MARTIN GARROTT (1911-1980)
(CNAC December 1943 - 1945)
(Hump Flights - 18)
The following is from Martin's daughter, Josephine Couts. Thank you Josephine.
"I don't know if my dad had a favorite song, but I think "Brazil" would be appropriate. He worked for Pan Am 10 years in Brazil and loved the place. I researched the song and found the English version came out in 1939 so I think it would be appropriate for his web page."
Josephine also provided this partial autobiography that her father had been writing. This first single page is a portion of a second story he started relating to the heart desease that killed him.
Josephine also provided several documents relating to her Dad's employment with CNAC.
Those documents can be viewed by clicking here.
(EDITOR: Unless otherwise noted, Josephine provided all the information, photos and documentation which appear here on her Dad's page.)
I was born on April 2, 1911 in Baltimore. They tell me I was a sickly child from birth contracting all the childhood diseases known, ear infections, and pneumonia three separate times in one year, with a tonsillectomy at age five.
My father moved to a small six acre farm near Knoxville, Maryland in 1918 because he thought the war would last a long time. My health did not improve. In 1921 we moved to Washington. There was dramatic improvement when I started to sleep on an open, screen porch in all kinds of weather.
My excellent health continued during high school, college and ten years living in Brasil (three years in Belem, the balance in Rio). The only interlude was a case of gonorrhea. A German doctor gave me the usual irrigation treatment. When cured, he gave me a prescription for penicillin (then unknown in the U.S.) and said if I had any further trouble to take these and not come back to him.
I transferred to Calcutta in 1943. One day working at the airport at Dinjan I came down with a very high fever to the extent that I passed out. They got me home. I feared that malaria had caught up with me for those years in the Amazon valley. I did a double take when I saw the doctor., he was black. He took a blood test and left. He returned in two hours and said I had dengue fever - he prescribed aspirin and in ten days, I was as good as new. I later found out he was the expert on tropical diseases in the area.
I joined CNAC on conditional maintenance program later developed by U.S. airlines about 1960.
I was 16 when Lindbergh made his epic flight from New York to Paris. I was so thrilled and excited over his achievement that I made up my mind to get into aviation no matter what. (I never realized in my wildest dreams that I would meet him in Belem, Brasil 5 years later.)
Soon after his flight I took a flight physical to see if I could qualify as a pilot. I couldn't as my depth perception was ng (my left eye cocked outward). So I went to an eye doctor who said it would require an operation and he could not guarantee the outcome. So that summer I went to a drafting school to learn mechanical drawing figuring maybe I could get in the design end.
In the fall of 1928 my brother Geo. called me (he was a reporter for the NY Times) and said, "I believe I can get you an appointment to West Point if you can pass the competitive exam." I said, "Sure. I'll try."
When I appeared for the exam, there must have been 100 others. I thought to myself "I ain't that smart." As I left, the exam monitor seeing the dejected look on my face said, "We're holding an exam for the U.S. Naval Academy in two weeks. Why don't you try that?" I said I would.
When I appeared for this exam there were only 3 others and I placed third and received a second alternate appointment. I rechecked with my eye doctor and he said I didn't have a chance. I took the entrance exam in the spring and passed. I was in a quandary about my eyes. I tried reading with a patch and doing eye exercises on my own.
In April, 1929 Lady Luck smiled. The family of my steady girlfriend at that time put me in touch with an optometrist, Wm. . Redding (deceased). He had done a lot of original work with young children afflicted with crossed eyes. I explained my situation and that I only had a short period of time. "Well," he said, "Let's go to work." I saw him 3 times a day for 30 days. He used a system of lights on a screen that relaxed all muscles in the eye except the weak one that was strengthened.
I graduated from high school June 18 and reported to Annapolis July 1st (no vacation this year.) I left our home in Wash. with a shoe box of essential toilet articles (no other luggage). By this time I reached the first alternate position. When I arrived at Annapolis, I learned that the principal appointee had failed his physical. I passed, (questionable eye and all) so was in.
The 4 years were exciting, interesting, informative, spiced with hard, hard, hard work. Anyone who says it's not is nuts. The discipline was excruciating at times but just what a young man in his 20's needed. I still hang up my clothes when I take them off.
Three outstanding events took place during these years:
1. The youngest cruise took us to Europe--Cherbourg (we took the train to Paris), West Germany (we visited Hamburg), Oslo, Norway and Edinburgh, Scotland.
2. The first class cruise to the Azores, Halifax and a hurricane at sea 300 miles off Boston,
3. I got a 4.0 (100%) on the final gunnery exam.
I don't remember exactly when we got the word about the cutback in commissions, we were all working on our finals. This was the wrong time to flunk out. In April I was called in to take an eye physical. (I wore glasses for the last two years.) I failed. I was then given the option of hanging in to see what happened or resigning in which case I would immediately be paid money set aside for uniforms. ($1500; a lot of cash in 1933.) I chose the latter. My final orders from the Navy Department read:
My father and mother attended the ceremonies as well as Doc Redding--the latter had a grin a mile long. I was handed my diploma by President Roosevelt who said, "Congratulations, Mr. Garrott." My final standing was 144 of a total of 576 in the class so I'd have qualified for a comission if I'd had acceptable vision.
