Herbert “Shorty” Stark jumped from a plane over Lake Elsinore in the fall of 1976, parachuting into safety as his friends applauded the 67-year-old’s courage.
This was not an old guy checking a box on his bucket list of life adventures. In fact, it was not something very unusual for Stark to have done it before, maybe a few thousand times.
However, the dance, on October 9, 1976, had a sentimental purpose. It was 50 years since his first parachute jump, an event that kicked off a career in which he regularly risked his life in the belief that his parachutes would open successfully, the Sun newspaper noted the next day.
His tracks worked quite well almost every time, though he admitted he had done about 32 surgeries for one broken bone or another.
The 5-legged Stark – who is buried in the Elsinore Valley Cemetery not far from where he landed on that 1976 flight – performed as a skydiver (we call them skydivers today) during the 1920s to 1950s. regularly at air shows or commercials and, sometimes, just to show off in front of a few fans at a local airport.
“I never had just two hobbies in those days, chasing beautiful women and parachuting,” he told Oklahoma City Oklahoman in a January 1984 interview. “I could never figure out what was more dangerous. “
When Stark passed away in 1989, he was one of the last of a corpse of fearless and mostly insane men and women in the early days of aviation, who went upstairs to perform aerial stunts, to walk on the wings of an airplane or to challenge gravity with a parachute.
He was born in Phoenix but grew up in the Long Beach area. The 1940 enrollment said he attended high school for only one year. As a teenager, he worked distributing milk to support his mother and grandfather before starting his free-falling career.
Stark, who lived for several years in Pomona and later in Fontana, performed in front of crowds in the mid-1930s as a Nude Man, wearing a white jumpsuit with large fabric wings under his arms. He had fun that way for several years until the wind grabbed one of his arms during a jump near Portland, Oregon, removing his shoulder from the socket.
During parts of the Great Depression, he traveled the country each year as a performer with a Texas airline, returning to Southern California during the winter months, where he picked up any work that happened.
As he became more popular, Stark sometimes did a few jumps a day, sometimes earning $ 125 each. But he also admitted to spending many of the thousands of dollars he earned in his youth on wine, women and songs. Not surprisingly, in later years, the money he earned went mainly to medical bills.
In his later years, he claimed to have made 3,000 to 4,000 jumps, but a record he kept confirmed that this number had been stolen in 1945. Newspaper articles point to his frequent tracking of records for more jumps. with parachutes made in a single day.
At Compton Airport on May 7, 1933, 24-year-old Stark set what he said was a “world record” by doing 16 jumps in 12 hours. He was assisted by Pomona CB Sanders, who repackaged his butt after each jump, the Pomona Progress-Bulletin reported the next day. He set the record at 21 in 1936, which was broken a year later by a Long Beach man.
At Calexico, on the border with Mexico, Stark achieved an unbeaten record when he made 30 jumps in nine hours on January 18, 1940. Another brave man, George Hopkins, aimed to break that record in October 1941 in Rapid City, South Dakota. . but some injuries kept him on the ground after only 13 jumps.
Stark lived on South White Avenue in Pomona from 1933 to 1935 and often made jumps at Pomona’s long-awaited airport, sometimes attracting spectators who later made a trip by slipping a few dollars on his pilot. Progress-Bulletin reported that he made his first Pomona parachute jump in October 1927, at the age of 19 years.
He told Oklahoman that he occasionally did aerial work for movies, serving as a stunt for actors such as James Cagney and Hoot Gibson. Stark was hired to perform in connection with the opening of Douglas Fairbanks’s film “Parachute Jumper” at the Sunkist Theater in Pomona. He announced that he would be cast on March 24, 1933 at 1:15 p.m. “to give spectators enough time to watch the first show.”
During World War II, Stark spent three years in the Navy in a more convenient position – as a parachutist and instructor.
After the war, his age, past injuries, and diminished public excitement about parachuting forced him to find more down-to-earth professions.
One of them was a truck driver at Kaiser Steel in Fontana in 1964. “At age 56, he said he got the job because the plant’s doctor said Stark would help the firm meet its quota of disabled employees. , ”Wrote Oklahoman.
Kaiser officials also advised him to stop parachuting during their work.
He spent his final years with his third wife in Lawton, Oklahoma, where he died in June 1989. He said he hoped to write a book about his experience, but did not seem to have ever realized it.
And such a book would have had many interesting stories – like jumping in its early years with just a single parachute. Eventually, aviation people forced him to wear a second or even third security channel.
That added security saved his life on April 2, 1933, when he made a leap at the opening of Compton Airport, the Long Beach Sun reported, the next day. “Stark” gave the spectators an unplanned emotion when his first parachute tore, the second was fouled and the third opened 100 meters from the ground, “the newspaper wrote.
Not surprisingly, “He was badly shaken in the landing.”
A train between Colton and Riverside hit a cow on the evening of December 27, 1896, derailing the locomotive rails near the Santa Ana River. His 20 passengers were forced to return to Colton.
The Colton Chronicle of January 2, 1897, reported that a man from Riverside named Houghland said he was so shocked by the collision that his indigestion – an old term for upset stomach, heartburn or gas – disappeared miraculously. But he certainly was not very grateful.
“He threatened to sue (South Pacific) for damages,” the Chronicle wrote, “but Conductor Easton informed him that the company would file a lawsuit against him for medical services in curing his illness.”
“He calmed down.”
Joe Blackstock writes on the history of the Inner Empire. He can be contacted at email@example.com or Twitter @JoeBlackstock. Check out some of our past columns on Inland Empire Stories on Facebook at www.facebook.com/IEHistory.
Inland Empire parachutist ‘Shorty’ Stark always understood the gravity of his actions – Daily Bulletin Source link Inland Empire parachutist ‘Shorty’ Stark always understood the gravity of his actions – Daily Bulletin