Jack Frye Safari #1 - Tucson Arizona

Jack Frye Safari #1 - Tucson Arizona
For reasons wanting to gain more understanding of Jack Frye's history in airline aviation, I find it exciting to be able to visit particular locations in which he made his mark. And since we live in Southern California, only 5-7 hours drive to Arizona where a lot of his life was spent, we decided to begin taking some road trips to actually see the locations we read and hear about. So, what I term as The Jack Frye Safari's, this entry is the first in a series for the Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog. We hope you enjoy and learn from our experiences.

On Saturday the 13th of April, 2013, while visiting family in Phoenix, we headed south to Tucson with our first goal being to visit the Arizona Historical Society Library in order to search for photos and articles about Jack and his early companies, Standard Airlines and Transcontinental & Western Air. It is well known Tucson was Jack and Paul Richter’s prime spot of establishing a new airline route for commerce and travel as it was in a direct line towards El Paso, a spot they both had their eyes on for the future. We were able to come up with many articles and photographs and at $0.15 a copy, we loaded up! More photos are being researched via the Tempe Arizona AHS location.


The ladies at the Library were very helpful frequenting the archives and retrieving related material we hadn’t even asked for. We were able to view and copy the original Ms. Mary Hughson’s photo of the first ever merchandise flight into Tucson in 1929 by Jack Frye for Steinfeld's Department Store.


The quality of the original photo is spectacular with clarity that rivals today’s image quality. I was completely dumbfounded how clear it is. Ms, Hughston by the way was the Advertising manager of Steinfeld's in 1969 when this photo was donated by her.

Another large photo we found but not directly related to Jack Frye but equally historical is of the Spirit of St. Louis aircraft N-X-211 photographed in Arizona in 1927. I thought this photo very unusual. Charles Lindbergh's historic US to Paris solo flight began on May 20, 1927 and ended in Paris on the 21st. Another known fact is the Spirits first flight was on April 28, 1927, at Dutch Flats in San Diego California, just one month before the transatlantic flight. This photo donated by Ms. Armstrong in 1969 was shot November 23, 1927 at Tucson’s Davis Mothan Field when Lindbergh arrived to dedicate the field. I can't help butt think Jack was somewhere in attendance of this occasion.

Finally after finding many original newspaper articles about Jack and his companies, we found another high quality original photo from the Flynn Maxey collection that was donated in 1972. This photo L-R shows a young 25 year old Jack Frye in late July 1929 standing next to Ray Krebs, Bill Kelly and Kirk T. Moore. Jack had just landed his Wright Whirlwind powered 1928 Eaglerock model A14 at Tombstone Field on his way to El Paso. We will be visiting Tombstone on Safari trip #2 to photograph this old field and to drum up any information we can find related to Jack there. We ended up spending 3 hours combing the archives at the AHS Library with even more to research. We will visit the Library again on Safari #2.


Jack Frye Accident site

Next stop is the location of the accident site in which Jack Frye tragically lost his life on February 3, 1959. I would like to speak directly to all of the Frye family members at this point and state, in no way is the following account of Jack Frye’s final evening with us meant to open old wounds or disrespect the pioneer's life. You must know by now I also love Jack Frye as best I can from a distance not knowing him personally. The whole Jack Frye blog space is a testament to mine and my families love for Jack as well. I spend countless hours with the help of my wife Kelly researching and assembling all the content on the blog for love of Jack and family. May I suggest we consider choosing to look at this tragic day in Jack and his family’s lives as a celebration of this great man’s life here on earth. This is our aim and purpose on the Jack Frye Aviation Pioneer blog, to celebrate his life.

This was an emotional period retracing Jacks unfortunate accident today. It brought to my thoughts what might have been on his mind after leaving his office, his business day and how it went, and thinking of his child Nevajac and wife Emily who were visiting his mother in law Lillian Johnson Smith in Las Vegas. It was quite surreal and brought home the whole Jack Frye story for me. At just 54 years old, he had so much more to offer in aviation, but more so, to raise and enjoy his beloved and only child Nevajac with whom we are in contact on a weekly basis. We are so blessed to be able to have a relationship with Nev and Jacks granddaughter, Brieana Frye. 

Our main focus was to video the route Jack traveled from the Tucson airport area, specifically the old Hughes access road up to the Ajo Way and Palo Verde Road intersection, a 12.4 mile trek where the accident occurred. We got the drive on video and it will be produced for Nev and the families eyes only until further notice should she wish to release for public viewing. Below are some photos of the intersection and a small memorial and flowers we placed in Jack Frye’s honor at Ajo and Palo Verde.

