I was up and at ’em early yesterday. Did my blog promptly. Then walked.
It was a big time walk. From Duval Square to Mallory Square and back. Criss crossed some of the side streets. The humidity was heavy. Too heavy. I had to take a break three times. Each time found a business with air conditioning with a place for me to sit for a few minutes.
Spent the afternoon researching and writing. Spent the evening working on friday’s internet show. I have two glass sliding doors in my kitchen. Open onto the deck and pool. The ocean about 50 feet away. There is a counter next to the sliding doors. It is where I work when I work inside.
Last night was exceptionally pleasant to work from the counter. The humidity was gone. There was a breeze coming in off the water.
I was researching a small South American air line that got started in 1920. I found it. But I found something even more important. A part of Key west history.
Pan Am World Airways. Commonly known as Pan Am.
Pan Am became one of the world’s largest international carriers. Then hard times hit. It filed for bankruptcy in 1991.
Pan Am was born in 1927 in Key West. Its first headquarters.
There was sentiment at the time that the United States needed a central American airline. To protect its economic Panama Canal interests. Ergo, Pan Am got started. The new airline provioded air mail and passenger service Key West to Havana, Cuba. The United States government provided the air mail contract thereby making the dream possible.
A problem developed. Pan Am had no aircraft landing rights in Cuba. It was obvious some heavy hitters were required to convice Cuba to grant the landing rights.
Threee of the primary founders of Pan Am were Majors at the time in the United States Army Air Force. Majors Hap Arnold, Carl Spaatz, and John Jouett. Arnold and Spaatz went on to become two of the most important U.S. generals of World War II.
Money and influence were required. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney and Averell Harriman were the backers. Harriman went on to become an important part of the administrations of several U.S. Presidents. He also served as Governor of New York.
The aforementioned individuals worked out the Cuban landing problem.
The new airline required a headquaters. In Key West. It was located in a white two story building on a corner on Whitehead Street. That building today is the home of the famous Kelly’s Restaurant.
Pan Am began business with one airlplane. An eight seater.
Some 25 odd years ago, Kelly Mc Gillis and Fred Tilman, then married, opened Kelly’s Restaurant in the former Pan Am headquarters. The restaurant is still there today doing a flourishing business.
Kelly Mc Gillis was of movie fame. Movies like Top gun, Witness, and The Accused.
I knew Kelly and Fred back when. Primarily from social gatherings. After Kelly and Fred divorced, Fred kept the restaurant. He also became my neighbior in Key Haven. Lisa and Fred are friends. Fred catered Lisa’s wedding. Did a great job!
That other airline I was searching for turned out to be a German airline out of Columbia which started in 1920. The German airline and the Panama Canal were the influences which gave birth to Pan Am.
Such is the story of Pan Am and Key West. Interesting.
Enjoy your day!