In remembrance of Norman Boyd Johnson

Boyd Descendant Reunion 2001

Boyd Reunion 2001
Rear left to right: Jean Hoyt, Mryt & Norm Johnson, Phil Royal, Howard Royal, Dia McBride, Bernie Hoyt Leaf, Dan Royal. Front left to right: Megan McBride, Alcina Allen Harwood, Barb Thompson (our Savage family representative), Ed Hoyt.
photo taken by Noel Bourasaw

      Throwing together an impromptu family get-together was interesting! I was pretty excited to meet distant cousins early 2001 and a lot of folks hadn’t seen each other in years; including Howard Royal and Norm Johnson, who lost track of each other in the early 1970’s when they last saw each other.
      The taped conversation transcribed here is Howard and Norm catching up as they were both at my place an hour before others showed up. Couldn’t get much more off the tape when the house got full as a lot of voices were going at once.
      If any of you were neglected to this invite, it wasn’t intentional. Anyone who’d like to help me put together a Boyd Family Reunion for the year 2003, to please get contact me and we’ll put together a planning committee to invite all descendants we can track down.

Boyd Reunion 1925
Boyd Reunion 1925
left to right: Kerlyle Johnson, Tom Royal, Jack Royal, Alcina Allen, Maudie Royal, Norm Johnson, Howard Royal.

"It ain’t gonna rain no more, no more, it ain’t gonna rain no more"