While standing on this spot surveying the intersection, I couldn’t help but imagine the accident scene that occurred in the dusty darkness and the horrible sound of smashed metal, tires squealing and glass breaking. I have been in a few car and motorcycle accidents in my life and everything happens in a flash. We don’t know if Jack saw the station wagon approaching, my guess is he didn’t from reading the accident descriptions in the Tucson Daily Citizen newspaper. The cause of the accident, Mrs. Rosabell Wright did though. She described seeing a sign that said “Stop Sign Ahead”, then it was dark, then she saw bright lights. I assume these were Jacks headlights.

Looking westward from the NE corner of Ajo and Palo Verde.
The drunk drivers trajectory can be represented by the oncoming
white cars traveling east into the intersection.

This view of the red car represents Jacks 1959 Ford Galaxy 500 traveling
north on Palo Verde into the intersection. It was dark with poor visibility
according to Deputy Wade who was on the scene.



Tucson Daily Citizen clipping of Jacks mangled car.

The drunk driver stated to the police that she swerved to the right to try and miss Jacks car. The officers reported the station wagon that hit Jack was traveling about 50 miles per hour and that there we’re no tire skid marks in the intersection to be seen. By looking at the photo above, her car hit the left rear door extremely hard causing a massive concussion in the sturdy Ford Galaxy. The report also states Jack was thrown from the car about 30 feet before it stopped some 175 feet from the impact point. The only thing I can think of why he was thrown from the car after the impact is, he was probably unconscious without a seat belt which was common in those days, and the door swung open from bouncing in the dirt off the pavement. Just a tragic accident occurring 33 years to the day Jack founded Sandard Airlines...
February 4, 1959 morning report of the accident.

~ Jack Frye Memorial ~


While on our way to Hughes Access Road to shoot the video, we went through three supermarket stores to find some flowers to place on the memorial. This went without success until we were driving behind a strip mall and found an open door with flowers outside. No business sign or address was seen, but we decided to give it one last try. We walked into the establishment to find the owner stating – “we are out of flowers, we are doing a large wedding and you will have to wait a half hour before we can try and help you”.

My wife Kelly said sure, we have just been to 3 other stores without success so waiting won’t be a problem. We stayed out of the way of rushing employees loading up a van, then suddenly Ms. Jane Thrall asked us what kind of flowers we needed. We said a small bouquet of assorted flowers in a vase will be fine. As we watched her tend to our request, we began sharing what the flowers were for. I had said a famous individual who was an airline pioneer here in Tucson and that the accident occured out at Ajo and Palo Verde. A man asked “who was he?” I get this question all the time. I said Jack Frye. He said, "never heard of him." This is the typical answer that over time we hope to dispel of and begin bringing Jack and his story into the forefront of American culture. After a few minutes the bouquet is ready to go. We trade contact information and we pay and leave.

Thank you Arizona Flowers for taking care of us for the famous airline pioneer in which you now know as Jack Frye.

54 years later, the age of Jack Frye on his last day with us, we placed a small memorial at the accident scene in his honor and as a gesture of respect in behalf of his family. There are no words that I can describe how Nevajac and all family members miss her father and the grandfather her children have never met. We all experience great loss in families but this one is especially hard to cope with even today for the sudden loss of such a great pioneering aviation man, father and husband who had much more to give. I never met him personally as I was 5 years old when Jack Frye was still with us. But my family and I feel the loss of cousin Nev, and this day really brought it home.


May God bless Jack’s soul while he rests for the Lords resurrection day
when we shall see Him and Jack again...

St. Mary's Hospital

The next stop was to visit St. Mary’s Hospital in which Jack was rushed in an ambulance to try and save his life. I have included a late 50’s photo of the hospital for period reference. And a floor plan of the hospital today. We were able to speak to a very nice elderly volunteer of over 30 years service about where the emergency room was located where Jack's life was trying to be saved in 1959. Rosemary was most helpful in narrowing the location down over decades of remodeling. The red X on the floor plan is the presumed spot of the emergency trauma area. Again, this was quite surreal and emotional knowing where the famous Jack Frye, TWA’s first president and Aviation Pioneer passed away.