It is of interest to note that an Act of Congress approved August 29, 1935, stated that all midshipmen class of 1933 who did not receive commissions be appointed to ensign prior to 11-1-35. Since I was established in a new career in Brasil, I did not apply.
I left for Wash. and then to my father's old home place in Knoxville, Md. I spent the next 30 days unwinding and enjoying my favorite poison--applejack and branch water. Discipline had not left me--I automatically made my bed each morning.
Then I got restless--what was I going to do? I inquired of several firms in the Wash, Balt, Hagerstown area and was told "We don't even take applications; haven't you heard we're in a depression?"
So I headed for NY to put up with my brother and his wife. I scoured the city for a job--no luck. I even tried to get a soda jerk's job--nothing--and I was a darn good one in my high school days. Was I discouraged? Yes and no--I had to try other tactics.
One of our favorite haunts was McSorley's Old Ale House just off the Bowery where we quaffed gallons--and chiseled on the free lunches. One afternoon after one ale apiece, I said, "Geo., we better have another as I have something important to tell you." "What?" he inquired. "I'm going to take a trip." "Where?" he asked. "To South America," I said. I elaborated that I had written a ranch in Jujuy, Argentina and said they would give me room and board for whatever services I could perform. "Besides I'm frittering away my little nest egg for nothing. At least I can tell people I've been somewhere." He said, "Have you told Mother and Dad?" I said, "No; you will after I'm under way."
In the meantime Geo. introduced me to Deak Lyman, aviation editor of the NY Times who said, "Why don't you go see Pan Am, they fly down there--in fact I'll call Vic Chenea and make an appointment for you." I saw Vic Chenea several days later. I was stressing the commercial advantages of aviation rather than my engineering background. Since I was going to Brasil, he gave me a letter of introduction to Geo. Rihl, Vice President in Rio. Geo. gave me a letter of introduction to Frank Garcia, NY Times correspondent in Rio, as well.
So on September 29, 1933, I was off and running on a freighter to rio.
We left NY harbor in the early morning and I thought I'd be saddened by the receding skyline, but I wasn't--rather looked to the south and to a brave new world.
The trip was delightful, the weather was perfect. There were only two other passengers so we sat at the captain's table every night. I had the run of the ship from engine room to bridge and every niche in between.
We arrived in Rio on the morning of October 22nd. Entering the harbor was a beautiful sight with the sea lapping the mountains all around. You have to see it to appreciate it fully.
When cleared through customs, health, et cetera, I inquired at dockside if they could recommend a hotel. They said "Try the hotel at the end of that broad avenue--it's within walking distance." So I trudged on the Avenida Rio Branco with my one suitcase. It was quite heavy so I stopped frequently to admire the surroundings. It was a beautiful spring Sunday (seasons are reversed south of the equator), the large trees were in full leaf and flowers were everywhere. It is a wide boulevard quite unlike the concrete canyons of NYC--it seemed like paradise for sure. I checked into the hotel and spent the afternoon resting (little did I realize that years later I would live there as a permanent guest.) That evening I strolled the streets near the hotel--they were spotless--wondering what I would do for food. I passed a place similar to our delicatessens and ordered by pointing to this and that--it was good food, a little foreign to my taste.
The next morning I looked up Frank Garcia. I told him I was on a pleasure trip but was looking for a job. He looked at me and said he would try to help. I'm sure he was thinking, "another derelict I'll have to take care of." Then i said, "I have a letter of introduction to Geo. Rihl." He beamed and said he knew him well and asked when I wished to see him. I said, "How about this afternoon?" He picked up the phone and made the appointment.
Geo. Rihl and I talked for about and hour--he was very interested in my technical background. He asked that I come back the next day for a follow-up interview with Paul de Kuznik, maintenance Engineer for Panair do Brasil, S.A. The next day after reviewing my qualifications, Mr. de Kuznik excused himself and went to the inner office. He came back shortly and said, "We can offer you a job as Apprentice Engineer in Belem--the salary will be RS 1:000/month local currency ($50 US) which is ample to live on if you are careful. You will leave by boat on October 29." My mouth flopped open and I thought Lady Luck has sure smiled again and put me in the right place at the right time.
I think it is appropriate at this point to explain how I got my name. I was the third child of a family of two boys at the time. My mother was so sure I would be a girl and intended to name me Agnes after her dear elderly friend Agnes Martin. Since Agnes did not fit a boy, it had to be Martin. The old gal had a favorite expression I always liked, passed on by my mother. it was "Watch which way the wind blows and go along with it. And as the veering wind shifts, shift our sails," "Lord Byron's Don Juan." I have pretty much followed this bit of philosophy all my life.