Myrt: these are the two that are cousins?
Norm: Howard and I are cousins.
Phil: first cousins. Boy! That was a surprise to find you.
Norm: I haven’t seen a cousin for a long time.
Howard: No! Gosh no, it’s been a lot of years.
Dan: Well, you got some more coming. More first and second cousins.
Phil: [tongue in cheek] so what’d you do? Fly in with your airplane? [laughter]
Norm: Boy! I haven’t been in an airplane for a quiet a while, the last time was when we went to Palm Springs, that must have been 10 years ago or something. Then they began to cut us, you see they…at first the retired people got priority on passes and then they began to cut us back, then we're down to number six, so in other words if someone who’s worked for United Airlines for a year can dump us, so we just cut it off, we just don’t fly anymore at all.
Howard: What happened to those little Jenny’s that you used [to fly], with those flapping ear deals that you used to have on, you know?
Norm: they got one down at the air museum at Boeing Field, but it’s all striped, I got a kick out of it. It said, the engine was out of it and on a stand there, and it said, “ This engine now expired was not only used in Jenny’s but also in the Waco 10 “[?] . They missed a third, cause I flew a Waco 9.
Howard: Yah you did.
Norm: that had a 25 horse engine and the ten had an air-cooled engine. Of course the younger generation, you never know what’s going to go in. Everything goes so fast nowadays, they sped everything up.
Howard: Yah, that’s right! Everything but me.
Norm: Just like the guy, you probably read in the paper a while back, you probably read the blurb, this guy got up in the morning and looked in the mirror and saw an old grizzly looking guy and he stood there a while, and said “ By golly, that’s me” and went on telling about the mirrors now days, he said, “they don’t make mirrors like they used too.”
Howard: that’s right, absolutely so…[laughter] Did you ever do anything in music after you quit your ukulele?
Norm: No.
Howard: [to Phil] I’ll tell you a story, my first musical teacher was him [Norm] , we lived over on Salmon Creek and he come down there with a little four string ukulele with cat gut strings on, and he taught me three chords.
Howard, Norm, Phil sing: “It ain’t gonna rain no more, no more, it ain’t gonna rain no more, how the heck can the old folks tell, it ain’t gonna rain no more.”
Howard: Now he [Norm] improvised it, and he sings, “ how the heck will I wash my neck, if it ain’t gonna rain no more”, now he [Norm] did that. [laughter], then there on I went to a mandolin and Tom got a fiddle and I got a guitar, from there I went on up to quite a musical world.
Phil: the banjo, and slap bass, and he played my clarinet. Got me a clarinet and he played it so much better than I did.
Howard: Oh you’re just saying that!
Phil: Because it’s true. It would take him, if he got a new instrument all of three weeks to play in a band with it.
Howard: I played banjo in the Dixie Land type, you know.
Norm: I played a violin too for a while, my mother [Maud Boyd Johnson] made me take lessons. I just couldn’t play it if my life depended on it.
Howard: I didn’t know that. My brother Tom was a great violinist, he could play the old hoe’ downs, Tom could!, or he could play, he had a beautiful tremolo, I tried that , I played about everything else and I tried that, but mom [Mabel Boyd Royal], her nerves started getting shattered and she said, “Howard! For heavens sake, can’t you try something else”, so I started yodeling and [laughter] she liked that better than my fiddling see, I could get more squeaks and squawks, but like he said… while during World War 2, doing Swing Bands I played saxophone, then clarinet; then I went to bass fiddle, I stayed with that all the time, I was pretty professional then, played with a lot of bands through-out the country. [TREMOLO, in music, a rapidly pulsating tremor on one note, created by rapid movement of the bow on a stringed instrument,...]
Phil: Country Western.
Howard: But my first [instrument] was a ukulele with four cat gut strings and “It ain’t gonna rain no more”.
Phil: Oh my!
Norm: Well they had some real classics back in those days, look at the stuff they have now…
Howard: that was one of ‘em. Yes sir ‘re.
Norm: If you don’t jump all over the place when you’re singing this modern stuff, why it doesn’t count.
Howard: Well you didn’t have to shed all your cloths, you can sing without that. [laugther] Good God!
Phil: No smoke or nothing.
Howard Royal-early 50's band Howard: Yah, I played in modern bands, I loved modern bands, the darn pages with the fly speck on them used to get in my way a little bit, so I’d improvise my own till I got caught. But Western Swing Bands I loved, everybody worked together as a team and you had fun. And the people had fun out there too!
Phil: Now we were in the best place possible, Olympia [Wash.] was a real capitol of Western Swing [music] back in them days, in the 40’s and 50’s.
Howard: [agrees] I played at the Tropical Ballroom, Evergreen, Tecqudo(?)…
Phil: Started out there in an outdoor theater.
Howard: We played for the Tropics then…on Thursday nights…I wasn’t awfully chilly though.
Phil: [laughter] Yah you were pretty cocky up there.
Howard: [addressing Norm] I read your personal history there Norm, and it was sure great, you did a good job on that, that was great. [“Norm Johnson’s Oral History” transcribed by Lee Johnson-Ware]
Norm: well I didn’t do a very good job on it.
Howard: He did his humor in there too, you know?
Norm: Lee [Ware] had quite a time, it didn’t occur to me that when I was taping, that I should slow down a bit, talk slower, so she could type, she said she had to go back over it a lot. She had to re-type a lot , in fact, she sent me one page she asked me to look over and said “please correct this, I got it all loused up”. It wasn’t so much her lousing up, it was just the way that I did it. So I sat down at the type writer and I punch out corrections on it, but it ended up two or three pages instead of one.
