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My Barnstorming Aunt

Updated on March 20, 2008

She Proved Women Had it Too!

Today, after several decades of progress, women have achieved parity in the work place, although there are those who claim that there is still a "glass ceiling" keeping them from the top positions. But there was a woman who, during an era of expectation that the woman was the homemaker, was a leader and role model for women of her day. She was my Aunt Betty, on my mother's side of our family.

Betty Lee Elkins was born in 1906 to Mr. & Mrs. Caswell Carl Elkins, Jr. of Filmore, California. She was the older sister to my mother (by 16 years), but was the younger sister to two older brothers; Herbert and Cab. Betty grew up on a ranch of orange groves being developed by her father. After graduating from high school in Los Angeles, she attended an air show and met a daring stunt pilot; Freddie Lund. After getting married, she followed him around the country barnstorming during the depression between 1929 and 1931; learning how to fly from him. This hub page will use text and images from actual newspaper clippings I have hung onto from my mom, Roberta.

Over and Over Again

by Bettie Elkins Lund (September, 1930)

(Reader of Science and Invention Tells How She Accomplished 67 Barrel Rolls in 28 Minutes, Breaking Women's Record)

Prior to this record-breaking flight in Miami (my fourth solo), I had only 20 minutes to my credit in the air, alone, and I had never performed any stunts. But my husband, Freddie Lund, was the first pilot to perform an outside loop in a commercial airplane, and he had taught me to fly, and taken me around. So, I felt quite confident.

We had agreed to his signaling me from the ground, so that I could know how many rolls I had made. For each of my first twenty he was to lay a long, white strip of muslin on the ground; he was to cross one of these strips with another for every ten succeeding rolls.

I buckled into my parachute, kissed my husband good-bye, listened to his last- minute instructions, climbed into the cockpit and taxied down the field, waving to my husband; Mr. Lou Souvere, the official representative of the National Aeronautic Association; Young Stribling, the boxer (who is also a pilot); and the crowd of spectators. For a while I held the plane low as I took off straight into the wind, and waved once more to those below me. Then I quickly climbed for altitude.

All the while I kept thinking of the things I had been told to do, and those I had been warned against doing. I wondered if I would be frightened when I started doing stunts, and what I would do if I were afraid! But the time passed quickly, and after consulting my altimeter, I decided to start barrel rolling. I made sure everything was all right, pushed into a corner of the cockpit, and went into my first barrel roll. I had to watch carefully to come out straight. But after it was over I knew there was nothing to be scared about and did thirteen in rapid succession. By that time I had lost considerable altitude, and had to climb a bit before doing any more of my stunts. Then I did twenty-one without stopping to gain altitude.

While climbing a second time I looked down to see if I could discern the markers on the ground. They were very plain, and a completed cross told me I had done at least thirty rolls. Then I did thirty-two more, one after the other.

My sixty-seventh roll was not perfect, so I thought I'd call it a day.It was better to stop now than do something wrong and be sorry later. At 1,500 feet, directly over the airport, I cut my motor and glided, in two complete circles, to a landing. This is required in taking a test for a pilot's license, and, as I had done it many times with Mr. Lund, I felt sure I could do it myself.

When I landed, I taxied back to the hangar where the boys were waiting to congratulate me. My husband gave a sigh of relief, for although he was confident I'd come through all right, he couldn't help worrying while I was so high up, all by myself.

New York Evening Graphic - Saturday, October 24, 1931

Local Flying Races End As 2 Are Killed

Pilot Plunges to Death From Tailspin - Youth Dies From Propellor Injuries - Thousands See Tragedy at Droyer's Point Field.

A pilot doing stunts was killed immediately yesterday afternoon and a 19 - year - old boy, struck on the head by a moving propellor, less than an hour after the pilot's death, also died, this morning, in the Jersey City Medical Center.

The two deaths brought to a tragic close the air races for the benefit of the Jersey City unemployed, which started on Friday at the Droyer's Point Field at the foot of Danforth Avenue in the Greenville section.

A stampede and possible serious injuries to some in the large crowd seemed probable when Hall took his fatal spin. The crowd was rushing from the field toward the scene of the mishap.

But they were halted be Edward Lee "Swanee" Taylor, announcer, himself a pilot, who pleaded through the ampliphers: "Don't leave, please! You can't do anything to help now. A crowd over there might hurt Hall's chances to live, if he is not already dead."

Then, looking around and seeing Betty Lund nearby, he added: "You all remember about Freddie Lund, killed in his plane three weeks ago at Lexington, Kentucky. Well, Betty Lund, his widow, will carry on and do some stunts for you. The show must go on. Don't go away. Stay here."

And rushing to her plane, Betty Lund, attired in mourning for her husband, zoomed into the air. The crowd hesitated as the flying widow gained altitude. They halted breathlessly as she did the same stunt that just a few minutes before hurled Hall to his death. But Mrs. Lund came through, cleverly executing the difficult inverted tail-spin, righting herself and finally landing in front of the grandstand.

Over the following years, Mrs. Lund was fortunate to meet and become friends with the likes of Eddie Rickenbacker and Jimmy Doolittle. During WWII, as a WAF under Nancy Love's leadership, Betty ferried aircraft from the manufacturing plants on the west coast across to the east coast for later transport to the European theater.

Woman Breaks Barrel Roll Record with Only 20 Minutes Air Time!

Bettie Elkins Lund, a reader of this magazine, who broke the barrel-role record for women, after only twenty minutes of solo flight.
Bettie Elkins Lund, a reader of this magazine, who broke the barrel-role record for women, after only twenty minutes of solo flight.
An accurate diagram of the capers a plane cuts in making a barrel roll.
An accurate diagram of the capers a plane cuts in making a barrel roll.
Noted stunt flier, Freddie Lund, was killed in a crash at Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 3. He had promised to participate in the Jersey City Air Show for unemployed. Here's flier who will take his place. . . Mrs. Freddie Lund, his widow. Carry on!
Noted stunt flier, Freddie Lund, was killed in a crash at Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 3. He had promised to participate in the Jersey City Air Show for unemployed. Here's flier who will take his place. . . Mrs. Freddie Lund, his widow. Carry on!

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