What better way is there to be introduced to a country and its people than to travel its coastal cities in its own steamer. We stopped at Victoria, Bahia (a city built on two levels with an elevator in between), Recife, Natal, Fortaleza and finally Belem. No one on the boat spoke English nor I Portuguese. But we got along well with the international language of pointing, gesturing and facial expressions. It was a most interesting trip.
Belem (population 160,000) is situated on the Amazon's wide mouth 85 miles from the Atlantic Ocean and large steamers can reach the port. It is a little south of the equator and continually hot and humid. However, promptly at 4 p.m. you get a heavy rain shower--you can almost set your watch. This makes the evenings bearable.
I check into the Grande Hotel the first night, but quickly moved to a pensao the next day. It was run by an old German couple--room and board was the equivalent of $25/month.
There were 10 other boarders of three nationalities. A schnapps was served before dinner which made for lively conversation. The fish and shrimp were bountiful and good and I ate rice for the first time as a vegatable. I was introduced to a myriad of tropical fruits--mangoes, avocados, finger bananas and papayas (even the seeds are good as they are loaded with pepsin). All in all it was a most pleasant atmosphere for a young squirt trying to get his feet on the ground.
The marine base was about one mile from the pensao which made for a pleasant walk in the early morning. The base consisted of a hangar with shops alongside and a ramp into the water for beaching the flying boats. Panair do Brasil operated four Consolidated Commodore twin engine boats and two Sikorsky twin engined amphibians. We connected with Pan American schedules from Miami for the flight south to Buenos Aires--it was a 4-day run--day time only, with overnight stops at Fortaleza, Bahia, Rio and Buenos Aires, weather permitting--south of BA it was generally bad. The aircraft could carry 16 passengers (cruising speed 100 mph) and they were always full.
The maintenance organization was compact and efficient (the administrative offices were in Rio de Janeiro). It was planned that the maintenance base would move to Rio in a couple of years when plans were finalized. The core of employees were Americans made up of a Maintenance Engineer, Shop Superintendent, his assistant, a junior engineer, and several mechanics for training and special projects. One of the latter was a master metal smith who built a pontoon from broken pieces without the aid of drawings. Native employees numbered about 100 of which only a few spoke or understood English. One item that we had to supply was a pair of shoes. They were all eager to learn and some later on became experts in a special field. One fellow became proficient in engine overhaul. Originally he couldn't read a parts list.
For myself the next two years involved a lot of hard work and concentration to learn all the facets and intricacies of airplanes, their engines together with understanding and getting along with native personnel.
Soon after my arrival in Belem (late 1933) Lindberg and his wife stopped in for a few days en route from Africa to the U.S. via the Amazon valley. It was the practice to have lunch sent from the hotel to the airport and Lindberg joined us so there was plenty of time to become acquainted with him personally.
In 1934 we made our own survey to Manoas. The hotel at that time was intolerable and we wondered where we would spend the night. Someone suggested the bawdy houses as the most likely. If you don't like the girl, send her on her way, otherwise---. And that's what we did. Soon thereafter we established our own staff house when schedules once a week were started.
American personnel worked a seven-day week as there was very little recreation available. Oh, you could ride into the middle of the jungle on a streetcar, or spend the day on nearby Marajo island. However, we were all young, single (except Shop Supt.) and work was our forte. Evenings you go to an old movie house and get devoured by fleas or sit on the sidewalk at the Grande Hotel and sip coffee or other refreshments and hope a mango did not fall on your head. Or you could visit Zaza's for a cold beer and practice your Portuguese with the girls. All the big shots from U.S. had to visit Zaza's. In fact it's the only bawdy house that sports a Pan Am ashtray.
Another incident of note was the unexplained loss of engine power between Rio and Buenos aires during the winter months (July, August 1943). it was finally determined to be ice forming in the carburetor inlet. To our knowledge this was the first time this had been experienced or more correctly, recognized. As a result we designed an air intake heating system using engine exhaust heat--it worked well. If my memory is correct the U.S. airlines experienced this phenomena during their winter of Jan.-Feb. 1935.
In the meantime plans to transfer the maintenance base to Rio progressed and I was actively engaged in the new layout. I guess I was lucky to be on leave of absence when the actual move was made. Because of de Kuznik's insistence I requested and was granted a year's leave of absence to return to college for an aviation degree. I picked MIT as the most challenging.
Josephine says that her Dad earned this degree in one year!
Unfortunately this is all that Martin put to paper. The rest can only be imagined...
(Photo Courtesy of Josephine Couts)
MARY GARROTT, MARTIN'S WIFE
GARROTT, MARY "Bunny", 89, long time resident of Miami passed away in North Carolina, Monday, August 16, 2004. She was a resident since 1925.
Published in the Miami Herald on 8/19/2004.
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