assistant Crew Chief, Wing, Wiper, Student Mech. [ ] Ground School, Passenger in Aerial flights, Military training.  

Source: Personal military papers of K.B. MacDonald

Here is a Wikipedia article on a Caleb V. Haynes the man Commanding Officer, scroll down to Air Corp duty on the webpage:

Another photo from the collection:

1930 Airplane

1930 ?? Airplane

More to come…

Posted in 116th Observation Squadron 41st Division, Camp Murray Tacoma, Felts Field Spokane WA, Keith B. MacDonald, Keith B. MacDonald's Military Service, Spokane County, Spokane the city, Tacoma Pierce County, WA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The year is 1930 in Spokane…

Miriam, Keith, Ronald, Vivian and Eddie 1930

Miriam, Keith, Ronald, Vivian and Eddie 1930

The photo above is wonderful, Miriam is wearing pants.  Why Vivian and Eddie are dressed so fancy I do not know.  Grandpa Ronald always dress carefully and well.

The 1930 U.S. Federal Census shows that Keith was still at home in Spokane with his father and family.  The house they were living in still stands as of 2002.

Lines 14, 15, 16 and 17, Nora Ave, house #15, 222, 239, McDonald, Ronald, head, renting, $28.00 in personal value, they have a radio. They are not living on a farm. Ronald is male, white and 63 years old, married at age 28, Canadian-English and parents are Canadian English, immigrated in 1871 and is naturalized, profession is “scaler” at a lumber mill, not employed at this time, not a veteran.

McDonald, Nellie, sister-h, female, white, 58 years old, single, born Canadian-English and parents are Canadian-English, immigrated in 1891, Alien status, profession – none.

McDonald, Edna, daughter, female, white, 23 years old, single, born in Minnesota, parents are both Canadian-English, occupation is trained nurse, working at hospital, currently employed.

McDonald, Keith, son, male, white, 20 years old, single, born in Minnesota, Canadian-English, occupation is listed as Assistant Machinist, Railway Shop.

Source:  1930 U.S. Federal Census, Spokane, Spokane Co., Washington, District 34, Pg. 25, Nora Ave, Block 1102, ED 32-34, SD 5, Sh#13-A, #133, April 17, 1930. 

Miriam, Keith, Nellie and Ronald about 1930

Miriam, Keith, Nellie and Ronald about 1930

The children of Ronald and Grace had grown up and now they would go out on their own and make a life for themselves.  Eddie was following the nursing path, Miriam was teaching, Vivian was not allowed to teach as a married women but that would change in time.  Jean and Gordon were in Minnesota at this time both working.  All the money that each of the children were making came back to the family to support Nellie and Ronald who were aging.

Ronald and Nellie were Canadian-English, Grace was born in Minnesota so the census is a little off on the information.  I also think that Ronald emigrated to the United States much later than he has indicated here, more like 1895.

Posted in Eddie L. McDonald & her Collection of Junk, Gordon McDonald, GRACE & RONALD MCDONALD, Jean McDonald Davis, Keith B. MacDonald, Minnesota, Miriam McDonald, Nellie McDonald (Ellen Elizabeth), Spokane County, Spokane the city, Vivian McDonald McKanna, Washington State | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Summer and Fall of 1929 – McGoldrick Lumber Company and the Great Northern Railroad

Apparently, graduating from high school did not slow Keith down.  He took a job even before he graduated and he also went to night school.

About May of 1929, he was working as a mill hand with the McGoldrick Lumber Company. His duties were tail sawyer on the gang saw, edger saw and sweeper. He worked there for $3.50 a day from May 1929 to about September of 1929 and then was let go because of a “reduction in the work force.”

There is a book about this company:  The McGoldrick Lumber Company Story, 1900-1952, by Jim McGoldrick.  I have not read it but it does sound interesting.

An article appeared in the Spokesman-Review dated September 15, 2014:  “Then and Now: McGoldrick Lumber mill,” with pictures of the buildings which are gone now. The mill was on land that was part of the Gonzaga University campus.

After the mill hand position he moved on to another job at a railroad company.