Howard: Oh! Is that right? Well, I enjoyed it, it gave me a lot of insight of what I’d missed. Now, I never knew anything about Aunt Maud being here in Burlington at all, with my mom’s communication with her, I don’t know how we ever come to miss that. And a few things like that you enlightened me on.
Norm: Well, I fowled myself up in one respect. I didn’t know about the enlisted pilots, there where a few in the army but not very many, they discontinued that, but when the Marine Corp. and Navy had a few, 20%; 20% enlisted, 80% officers and so that meant they only sent a class down about once a year, a small class. I went through recruit training in July and August, then I went over to Aviation across the bay there in San Diego and I found out I had just missed an enlisted class by about a month or two. If I had come in earlier, I’d have got…instead of that, why pretty soon they sent a bunch of us down to Nicaragua for two years, so I gave up all hope of getting flight training, we got to hop down there once in a while in the rear seat, but that’s all. When I came back in December of ’31, I’d given up all hope. And it couldn’t have been no more than a couple weeks later when they said they were putting together an enlisted class, they got orders from Washington, for apparently…so I got in that class, so I went to Pensacola in 1932. But I was lucky to get training at all.
Phil: That was with the Marines?
Norm: Same as the Navy, actually!
Phil: Right! I watch “Wings of Gold” and “JAG” [current T.V. shows]
Howard: A little different now, isn’t it?
Phil: Oh boy! I tell you!
Norm: I had to extend my enlistment for a few years, so I didn’t get out until 1936.
Howard: Oh I’ll be darned!
Norm: Got on at United Airlines, I was lucky there…1936? That’s quiet a while ago too, isn’t it?
Phil: I was born then [laughter]
Norm: In fact! 1969 when I retired, mandatory retirement at 60. That’s 32 years ago already, my birthday is August 1.
Howard: Now in your last…, you mentioned one time, and the last time I’d seen you [1970 in Everett, Wash.] that you’d flown across Hawaii and back.
Norm: Oh yah! That was my run, you see! That was a choice run and I didn’t have enough seniority for a long time, so in 1964 I did have, and I think on it; effective in Feb. 1, 1965. So I went down there for the last four and ½ years I flew the L.A./Honolulu run, that was a good way to work into retirement.
Howard: Now mostly, did they use 47 Jumbo for that flight?
Norm: No, this was DC, we didn’t the 747 yet, they had them on order, but they didn’t have them yet, till I retired. The big 61 they called it, that was 65’ longer than the regular DC….that was a little bit less than 5 hours and a little over 5 hours coming back. And you could lay on Waikiki Beach, on the lay over, you were 12-16 hours usually. That was really a good life.
Phil: What did you do during the war then?
Norman Johnson-United Airlines Norm: I was still with United Airlines, see they declared the pilots, you see….they took a whole bunch first, those who were in the reserves, I wasn’t in the reserves. And they took a whole bunch of them, then the airlines got together and the officials went to Washington and said “ Hey, we’re hauling army cargo, what you gonna do, take our pilots away from us?” So they rethought on it, and decided they better defer the airline pilots for the war. Because we did haul an awful lot of cargo for them.
Howard: I see! Now that little short 47 they made never did go over, did it? They sent it to Iran or somewhere like that, but I watched…
Norm: 247 you mean?
Howard: Yah!
Norm: Oh yah! I flew that, that is something we had when I went to work for them. They started getting the DC-3 about the time I went to work for them. 247, I flew it as a Captain also, when I first came over, that’s a good airplane…didn’t have flaps, didn’t need them, gee! you can land that thing on a dime.
Howard: I lived and worked there right at Mukilteo, where you could see them put them down, just a quarter of a mile from the plant.
Norm: I got a kick out of it a while back, there was a bulletin that came out of the museum, it said referring to the 247, and it said “ there was only two living pilots that had flown the 247” and I thought, “ for crying out loud, you mean, there’s only one guy beside me?” this doesn’t make sense [laughter]. I wrote a letter to the retired pilots assoc., and called attention to that. And I said “ I could think of about 5 guys that are still alive, one guy checked out on it when they got it in 1933 and he flew till about the summer of 1937 when they checked him out on the DC-3’s, so he has well over 3000 hours on that and I had less than a 1000.
They interviewed some of these people that worked in the office, of course they’re newcomers or something, and they’d get a hold of some old…that maybe made a couple trips on United Airlines and interview him, and he had some of the darndest things I ever heard of.
Howard: you saw through it though?
Norm: He said, “ with the DC-3, if it got too hot in there, you could open the side windows, there was no such thing as opening the windows on an air transporter. And another thing he said, “when it got tiresome back there in the cabin, you just strolled up there in the cockpit and talk to the pilots.” At no time in my time on the airline…could someone just walk in on the pilots.
Howard: the first time I flew in a DC-3 was on a trip up to Anchorage, Alaska.
David Royal walks in the house and comes down to say ‘hello’ to his two grandpa’s Howard and Phil, David introduced to Norm and Mryt. Small talk on David catching his big trout in Canada this past June 2001.

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