Origins of the Aeronautics Program at Glendale College, CA

 This information was received from Charles W. Tolman ( ) who says, "I am profoundly indebted to Denise Dobbs, archivist at Glendale College, for her generous assistance in searching out information from old issues of the Galleon and other college records."

A. R. Owen has provided this website with a history (A. R. Owen information) of the Aviation Dept. at Glendale College that traces it’s origins to a government initiated program in 1938, followed by the start of the department in the spring of 1939.

In fact, the Aviation Department at Glendale College had origins much earlier. The U.S. Navy had donated a dismantled Martin observation/bomber monoplane to Glendale Union High School in 1927, apparently in the hope that it would be used in vocational training and create recruits for the rapidly expanding aircraft industry of the region. For lack of space, however, the plane remained in its crates until accommodation was found in 1929 at Glendale Junior College in its Mechanical Arts Building.

In 1929, The Board of G.J.C. had hired Joseph G. Tustison to instruct in aviation, but he withdrew before the term began. Harry Huston Crawford was then hired in his place to teach a course in the fundamentals of aviation using the Martin. Crawford was a graduate engineer who had served as a balloon pilot with the U.S. Army Air Service during the World War. While in France, but after the Armistice had been signed, Crawford was the victim of an accidental explosion that left him paralyzed on one side of his body. Nearly a year of rehabilitation at the military hospital at Fort Henry, Baltimore, succeeded in restoring him to near normal functioning. He concluded, however, that he was no longer fit for the strenuous life of an engineer and turned to teaching. He had been left with a piece of shrapnel in his head, which the army medics had decided would be more dangerous to remove than to leave. His enthusiasm for airplanes and flying continued and he ultimately graduated from the Rankin School of Flying in Portland, Oregon. At least one source claimed that he had served for a time as instructor with Tex Rankin, but this has not been verified.

During its first year the program consisted of only one course, Aviation Fundamentals. The Martin monoplane was dissected, repaired, and rebuilt. Crawford insisted that visits to airplane factories and air fields be an essential part of the course. In October, 1929, the 23 students in the course visited the Story Airplane Propeller Factory and the American Aircraft Company plant near Inglewood. In January, 1930, they visited the Kinner Aviation Motor plant and the Timm Aircraft factory. It was remarkable for the time that three of the students were women. Crawford was also busy scrounging materials from the various aviation factories. By April, 1930, they had four Waco wings, an American Eagle biplane for repair, two Curtis OX5 engines to overhaul, along with a three-cylinder Kinner and a twelve-cylinder Liberty. There was also talk of building a low-wing monoplane from scratch.

Rebuilding the Martin

The student interest in aviation was sufficient in 1930-1931 to warrant two further courses that covered the entire range of commercial aviation, including its history, economics of construction, maintenance, and operation, development of beacons and emergency fields, weather, and inspection and licensing of aircraft by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce. The tours of local air fields and factories continued, as did donations from local industry. That year the students were given an Eagle Rock biplane that had been demolished in the filming of a movie called “Young Eagles.” They would ultimately rebuild the plane to the point of passing Dept. of Commerce inspection. There was talk of using it for taxi-training on the football field. A particularly generous donation came in the spring of 1931 from the Kinner company, an American Eagle three-place bi-plane powered by the new Kinner C5 radial engine with only 130 hours flying time on it. Student enthusiasm for the program also led that year to the founding of an Aeronautics Club.

Martin Rebuild, Other Projects Underway

Three courses were taught during the year 1931-1932, supplemented by the usual tours. The inventory that year was reported to contain three disassembled ships, three instructor motors, and two rebuilt ships ready to fly and meeting Department of Commerce standards. The program also now boasted an adequate machine and wood working shop. A number of students were now learning to fly as well, with two having received their licenses during the year, one in an airplane rebuilt by the students.

Working on Motors

In June of 1932, Crawford received an M.A. degree in education from the University of Southern California, having submitted a thesis on aviation instruction in public secondary schools.

This very promising aviation program with its popular instructor, a program that inspired its students more than most and received generous support from local industry, was cut back by the Board of Education for financial reasons in 1932-1933 and Crawford’s teaching was reduced to half time. Indeed, it must have seemed an expensive program when costs were divided through by the number of students. The Board cut Crawford to quarter time the following year, and then in 1934 ended the program and terminated him at the end of the school year.

Eagle Rock Biplane; Kinner in Background

Under the law, however, Crawford was classified as a permanent teacher and the Board had acted illegally. But it took three-years in the courts before the matter was resolved. Crawford was reinstated in 1937 and paid back wages, but he was now allowed only to teach mathematics. The aviation program, as A. R. Owen, has related in his contribution, was not re-started until 1939.

Crawford's American Eagle biplane

In the meantime and for reasons that remain unclear, Harry Crawford decided to have the shrapnel removed from his head. The doctors agreed and he was admitted for surgery to the Veterans’ Administration Hospital at Fort Miley in San Francisco in November, 1938. As his military medics in France had feared, the operation proved fatal. He was 52 years old. He was not married.

Harry Huston Crawford


This information was received from:

Charles W. Tolman ( ) who says,

"I am profoundly indebted to Denise Dobbs, archivist at Glendale College, for her generous assistance in searching out information from old issues of the Galleon and other college records."

Court Decision on Crawford's dismissal and reinstatement

General History of Glendale College by Mike Eberts