Dick Mayhew: From farm boy to flyboy
“I’m lucky, lucky, lucky — all over the place,” said Dick Mayhew. “I’m lucky to have the good Lord on my shoulder.”
He’ll be the grand marshal of Monday’s Memorial Day parade.
Mayhew, 96, always wanted to fly. Born in 1920, he grew up on farm in southern California.
“I kept pointing to any airplane in the sky and saying, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” he said.
Mayhew is a World War II veteran — he served as a flight instructor, training pilots — and went on to a long career as a commercial pilot, flying from San Francisco to Hawaii, Asia, and Australia, and out of New York to Europe, South America and Asia.
“I have 29,000 hours, flying,” he said.
His passengers included Charles Lindbergh, who, being a famous aviator, came up to visit with the crew in the cockpit on a commercial flight from Beirut, Lebanon, to Karachi, Pakistan. Mayhew told Lindbergh he sometimes used the Saudi oil pipeline as a visual aide for navigating across the desert.
“He asked me where I lived and I said ‘Ridgefield.’ He said, ‘I live in Greenwich.’”
They chatted about cars, and discovered that both drove Volkswagon bugs.
“He said, ‘What a piece of transportation!’” Mayhew recalled.
In 1964, Mayhew flew four young musicians who seemed in need of haircuts from London to New York and back again, after their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. He remembers the tumultuous crowds that greeted the Beatles.
“In London, Heathrow, there were so many kids on the ramp we were going to taxi off,” he said.
He got autographs of three of the four — John Lennon was sleeping — but sold them within a few years.
Farm to sky
When he was growing up in Fillmore, Calif., Mayhew’s dreams of flying weren’t taken seriously — he was a farm boy, working on the farm.
“We had a 1934 Ford pickup that I drove delivering milk for four years straight,” he said. “Threw on a few dozen eggs, some ears of corn.
“The chickens used to protect the eggs, if they could. They’d peck at whoever tried to get the eggs. That’s living the farm life in the country. That’s why I wanted to get out.”
His aunt, who lived in north Hollywood and worked as a phone operator, was visiting and arranged to take him up in a plane.
“It was my first airplane ride,” he said. “It was a Stinson Reliant.”
His father opposed his plans to become a pilot, hoping he’d take over the family farm. But his grandparents helped him enroll in college and get a degree in commercial aviation.
He joined the service in 1941 and served as a flight instructor at bases in Jacksonville, Miami and DeLand, Fla.
‘This type of life’
Mayhew has lived in Ridgefield since the 1950s, and enjoys the town.
“Being a growing community, it has more get-up-and-go and a lot of spirit in it,” he said.
Mayhew said he’s proud and grateful to be the grand marshal of Ridgefield’s Memorial Day parade.
“I just want to thank the people that are honoring me — if you want to call it that,” he said.
“Little did I ever think, being a milk deliverer at 14, that I’d end up with this type of life.”