50's era image courtesy cardcow.com

Video of Jack's final drive February 3, 1959 - click here

The Frye Bungalow 
Our final stop on this day of discovery after some 8 hours on the road is The Lodge On The Desert where the Frye’s had leased a bungalow for a few months. This period of our day was very enjoyable. Nevajac has fond memories of this place with the swimming pool, horseback riding and a blissful life with her parents. This is a place Kelly and I are very interested in as the same exact bungalow can be rented today of which we will endeavor in the near future. To reside in the Frye’s actual bungalow will be a highlight of our lives.

Circle drive entry into the lodge

Bronze statue 'Jack Knife' by Ed Mell, his first large scale work.

This was a great and very informative visit that was freely hosted by one of the Inn keepers, Ms. Tabitha Maddock. As we are relating the Jack Frye story to the innkeeper ladies at the front desk, Tabitha pipes up and says she remembers a story about the Jack Frye ghost in the dining room. And another innkeeper relates the story out there about a cleaning lady seeing an open suitcase full of money in Jacks room. Isn’t it amazing how fables become so ingrained in peoples minds, it is sometimes comical. We dispel these old wives tales with the innkeepers and share the Jack Frye story. And that I am related to him by marriage to Emily Nevada and his daughter Nevajac, his only child, my 3rd cousin. We inform them we are visiting the lodge to document the grounds and room for his daughter and the Jack Frye blog. So I ask, where is room 16 & 17? I explain these are rooms Jack had leased in 1958-59 just prior to his accident up the road a piece. The innkeepers tell us there are no rooms with those numbers now. Well Tabitha immediately jumps in and says let me check. She comes back five minutes later and says "I know where they are." I said, "how did you find them out so quick?" She had asked an elderly maintenance man who remembered the location while the Inn was being remodeled and additions made a few years ago.

As Tabitha was leading us down the pathway towards the location, I began to get a real sense of Jack, Emily and Nev as a family unit and it just made me internally emotional to the point of telling Kelly, this is amazing! She agreed and had a similar sense herself. The grounds have been recently landscaped and all the buildings restored and repainted. It is a serene and beautiful place to hang your hat as I’m sure Jack agreed back in his day. There is no sense of the typical multi-floored hotel environment here. It’s very homey and comfortable allowing you to spread yourself out in a relaxed and quiet environment.


The pathway to the Frye bungalow straight ahead.

I am standing in front of the west wall of the bungalow about

to round the north corner to the front porch. In 1959 there were

no buildings in front of this bungalow allowing a view of open

land with shrubbery and beautiful mountain landscapes. It is

also located furthest away from the original front office lending

to maximum privacy.

This is Jack Frye's bungalow #16 at The Lodge On The Desert in

Tucson Arizona, now #135. Jack had also rented bungalow #17

next door for more room for family and visitors. It is now #136

and is co-joined to #135 with a common entryway into

two individual doorways.

I am shooting this photo from the newer section second story

hallway which didn't exist in 1959.

The entryway into old bungalow #16, now #135.

This is the view of the grounds behind the Frye bungalow.

We weren’t able to go inside the Frye bungalow as it was already rented. But we did meet the renters and informed them they are residing in a famous aviators bungalow, the first president of TWA. They were quite impressed. We really wanted to peek inside but didn't have the heart to intrude upon the renters.

Below is another bungalow Tabitha let us go into to get a feel for the ambiance and style. The Lodge maintains the original flavor and finish utilizing original styled furniture with some modern amenities. Then Tabitha showed us another room off to the side the Lodge doesn’t rent out. Reason being is they keep it in a non-restored original condition as a remembrance of the lodges past. When you enter the first thing you notice is the musty aroma of age and non attention. It’s not a bad room actually. We would definitely rent it if they would allow us. It needs attention to the plaster and some tidying up. But the solid original wood furniture, floor tiles, bed and cabinetry are really neat.

Kelly, and Tabitha on the right, our enthusiastic and helpful

hostess guide inside a similar bungalow.

Can you envision Jack catching up on his daily business here?

Thank you very much Tabitha, you were great and we hope to see you again soon when we stay in #16.

The red X above marks the spot where bungalow #16 is located. Everything left of the X along the sidewalk is new construction that didn’t exist in 1959. For those that might remember, the pool has been moved north of the green grass on the right where it was originally located.

click here to visit the Lodge

We walked away from the Lodge experiencing complete fulfillment of our day’s safari in Tucson with complete enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment. We hope you enjoyed our pack-filled day of discovery also. Until next time...

Eric Johnson


JACK FRYE Aviation Pioneer blog


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