Franklin Macon, Original Documented Tuskegee Airman – by Stephanie Prescott, Joyful Traditions Partner

I had the pleasure of meeting Frank several times during the writing process of his early life story, I Wanted to be a Pilot – The Making of a Tuskegee Airman. It was published in 2018. Frank was a special person, always happy with a quick wit. He didn’t pretend to know all about everything, but he did love his own story and his generation. Frank was born August 4, 1923. His early life circumstances today would be considered sad or disadvantaged. To Frank it was wonderful. It’s what made his story great and his perseverance unstoppable.

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Tuskegee Airmen: Legacy of Courage

In true Frank fashion, he worked to the very end. In the month prior to his passing, at the age of 97 Frank did more in three weeks than many do in a decade. For those of you who knew Frank, you know there were no excuses. He could no longer walk, but he was not to be stopped and he was going to look good doing it. If he could help a student or share history, he would do just that. 

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Forest Grove Elementary School

Frank’s Visit with Forest Grove Elementary School

Frank visits via skype with the elementary kids in Mrs Vandenburg’s 4th grade class. As a child Frank loved to make things and take things apart. In his book, I Wanted To Be A Pilot – The Making of a Tuskegee Airman, he shares some of the toys he used to make. Frank’s co-author, Elizabeth Harper, is from Michigan. So she had many friends and relatives asking her to come visit with Frank. Unfortunately at the last minute Frank was unable to make the trip. Liz and her daughter went ahead, but not before setting up skype on Frank’s computer!

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Colorado to California for WORK!

Why did Frank travel to San Francisco when he was a child? Today most of us go to work in one place all year, though many still travel frequently for their jobs. It may seem strange that in the 1930s people would travel a thousand miles to where the seasonal jobs were, but the adults in Frank’s life did just that. They took the train from Denver to California and back, taking advantage of more need for service workers in the tourism industry in California during the summer. It seems expensive, but it was worth it for them.

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1930s Shopping

A Few Dimes Will Do Ya!

How much did food and daily items cost when Frank was young? We find it so fun and interesting to ask people how much things cost when they were young, it always seems so much cheaper than today. So, we asked Frank if he remembered what his Aunts had to pay for the household staples. He remembered a few of the items and we looked a few items up. What seems so different today, is that it is rare for anything to only costs, cents. Now many people don’t even carry cash, let alone change. Here are a few examples of what a family might spend their pennies on in 1933.

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1930s Passenger Train

Travel By Train

What was it like to travel in the 1930s for Frank and others? Though the early years of the thirties saw horrible unemployment, sometimes as high as 25%, according to US government documents of the 1930s, train travel was not too expensive for many families. From the 1890s, traveling by train was fairly expensive, but in the 20s prices were becoming lower. In 1933, there was a sudden drop in fare prices. Carriers were allowed to compete for business and many fares dropped to between one and two cents per mile. All costs considered, this was still thought to be more expensive than traveling by car, but only if there were four or more passengers in the automobile.

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1936 NASH

Frank Drove at 12!

What do you mean, Frank could drive when he was 12?! Frank’s family had the famous Nash. The Nash was very stylish-green body with black running boards. Every few years it was updated with the latest innovations in safety and comfort. It is said that the Nash had the best heating and ventilation system available anywhere for over twenty years. Not sure if Frank cared about the heating system. He preferred taking the neighborhood kids on a joy rides-windows down!

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Franklin Macon and Elizabeth Harper

Fridays with Frank!

When your dream becomes a reality, it’s a BIG day! Franklin Macon, Original Documented Tuskegee Airman, and Elizabeth Harper crossed paths in what would become a wonderful friendship and history making opportunity for both of them. They met years ago in passing. Later, thanks to dear friends Chris and Cindy Knapp, they met again. Frank always tinkered at Bo Steal Chris’s metal shop. During Chris and Cindy’s anniversary dinner, Liz asked how Frank was doing. Chris responded, “He’s great. His 92nd Birthday is coming up, and I’d love to get him in the air again.” Liz thought, “We live at the United State Air Force Academy, somehow we should be able to make this happen.”

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Franklin Macon Prohibition Blog

Colorado Springs and Prohibition

Frank mentions prohibition several times in his book, so what was it? Growing up in Colorado Springs, Frank had a unique experience when it came to the prohibition of alcohol. Long before Frank came along, the town had no legal alcohol. From the founding of Colorado Springs in 1872, it was illegal to sell a drop. This is attributed to the Quaker beliefs of the city founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer. Eventually Colorado became one of the first dry states in 1916. It was almost fifty years after the prohibition of alcohol in Colorado Springs when, in 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified, making the manufacture, transportation, and sale of intoxicating liquors illegal throughout the US.

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Franklin Macon Christmas Blog

Do It Yourself Christmas

How did Frank celebrate Christmas when he was a child? During the holiday season, Deanna Dyekman, one of our writing partners, sat down with Frank to ask him about his holiday memories. He laughed and described it as a, do it yourself Christmas! What types of Christmas toys did you receive each year? Frank remembers a Christmas when he was nine or so. He enjoyed a pretty fine train, but he thinks his aunts probably weren’t too pleased.

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