The Six and Twenty club met on a warm June afternoon at the First Christian Church for their first in-person meeting after many months of Zoom meetings. Safety protocols were followed according to the church’s requirements.
President Beverly Drapilik called the meeting to order. Secretary, Mrs. Sally Buchanan, called the roll and then read the minutes from the previous meeting. Mrs. Kathleen Blake gave the historical minutes.
The program for the afternoon was presented by Mrs. Cindy Petrich. The book she was circulating was “The All Girls Filling Station’s Last Reunion” by Fannie Flagg, a story about the women in the family who keep the family garage open during WW II and their time as pilots.
Her topic for the day was the WASPs — Women Air Service Pilots — during the war. The program was started by Jackie Cochran and Nancy Love Harkness in 1942. Both women had their pilot licenses and had flown in the National Air Races. They gathered young women who were pilots and were willing to learn to fly military planes from factories to bases, in order to free up the men for service overseas.
The women faced many obstacles. They were not accepted as part of the military, but had to train the military way. They were given men’s uniforms, huge parachutes, would have to find their own places to stay and find their own way back to their base once their plane was delivered. They towed targets for the fighter pilots to practice on. They flew at night for the men training on artillery using search lights. They flew 60 million miles in 77 different types of planes.
Because men were coming home and wanted their jobs back, the program was dismantled in 1944 and the women sent home. They were asked not to talk about their experiences. They received no recognition for what they had done.
After 35 years of the records being sealed, the WASP’s were finally declared as having served on active duty and issued honorable discharge papers. More than 200 surviving women were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
A museum in Sweetwater Texas was opened in May 2005 dedicated to telling the WASP’s story.
The club enjoyed visiting with one another before departing.