A Tribute to the Unknown

One book among my air mail library, which is as good a collection as you’ll find, is “Rudder, Stick, and Throttle: Research and Reminiscences of Flying in Nebraska.” The author, Robert Adwers, was born in 1915, so lived through much of the metamorphosis between planes being a machine that could get off the ground and a common machine, seen every day without a thought. He does do research, particularly in the World Herald Newspaper (which has a lot of aviation information), but the basis of his book is his personal experience.

One item that he mentions is that when Jack Knight came through Omaha on his first night flight in 1921 is that “Mrs. Andrew Bahm, known as the mother of Omaha’s Air Mail Service and who lived across Center Street from Ak-Sar-Ben Field, served lunch and hot coffee to the pilots.” I have read a lot of magazine articles on air mail. I have read the available books that I know about. I have gone through most of the Omaha World-Herald newspapers from the 1920s. This is the only place that I have found that name. It is a bit curious that Adwers has this information, but she doesn’t hit the public records. Or maybe not. A good many of the people who keep the world turning don’t wind up in recorded history. I will continue my search, but for now consider her a person unknown.

A quick search of the World-Herald, along with a search of census records, did not find an Andrew Bahm, or anyone who I would place in that role with certainty. I could be dealing with a misspelling, someone who missed the census taker, a loner, someone who moved around, someone who moved to Omaha after the census in 1920 and had left by 1930. And being “mother of Omaha’s Air Mail Service” probably didn’t involve being the public face of the fundraising or managing the field, or doing anything else that would make her jump out.

My best guess, based on one line in a book, is that Mrs. Bahm, first name unknown which doesn’t help track her down, lived near the airport and was known to the pilots. The planes had a schedule. People knew when planes were supposed to come in and when they did come, people who lived nearby heard them. Maybe Mrs. Bahm spent a lot of time at the field with hot coffee and sandwiches. Maybe a pilot or two dropped into her kitchen before taking off. Maybe she was a tireless fundraiser, but didn’t get a lot of attention.

Although I will continue my search for Mrs. Bahm, as it stands she is a good representation of the barely named and unnamed people who contributed in countless ways to the survival of the service.

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