August, 1962, Western Wings
A name synonymous with flying in Southern Alberta is that of Jock Palmer, and this pioneer airman received the accolade of his fellow citizens when the Rotary Club of High River, Alberta, honoured him at a banquet in the town’s memorial centre.
Captain Palmer, with Captain Harry Fitzsimmons formed the South Alberta Air Line in 1920. The banquet marked the anniversary of the first airmail flight made by the pioneer fliers from Lethbridge in June of 1921.
Banquet chairman C. M. Young noted the difficulties pilots such as Mr. palmer encountered. Not the least of these, he said, were cows, which savoured the flavour of the dope used on wing fabric and would sooner demolish a plane than a haystack.
John Watson, district director of postal services, recalled the first airmail flight of 40 years ago which ended in a crash at Minot, North Dakota, when pilot Palmer, in order to save the lives of a car load of women and children, decided to sacrifice his plane. Mr. Watson commended the courage and vision of such fliers of the early days as Jock Palmer. Commenting on the early airmail flight, Mr. Young said the plane used was an old Curtiss Jenny, and in the hands of Palmer and Fitzsimmons it set a Canadian record in distance flown.
W. (Bill) Smith, manager of the Calgary Flying Club, who associated with Mr. Palmer in the Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Lethbridge during the war, recalled that Mr. Palmer “polished men to flying perfection.” Mr. Palmer was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1943 for his contribution to home service flying training.
Also honouring Mr. Palmer was Art Balfour, manager of radio station CJOC, Lethbridge, which originated by Mr. Palmer and is still labelled “C Joc” in his honour. Mayor Ross Ellis made a presentation to the former flier and echoed the thoughts of those present in paying tribute to his foresight.
Mr. Palmer reminisced about the early days in Southern Alberta. After discussing the trials involved in flying a plane like his old Curtiss Jenny, Mr. Palmer remarked, “I’d go home if they asked me to take one of those things up today!”
This article originally appeared in the August, 1962 edition of Western Wings magazine. Photo credit to Bomber Command Museum.