If you have read the cover of my book, Shooting Star, you know that the reason I became interested in the Dole Race and Mildred Doran’s role in it, is because she was my mother’s older sister. She did not say much about her and it was only after I inherited a box of stuff all relating to Mildred that I began to research the story in earnest. I continue to research, and came across a photo of my mother that appeared in newspapers during the futile search for Mildred. My mother was only 12 at the time. Pictures of her are rare as by the time she was 13, both her parents had died and she moved in with relatives. It’s another benefit of the research I have done over the last 8 years.
Since the publication of Shooting Star in late 2011, I have continued to research the story of Mildred Doran and the Dole Transpacific Air Race. In addition, some people who have personal or family familiarity with Mildred have contacted me with information. There have not been any sensational new facts uncovered, but I have been able to fill in more details. Whenever I have mentioned these to friends who have read the book, they have encouraged me to write a second edition in order to supplement the story. But, I have resisted on the basis that the book already contains a fairly complete picture of what happened and if additional minutiae is added, it may do nothing more than make the book less, and not more. interesting. But, recently I have come across some material that is so intriguing, it has changed my mind. In addition I have been able to secure some additional pictures from dealers that sell old photographs that will add to the story as well. So, my goal is to have the second edition finished in draft form at least, by the end of the year. As long as the weather keeps me indoors as it usually does in the Winter, I should be able to meet my goal.
One of the decisions that caused me to hesitate was whether to put my e mail address on the back cover. Now two years later, I am sure I did the right thing. I have heard from several folks who have added to my understanding of Mildred Doran’s story. I heard from Bronislw H. who actually grew up in the upper floors of the Doran Tower. His father ran the gas station on the first floor. He also sent me a copy of stationery from just after the Doran Tower was constructed showing the building which was shaped like a Dutch windmill WITH SAILS. So apparently it was originally designed to closely resemble a windmill and only later were the blades removed..
Also contacting me was Jeff T. a relative of Bill Malloska, the sponsor of the airplane Miss Doran. He was able to send me photographs of a Lincoln Oils gas station and of a person wearing a Lincoln Oils bowling shirt. Malloska was known for sponsoring sports teams.
Another e mail was received from two nephews of Willard Miller. Apparently the horse Mildred is shown riding in a photo in the book was Willard’s and its name was “Moonshine Run>” Willard also was a breeder of Great Dane’s and it is assumed Mildred’s dog Honolulu came from Willard, who they say was dating Mildred. It is odd to think that if things had worked out differently, I could be related to Willard’s nephews today.
Earlier this summer I learned that the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in D.C. has created a new exhibit called Time and Navigation. In that exhibit appears a photograph of Mildred. As far as I know this is the first time mention of her has been made at the Museum.
Finally, during my speaking engagement earlier this month at the Int’l Women’s Air & Space Museum in Cleveland, I was shown a plaque showing a picture of Mildred on the top and words of praise from the Ninety Nines, an organization of women aviators on the lower half. They had no record of when or how the plaque had come into the Museum’s possession. I recognized it immediately and said, “I’ve been searching for that plaque.” I have a newspaper article from the 1970’s when the plaque was given to the Flint, Michigan, airport for display. During my research for Shooting Star I wrote the airport to see if it was still there. I received no response, so I assumed it was lost. Now it is found and in a wonderful spot.
My goal for Shooting Star was to insure Mildred’s story would not be forgotten. The responses I received from my e mail address assures me she will not be.
On Friday June 14, i’ll be giving a presentation about Mildred Doran the aviatrix that lost her life in the 1927 Dole Race from California to Hawaii. Of course, Mildred is the subject of my book, Shooting Star. And she was my mother’s older sister. They were especially close since their mother died some years before the race and Mildred was ten years older. During my time growing up, my mother did not speak about her sister very much. It was only after my mother died that I started to find out more based on the scrapbooks and other memorablilie that my mother kept. It’s going to be a fun evening since I understand a group of my high school friends will be there. I look forward to the opportunity to share the story. And, I understand the museum is a wonderful place to visit. If any of you are in the area I hope you join us. For information visit iwasm.org
Since I grew up in Cleveland I am very familiar with Burke Lakefront Airport right next to downtown Cleveland.. I can recall coming in for a landing and thinking I could reach out and touch the smoke stacks on the power plant at the east end of the runway. But since then, the International Women’s Air & Space Museum has located at Burke. I have not been there yet, but this summer I will be a part of their educational series and will be privileged to speak about my favorite female aviator, Mildred Doran. I don’t have the details yet, but as soon as I do, I will pass them along.
Recently a reader of Shooting Star sent me pictures of Mildred Doran’s plane, the Miss Doran. He found a group of photos taken by a mechanic in the twenties of airplanes all over the country. The photos he sent showed mechanics on ladders working on the engine. I have seen dozens of photos of the plane, but these were new to me. What a treat! I hope that others with pictures from the twenties keep them and do not destroy them as each one is special now that we are approaching 100 years later. Aviation history needs to be preserved.
August 16 marks the 85th anniversary of the Dole Race, the first big air race in Aviation’s Golden Age. James Dole announced the race just four days after Charles Lindbergh successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean in May. He intended the $25,000 prize for successfully flying from California to Honolulu to go to Lindbergh, but Lindbergh had a celebratory world tour in mind that was far less dangerous and far more lucrative. As I recount in Shooting Star, eight planes lined up at Oakland for a noon start. 50,000 excited spectators lined the runway cheering successful takeoffs, but letting loose a chorus of “Ohhs” when the planes failed. If you are interested in aviation history, you will enjoy Shooting Star, which describes the beginning of aviation during the Roaring Twenties. At the time many vowed never to forget Mildred and the other Dole Racers, but sadly they have been forgotten. Shooting Star brings the fliers, all of them larger than life characters, back to life. You might want to check out the Kindle version which now sells for only $2.99.
Yesterday I received a big unexpected surprise. The magazine WNC (Western North Carolina) Woman is including a review of Shooting Star in their June issue. The reviewer Mary Ickes provided to me an advance copy of her piece. Among other things, she concludes: “This is not a maudlin, sentimental tribute, Reading Friends, but one that marches along with the spirit and spunk that Ms. Doran displayed every time she headed for a plane. Her story, told in parallel with aviation’s rise in the United States, provides ample proof that Mildred Doran earned a prominent place on the shelves of aviation history.”
For those of you unfamiliar with the book, it is about the 1927 Dole Air Race that took place only 11 weeks after Charles Lindbergh’s flight to Paris. My aunt, Mildred Doran was the only woman in the race. For those 11 weeks Mildred and the other Dole racers were written about in every newspaper in the country. The family connection has given me the interest as well as insight into the dawn of aviation’s Golden Age. It is gratifying that the book led beign chosen to appear at this years Bookfest.
On Friday afternoon, May 18, and Saturday, 8:30 to 3:00 I will be at the Blue Ridge Bookffest at Blue Ridge Community College. The Bookfest is free and there will be authors available to attendees on both days, plus some interesting presentations. I hope to see you there.