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2017-01-05

Flying L’s Pilot Lounge, Texas Historical Marker dedication ceremony

By Sandy Jennings BCC Staff Writer

The Bandera County Historical Commission hosted the Pilot’s Lounge Texas Historical Marker Dedication Ceremony this past Thursday, Dec. 29, at the Flying L Resort. The commission welcomed the public to share in and witness the historical event and community members and out-of town guests responded wholeheartedly, pouring into the unique hangar style building for a very personal and fun ceremony.
Historical Commission Chairman Roy Dugosh welcomed everyone and led the overflowing crowd in the pledge of allegiance to the United States and Texas. Following the pledges, he introduced Flying L owners Jody and Susan Jenkins.
Susan Jenkins gave an emotional speech first thanking the Historical Commission, Judge Richard Evans and the County Commissioners Court, the City Council and the Economic Development Committee (EDC), who recently donated $10,000 to repair the roof of the building; and then she thanked her husband, her mom and her son for all of their support in the process of establishing the historical marker. Jenkins also introduced special Flying L employee Victoria and paid tribute to her being part of the Flying L family for 35 years.
Historical Commission Co-Chairman Elenora Dugosh Goodley took the floor, reciting an anecdote of her early love for airplanes that led her to a career in flying. She spoke of how Susan discovered the boxes of historical pictures and magazines and enlisted her help in giving the building the historical recognition it deserved.
Goodley introduced Raymond V. Carter, Jr. Carter, a self-professed history lover, has had a vested interest in the preservation of the building known as the Pilot’s lounge. He gave a persuading speech to the City Council and EDC on why available funds should be steered towards preserving the historical structure. Carter captivated the audience with a heartfelt speech he had prepared, full of historical, interesting facts about the building, the resort and the original owner Colonel John (Jack) H. Lapham (where the ‘L’ comes from for Flying L).
Flying L Entertainment DIrector Buck Shannon followed Carter, speaking about his first days at the resort 11 years ago. Shannon, a former farrier of 40 years, would pass by the building and think, “There has to be more to this.” He explained that the building had been used as a storage shed for years and repairs are needed.
Shannon pointed to a large painting on the wall noted as the Flying L’s Pilot Club with numerous relatives of Lapham’s. The club was established to raise funds for the restoration of the Pilot’s Club. The Pilot’s Club has raised $3,000 to add to the EDC donation. The club is still seeking members. There are Different levels representing various amounts of contributions from the Aviator club to the Colonel’s Club, which includes a three day two night stay for a family of four. Forms can be found at the Flying L Resort.
Following a fun rendition of Deep in the Heart of Texas performed by Dugosh, Shannon and Jody Jenkins with audience participation, the crowd moved outside where the marker stood covered by a waving Texas flag.
After the reveal, the celebration moved back inside for food and drinks. The naked marker stood boldly beside the 71 year old building.
The marker tells the story of Polish settler Franz Jureczki selling what is now known as the FlyingL resort to Colonel Jack Lapham in 1946. Lapham was a retired air corps colonel with a dream to create an airpark with dude ranch elements complete with an airstrip, villas, lounges a pool and flight school.
According to the marker, “Colonel Lapham spared no expense commissioning Frank Lloyd Wright, the world-famous architect, to design the nine villas and pilot’s lounge. From the air, the villas were designed to appear as planes flying in a northward direction. The Pilot’s Lounge is a two-story concrete block Quonset hut trimmed with handmade oak arches and cedar siding with a concrete roof. The second story is a horse-shoe shaped balcony with wooden floors and handmade oak railings and stairs.”
The grand opening of the Flying L Ranch was featured in a 1947 Life magazine article. Photographer Cornell Capa captured the event with over 100 pictures of a fashion show hosted by Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus.
Carter’s speech was titled “Pilot’s Lounge at Bandera Airpark, Flying L Ranch” and reads as follows:
“The marker is planted in the ground and it is proudly displaying the historical facts about its purpose; but today, I would like to recognize the folks behind the marker.
"Col. John H. ‘Jack’ Lapham, who dreamed of and built the Flying L Resort in 1946, to me, brought another part of the world to Bandera. He was a lover of flight, a pilot in the Army Air Corps during WWII, a polo player and an oil executive of The Texas Company, which was chartered in April of 1902. The Laphams of New York, were prominent investors in the company, which primarily purchased and transported oil from the Spindletop oilfield.
"In fulfilling part of his dream, he built a playground for the well-to-do when they wanted down time. His dream included a 3,200 foot runway, which allowed them to come by air. After they registered and picked up the keys, they could just taxi up to their uniquely designed “airplane” cottages. Noted guests included movie stars: Chill Wills, Slim Pickens, Robert Fuller, Tex Ritter, Gregory Peck and John Wayne. Others were fashion designer Stanly Marcus and country and western singers Jim Reeves, Ray Price and Buck Owens. Even an unaired episode of the Cisco Kid was filmed at the Flying L.
"Jack Lapham was tragically killed in an air crash while attempting to land at Flying L on August 2, 1956.
"Of course, we must recognize the architectural works and designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. When I learned of this connection, I was very excited of the fact that structures of this stature were located in Bandera County. This is, as we say in Texas, bragging rights. Not quite like having the Alamo in your backyard, but pretty darn close.
"Buildings designed by Wright are highly praised around the United States and the world. I can go on about these buildings, but as you can see for yourself, the buildings do all the taking through the architect’s expression in wood, window views and concrete.
Jody and Susan Jenkins put a new meaning in the phrase “I love my job.” The two former emploiees liked what they were doing so much that they purchased the Flying L in 2013.
"Jody, a talented and successful Nashville/Bandera singer and entertainer, has a hands on attitude of hard work and persistence in both operating his band and the Flying L. Susan, with a good educational background and managerial talent, takes operating a business to a community affair. Both, along with caring for their two sons Trey and Weston, have shown their love for the community by being supportive to it’s special events and by preserving today, for our tomorrow.
"A very special thanks goes to Elenora Goodley for all the research, writing and communication with the Historical Commission in Austin. Of course to Jack Lapham for his creative dreaming and to Jody and Susan Jenkins for loving and working so hard to preserve Bandera County’s heritage. I can’t express enough, we are all proud of what ya’ll have done. Through all of their efforts, we can say, the Cowboy Capital of the World has good taste!”