Friday, February 3, 2023
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
In the 2020s air travel is the safest form of transportation on the planet. Millions of people climb aboard a plane and make it to their destination without issue. It has become so commonplace that it might seem unbelievable to think it wasn’t always that way.
In the 1920s air travel was new and relatively untested, especially in the civilian market. Airfields were slowly being constructed throughout the United States as more and more everyday people desired to soar into the clouds for a time.
On Cape Cod, the very first airfield had a spectacular beginning, a brief run, and a tragic end. All happening within the same month this is the story of Cape Cod’s first airfield.
The world’s first airline opened on January 1, 1914. Located in St. Petersburg, Florida it was known as the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. The very first passenger flight was flown by pilot Tony Jannus. During World War I airplanes began to become more common as ways of fighting battles. Soon after the war ended the race was on to create airfields for passenger flights all across the country.
Massachusetts began licensing aircraft and pilots in May 1920. It was not very long until the search was on for ideal locations for potential airfields. In the weeks after licensing began a new air travel company was created. Aero Service Company was founded by Charles J. Manuel with its home base being Framingham, Massachusetts.
Manuel planned to begin scheduling passenger flights as well as instruction, aerial photo opportunities, and advertising. He had his airfield in Framingham and Manuel soon found his crew and aircraft.
Two men were hired as pilots and mechanics. They were George Linwood Hall, 22 years old from Mansfield, Massachusetts, and Carley Gould Weld, 30 years old and originally from Chatham, Massachusetts but now residing in Framingham. A single-engine passenger plane of Canadian make was then purchased by Manuel and Weld together.
With Cape Cod’s blossoming tourism industry in the early 20th century, it only made sense to develop an airfield on the peninsula. A perfect location was found on South Sea Avenue in West Yarmouth. The new airfield, christened Aero Service Aviation Field, was located on Great Island in the days before it was a private gated community. The first airfield on Cape Cod was created in the final days of June 1920, just as the summer season was kicking off.
Located just down the road from the legendary Aberdeen Hall on Great Island, and within walking distance of the luxurious Hotel Englewood, the new airfield overlooked Lewis Bay and was seen as being of ample size with an excellent surface and long runway. The Aero Service Company itself was praised upon its opening as having a highly competent crew with substantial experience in the field of aeronautics. This was especially true of the pilot Hall who was an Air Force Lieutenant after training with Canadian Royal Air Force. Weld was equally qualified as he was a mechanical engineer who had received numerous patents in the field of engine improvements.
Opening day for both Aero Service Company, as well as their airfield on Great Island, was July 5, 1920. Hall piloted the airplane with Weld as the mechanic in tow as the craft took off from Framingham and landed in West Yarmouth in 61 minutes. It was headline news at the time and seen as an impressively fast speed. For comparison the highly popular Ford Model T in 1920 had a reported top speed of 28 mph, meaning a drive from Framingham to West Yarmouth in absolutely ideal conditions would take roughly 3 ½ hours.
Hall, Weld, and their aircraft became
instant celebrities on Cape Cod. The pair took up residence at the
Hotel Englewood and began immediately taking passengers up into the
sky above the Cape several times daily for the cool price of $10($148
in 2023). People lined up to get their chance to climb aboard the
airplane, or to just gaze in amazement at the new mode of
transportation. At the Great Island airfield, the trips generally
consisted of traveling in a square covering much ground from Mashpee
After their passenger trips were finished daily Hall and Weld would entertain spectators by taking one final flight themselves and performing stunts such as loop-the-loops before calling it a day. Within only a matter of a few weeks, passenger air travel has stormed Cape Cod with numerous reports of the impressive pilots and adoring crowds. The potential dangers never crossed anyone’s mind.
On the afternoon of July 21, 1920, Mrs. L.F. Jukes of Arlington Heights, Massachusetts took a ride up in the Aero Service plane. She later admitted that she was terrified in the sky. To her, the plane ride felt rocky but she also said she figured that was just the way air travel was and that nothing was likely wrong with the plane. Mrs. Jukes’ was the final successful flight.
Around 6 pm with Weld piloting and Hall as the second,
a reversal of the typical routine, the men began their typical
end-of-the-day demonstration. The plane circled the Great Island
runway at a height of roughly 2,000 feet preparing to land as people
all around watched. A pair of loop-the-loops were completed and then
something went wrong.
