Malibu female pilot’s contribution to aviation history recognized

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Joanne Reid Jackson and U.S. Postmaster Philip T. Hill, 1938, before her historic flight in being the first female pilot to deliver mail from Santa Monica to the Burbank Airport.

The local aviatrix is remembered as “free-spirited and adventurous.”

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

A former Paradise Cove resident -and the first woman pilot to fly U.S. mail from Santa Monica to Burbank-will soon be enshrined in the Founders Wall at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying and the Douglas DC-3 Monument Park at the Santa Monica Airport.

The soon-to-be-reopened museum is also dedicating a 1942 Douglas Aircraft DC-3 plane in a private ceremony on Saturday, as part of the planned restoration of the museum (located at the Santa Monica Airport), which closed for budgetary reasons in 2002.

Joanne Reid Jackson, who died in 1990, was a teenager in the early 1930s, during an era when aviatrix Amelia Earhart figured largely in popular heroic culture. In 1932, Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Reid Jackson’s passion for planes was born after a wealthy friend of her parents took her flying one day. She took a job at Campbell’s Department store in Santa Monica to pay for flying lessons, hoping to become a pilot, Chris Jackson, Reid Jackson’s daughter, said. “She would go on her lunch breaks to watch the airplanes at Clover Field [now Santa Monica Airport].”

Southern California was then becoming the hub of commercial and defense aviation. Reid Jackson’s older sister worked for McDonnell Douglas Corporation (which Boeing bought in 1996), but scrappy teenage girl pilots were rare.

Pretty soon Reid Jackson racked up enough flying hours and notoriety to attract the attention of Philip T. Hill, Santa Monica’s postmaster of the time. In 1938, as a promotional event, he hired her to fly the mail from the Santa Monica sorting facility to Burbank Airport. The local press, including the Los Angeles Times, ran front-page photos of the event.

Betty Mott, who lives in Santa Monica, is 91 years old and remembers her friend Jackson Reid from those days.

“Joanne was so beautiful, like a Greek goddess,” Mott said. “Back then, there was no LAX and she would spend hours at Clover Field watching the planes. She spent every bit of her salary on flying lessons. I never wanted to fly then. But she told me she felt like she was flying without wings whenever she went up.”

Reid Jackson ended up marrying another clerk at Campbell’s and eventually moved to Van Nuys. Her new husband disapproved of women flying and insisted she stop by the time they started having children. She never flew again.

“I think dad was threatened by her independence,” Chris Jackson said. “She didn’t talk about it much as we were growing up, but when she did speak of flying, you could see how much she had loved it.”

The Jacksons moved to Malibu, where Reid Jackson took a job at Deane’s clothing store (where Malibu Diver is located today). Their two youngest children, including Chris, worked at The Malibu Times under the proprietorship of Reeves and Reta Templeman. However, the family unit did not stay together.

“Mom and dad divorced, which was not acceptable to Catholics back then,” Chris Jackson said. “She was a single mother in Malibu when none of our friends did that and I think it took a toll on her self-esteem. So, ultimately, I think she was disappointed in her life. But she always kept a copy of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s [Charles Lindbergh’s wife, an aviator and author) book, ‘Gift from the Sea,’ on her coffee table.”

Reid Jackson’s passion for aviation might have been neglected in life, but will be on view for all to see at the Museum of Flying, with her name as part of the Founders Wall. Her daughter is working to provide the museum with one of her mother’s original flight suits and a USPS commemorative certificate, honoring Jackson Reid for her historic flight from Santa Monica to Burbank.

Daniel J. Ryan, the director of the museum, said the dedication of the Douglas DC-3 is an important memorial to the aircraft that “catapulted modern aviation to the forefront and made the world smaller.”

“The DC-3’s first flight was December 17, 1935, the anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk,” Ryan said. “We feel it is important to pay tribute to Donald Wills Douglas and his vision. He was appointed czar of all aircraft production in World War II. By the ’50s, 90 percent of all commercial air travel was done on Douglas Aircraft planes.”

The design and construction of the DC-3 Monument is a joint project between the City of Santa Monica, the Employee Community Fund of Boeing and the Museum of Flying.

Chris Jackson said she is pleased her mother’s place in local aviation history will finally be acknowledged.

“We didn’t get to see that side of her much,” Jackson said. “But she must have been really free-spirited and adventurous.”