Jaycees responsible for flight
As we approach the dedication ceremony for the “City of Yuma” Endurance Flight on Oct. 10, let's never lose sight of the fact that the endurance flight project was conceived of and put together by the Yuma Jaycees.
It may have been a few businessmen from the Chamber of Commerce, Horace Griffin, Woody Jongeward, Ray Smucker and F. C. Braden, who were riding in a car that night in January 1949 between Yuma and Parker, but make no mistake Griff, Woody, Ray and Frosty gave birth to the project to draw attention to the ideal flying conditions here in Yuma.
These four gentlemen were contacted by Ray Smucker, who was known for his quick promotional mind. Ray was the owner/operator and manager of Yuma's one and only radio station at the time, KYUM. Ray took it upon himself to find an airplane for the endurance flight and Bob Woodhouse and Woody Jongeward flew it. Oh and by the way, Ray Smucker was also president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, also known as the Junior Chamber, which was also known as the J.C.'s and is still referred to as the Jaycees.
The project was put together, supported and run by fellow Jaycees Charlie Gilpin, Charlie Worthen, Bert Coffey, Horace Griffin, Bob Hodge and several others. Big Bob Hodge was credited with starting the Yuma Jaycees and would go on to become the first Arizona State Jaycees president.
Now fast forward to the locating and finding of the airplane that set the endurance record and perhaps lead a small fading town of Yuma into a thriving city of over 100,000 and home to the Marine Corps Air Station. The Yuma Jaycees Foundation, a group of aged-out Jaycees, led by Ron Spencer and aided by Jim Gillespie, searched for, located, purchased and returned the airplane to Yuma from Minnesota. A large contingent of Yuma Jaycees and Jaycees Foundation members, along with members of the community, spent many, many, many hours restoring the airplane.
After the airplane was restored to its original condition, the Yuma Jaycees Foundation began looking for a permanent home to display the “City of Yuma.” It appeared no one wanted the piece of history and the airplane was donated by the Yuma Jaycees Foundation to the Heritage Foundation, which in turn donated it the city of Yuma for proper display.
So as preparations are made for a dedication ceremony at City Hall, I implore all Yumans — and especially those planning the dedication — to never, ever forget that the “City of Yuma” is but the name of the airplane.
It was a project of the Yuma Jaycees, and the Yuma Jaycees must forever be credited with the aviation growth of Yuma. Also to the Yuma Jaycees' credit is their part in bringing higher education the area. But that's another story for another time.