I got to sit and talk ( listen ) to Johnny when he visited the Aerodrome. He liked to sit on the field up by the D-25 rides booth which was show center. First time I just got him a chair to sit on and he started asking who I was. I heard a lot of his life stories first hand from him. The one I liked the most was of him and the Jenny. He was 17 or 18 and a Barnstormer was working the Hudson valley one summer. His parents didn't want to have anything to do with those dang flying machines. He snuck over one day for a ride and after the ride the pilot needed some help so Johnny stayed and helped work on the Jenny. The pilot showed him how to swing the prop so Johnny started it for the pilot. He waved Johnny over to the rear cockpit and asked if he wanted to swap some rides for him helping handle getting folks and gas to the hay fields he was flying out of. He helped the last couple weeks of the summer doing just that. The Barnstorming would switch locations a few miles every couple days so he always had new customers. When they moved Johnny would ride in the front cockpit and the pilot would give him a little stick time. The last day the pilot flew the jenny over to a new hayfield and there was another plane sitting on the edge of the field. A Standard J1 with a 180 hp Hisso V8. The ratty old Jenny had a worn out 90 hp OX-5. Johnny asked "whos is that " and the pilot told him he was upgrading to the J1. They loaded all the pilots gear into the J1 and Johnny swung the prop starting it. The pilot waved him over to the rear cockpit and thanked him for all his help. Johnny pointed to the Jenny and asked what was going to happen to it and the pilot patted him on the shoulder and said " it's your, don't hurt yourself " and flew away.
The jenny had half a tank of gas so Johnny started it and was taxiing it back and forth across the hay field going a little faster each time. He was getting a couple seconds of flight and then pulling the power and bouncing back on the ground. He flew a little too long and couldn't get it back on the ground so had to go up to miss the trees. He tried to get back into the same field but it was too small so he found a bigger one. After a couple tries and the gas getting low he got it on the ground and stopped just before crashing thru the farmers barnyard fence. He was climbing out and the farmer was running towards him yelling and he thought he was going to get in trouble. The farmer and his kids jump the fence and yelled " are you giving rides " And Johnny shouts " you bet if you have some gas " so on his second solo flight he was a commercial pilot.
He hid the plane all winter from his parents and recovered it.
Take it or leave it but that's what he told me