Simanaitis Says

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A SCREENPLAY PITCH PART 2

WE LEFT transplanted Kiki Lowell Yerex barnstorming in the U.S. after his World War I combat experiences. A primary source here in Part 2 is “Touring with Pyle,” by famed U.S. war correspondent Ernie Pyle, March 18, 1940.

Pyle said of Yerex, “After the war [WWI], he barnstormed in California and made money; sold autos in Santa Fe, N.M., and lost it; worked for an air line in Mexico.” There, Yerex met three guys who owned a clapped-out airplane. Their idea: Fly it to the Central American country of Honduras and set up an air service.

Yerex flew for the airline until its inept owners failed to pay his salary. In lieu of this, he got ownership of the company’s only airplane and, in 1931, formed Transporte Aéreo Hondureño. By December 1931, it became Transportes Aéreos Centroamericanos, S.A.

Yerex was a man with vision.

TACA offered mixed cargo and passenger transportation with a Stinson Reliant aircraft carrying Mexican registration. In July 1932, its contracts exceeded $1000.

Pyle noted, “In ’37 he made his important contract with Wrigley to move all the chicle (base for chewing gum) out of the Peten jungles.”

“Freight is brought by ox-cart to the airfields of Central America.” Image from TACA in “From the Rio Grande to the Canal Zone.”.

That same year, Yerex eloped with the daughter of the Honduran Minister of Education. According to Pyle, they flew to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon.

“In 1938,” Pyle continued, “he was called in by both the incoming and outgoing presidents of Honduras to help put down an attempt to grab the government. He went out in his plane to scout and bomb. While he was flying low, a rifle bullet came through the cabin floor and ripped across his forehead…. The hemorrhage destroyed his right eye. Some weeks later, he went to the States and got a glass eye. He still flies as much and as well as he ever did.”

Yerex chose not to wear an eyepatch; instead, as cronicasdehonduras.blogspot noted in its photo, “Véase el ojo vidro,” “See the glass eye.”

Lowell Yerex, 1895–1968, New Zealand-born adventurer, aviation executive, founder of Transportes Aérores Centro Americanos, British West Indian Airways, and Aerovias Brasil. Image from cronicasdehonduras.blogspot.

In 1945, Yerex was to lose control of TACA when its new owners move the airline to El Salvador. Before then, though, Yerex had been invited to the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago by Lady Young, the wife of governor Sir Hubert Winthrop Young. At their urging, in 1939 he started British West Indian Airways, which evolved eventually into Caribbean Airlines in 2006.

In 1941, Yerex moved to Rio de Janeiro where he established yet another airline Aerovias Brasil, which merged into VARIG (Viação Aérea Rio-Grandese), Brazil’s leading airline, and in turn evolved into today’s Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes S.A.

Lowell Yerex died, at age 73, in 1968 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He left quite the legacy. And a fine screenplay idea. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018

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