Reflections: Carl Carlsen
Chateau Retirement’s “Reflections” series showcases the rich life experiences of our residents.
The drone of an old radial engine is sweet music to the tuned ear. At 4 years of age, I had already developed a fascination for airplanes that was to last forever. The year was 1936. The place was our kitchen in the old farmhouse where we lived in Montela, NY, a community that is no longer on the map. As I was jumping up and down yelling, “airplane – airplane – airplane,” my mother scooped me up in her arms and ran out into the yard, so I wouldn’t miss seeing the old biplane. As we crossed the yard to a better vantage point, she tripped over a clothes line pole and fell flat on the grass, taking me tumbling with her. I’m told I was on my feet and never missed a step getting out where I could see the airplane. I don’t remember the fall, but I sure remember the two biplanes who were operating from a farmer’s field a couple miles away.
When my dad got home, we drove, down to watch the “barnstormers”. Rides were $2.00, and since it took my dad two days to make that much money, there wasn’t any way I was going to get a ride. Somehow, my dad managed to be in the right place at the right time and was offered a ride if he would help steady the parachutist as he climbed out of the cockpit onto the wing. So…my dad got his first airplane ride, and I would wait almost 14 years before I got mine. It was only a couple of days later that I was upstairs with my mom when, again, we heard one of the airplanes. In my rush to get outside, I missed the top step and went tumbling down the stairs. Again, I scrambled to my feet, too excited to be hurt, and dashed on outside. An entry in my baby book states that my favorite toy was a toy airplane given to me by my Grandma Low. In-spite-of all that, as a kid just short of 5, I would never have believed that before my life on earth was over, I would not only fly airplanes, but would spend more than 20,000 hours in the air as a pilot.
As I grew older, I continued to be enamored by everything airplanes. One morning at breakfast, I noticed that one of the cereal boxes was advertising an airplane toy. With a cereal box top and $.50, the company would send me a cardboard airplane cockpit, complete with instruments; dials, rudder and a stick to fly the airplane. I had to put it together, and once assembled, I flew all over the East coast from my parent’s living room, making all the noises to accompany taking off, landing and turning the plane. My interest in flying airplanes was set in stone, never to be quelled.
Prior to flying planes, I worked in a bank. I got a promotion and a big raise, so my first “treat” was to take flying lessons. By the end of 1957 I was a licensed private pilot. One of the directors in the bank owned an insurance company. In 1958 he approached me about buying his insurance business because he was retiring. We discussed terms because I didn’t have the money to buy the business outright. We worked out a long-range payout deal and I was the owner of an insurance company. I had no experience selling insurance but along with Barbara, my wife, we set out learning about the business. I quit my job at the bank and we operated the insurance company successfully for 10 years.
I wanted to land a job as a pilot with one of the major airlines, but airlines wanted military pilots. Prior to hiring a pilot, the airlines required 1,000 hours of flying time and there was only one place a pilot could get that much flying time, in the military. But “later in life” some changes occurred in hiring qualifications.
I gradually built up my flight hours over the next few years and in 1966 was hired as a pilot for United Airlines and was with them for 27 years. I retired from United in 1993.
It has been a wonderful life and I’ve shared it with four of my favorite people, my wife of 66 years, Barbara, and three great kids, Scott, Beverly, and Neil. Today Scott is a retired NYS Prison Warden, Bev is a professor of “on-line” studies with Arizona State, and Neil is a Delta Airlines pilot. And then there are five super grandchildren plus a “brand new” great granddaughter.
Barbara and I were married in New York City, May 5, 1952 on the TV program, “Bride & Groom”. We moved to California in 1979, on to Lake Stevens in 1991, and to Chateau at Bothell Landing in 2012.