The Tower in Spokane

The Tower in Spokane 2002

He worked as a machinist’s helper for the Great North Railroad at Hillyard, Washington for $3.60 up to $4.60 a day. He was there from September 1929 to May of 1931 and again he left because of a “reduction of the workforce.” His duties were locomotive overhaul which included dismantling and assembly, repair and overhaul of diesel engines, steam shovels, cleaning, painting, roustabout, acetylene torch operation (cutting torch), drill press operation, and crane operation. It looks like he was getting engine maintenance experience.

Spokane Historical has a great article about the Great Northern Railroad in Spokane.  Apparently the tower in the park in the middle of downtown Spokane was part of the Great Northern Railroad complex of buildings which are all gone now.

While he was working at the railroad he attended school at the Lewis & Clark Night School and his course was Shop Sketching for a total of 44 hours.  He received a certificate on December 12, 1929 for his work.

Lewis and Clark certificate

Lewis and Clark certificate

Posted in Genealogical Research Trip Spokane & Yakima 2002, Keith B. MacDonald, Spokane County, Spokane the city | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Gonzaga Graduation Ceremony to be held June 7, 1929…

Keith graduated on June 7, 1929 in the school gymnasium from Gonzaga Preparatory High School.  He had taken the Latin Scientific Course.


Here is one other version of the graduation photo:

Keith at Graduation in 1929

Keith at Graduation in 1929

Below is a proof sheet for the June 7, 1929 Gonzaga Preparatory High School Graduation class. Something happened and a class book was never published for 1929.

I have attempted to read the names of the young men on this proof sheet and find that the last two were the hardest.  There is one person listed after by the name of Frank Stitz, and I think he was a friend in later years?

The Gonzaga High School Class of 1929!

Gonzaga High School Class of 1929

Gonzaga High School Class of 1929

Starting at the top left first row:  James T. Anderson, Philip J. Rohner, Fegus Cameron, Frederick O. Boutz, Burt C. Hutton, Robert J. Kearns, Richard A. Brown, George J. Corinier, George A. Keenan, Thomas J. Price, Howard J. Rauch, Bernard A. Czesla, John E. West.

Second row from top left to right:  Frank A. Toner, Arnold L. Custer, Lawrence P. Weissenberg, Maruice D. Black, John A. Reinert, Lincoln F. Cadigan, Justin F. Wall, Leo J. Riley, James A. Patterson, Walles E. Woods, Alexander M. Toth, John W. Talmage, Francis J. Schadegg.

Third row from top left to right: William M. Kelly, Frank E. Duffy, Arthur B. Christian, John J. Goudie, Eli I. Adams, Lee W. Grady, James E. Maguire, John L. Maguire, Raymond Berry, Wilfred E. McGourin, John F. Welsh, William A. Kenieson, William E. Lee.

Fourth row from top left to right: Jerome N. McCoy, Richard Williams, Edward G. Kuksht, Charles H. Russell, Joseph K. Partello, Richard D. Weber, Norman J. Campbell, Paul L. Letourneau, Benjamin L. Nixon, Robert A. Loosmore, Arnold Nichols, Robert C. Rooney, Louis J. Tonari.

Fifth row from top left to right:  Bernard Kunz, John S. Olson, Keith B. MacDonald, Wilfred W. Pringle, George F. Currie, Edward Chambers, Donald J. Rowles, Robert Krause, Louise M. Campion, Stephen Connors, Frank E. Stitz, Ralph A. Bushnell, Urban F. Schmitt.

Sixth row left to right:  far left Joseph W. Kearney, James F. Holliet, far right Leslie F. Bennett, Max J. [Krause]

As I typed the names above, I pondered about the lives and fates of these young men entering what should have been the best times of their lives. Life was not going to be easy for them.  In five months the Stock Market Crash of October 1929 would create the worst depression the world has seen. It would be followed by the Nazi threat and then the Second World War.  The next two decades where going to test every ones courage and determination.

Posted in Keith B. MacDonald, Spokane County, Spokane the city, Washington State | Tagged , | Leave a comment