The plane hurdled to the ground with spectators losing sight of it. Some people saw it and headed off to find the crew while others were told about it and joined the search party. The plane went down in a muddy bog near Horse Pond in West Yarmouth. Deep in the woods, it took more than half an hour for the first help to arrive in the form of Romeo Hallett from Hyannis and Eric Sturck from Centerville.
According to Hallett, the plane turned over ‘nine or ten times, flopping around like a piece of paper.’ Hallett and Sturck found the wreck and waded into the water but the plane was stuck in anywhere from 3-6 feet of water and muck. Weld and Hall, still strapped into their seats, did not survive the crash. Although no immediate cause of the crash was established both wings were broken off and the plane had crashed tail first, likely because the engine had fallen back into the fuselage.
the 800-pound aircraft to free the men proved impossible for the
growing group of helpers arriving. After midnight as July 21st became
the 22nd New England Telephone & Telegraph sent a crew with a
truck, ladder, and ropes out to the woods behind Horse Pond. A crowd
of over two hundred watched as the bodies of Hall and Weld were
carefully removed from the downed plane. The aircraft itself was then
hauled from the mud onto solid ground.
It was a sad and tragic event with no clear-cut answer as to what had happened. Charles Manuel stated that he had personally examined the plane before takeoff with nothing appearing to be wrong. He did however reiterate the fact that Weld had been the pilot rather than Hall who was the registered pilot of the plane. Romeo Hallet theorized that Weld could have believed the bog near Horse Pond to be a clearing and tried to land there not knowing it was soft mud.
By the mid-morning hours of July 22nd, anything that was not nailed down was being removed from the wreckage. Described in the local newspapers as ‘souvenier hunters’ a guard perimeter had to be established to keep people from stealing parts of the plane. It is unknown to this day whether something that was taken could have better explained those last fateful moments of Weld and Hall.
For the Aero Service Company, the crash effectively put them out of business. The airplane that crashed was the only one owned by the company. The summer runway at Great Island lasted all of 16 days. It did not dampen the arrival of passenger air travel on Cape Cod though. In March 1921 the Chatham Aviation Field was opened.
The funerals for both of the lost pilots took place on July 24, 1920. George Hall’s service took place at his parents' home in Mansfield while Carley Weld’s service was at the Forest Hills Cemetery Chapel in Jamaica Plain. It is unknown what happened to Charles Manuel after the crash and subsequent dissolution of his Aero Service Company.
As for the former Aero Service Aviation Field in West Yarmouth, it, and Great Island as a whole changed dramatically in the following years. The field was absorbed into property owned by Gertrude Behr. She in turn sold it to Nathaniel Springer in January 1924. The summer of 1924 saw the beloved Aberdeen Hall on Great Island destroyed by fire. Soon after Great Island as a whole became the gated private community it remains to this day.
The Aero Service Company of Framingham and its summer runway in West Yarmouth were both barely a blip in history. Sadly its dizzying highs at the start were tainted by the tragedy that ended the business after only a few short weeks.
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Saturday, January 14, 2023
This is the follow-up interview to the one done in March 2022 before the Lady of the Dunes was identified as Ruth Marie Terry. In this second interview, Frank discusses what it was like finding out that the Lady of the Dunes had been identified. We also discuss the overall impact of the documentary on Frank and the case in general. Much of this conversation takes place in the remote area of the Provincetown dunes where Ruth Mary Terry's body was found in 1974. It was somber, surreal, and yet fitting to be speaking of her being identified from the location where her earthly remains were discovered.
Christopher Setterlund: We’re here in Provincetown, interview number two, with producer Frank Durant, who created the amazing Lady of the Dunes documentary. You've heard me talk about the documentary, and my book, a ton on the podcast. We figured with all the recent news and events that have come up in the last month, two months, it'd be good to do a follow-up interview and also visit the drop site of the Lady of the Dunes, Ruth Marie Terry. So obviously, a lot has changed since that interview in March, most specifically, the Lady of the Dunes is no longer a mystery. She's been identified as Ruth Marie Terry. So I guess my big question is, how did you hear about the announcement? And what was your initial reaction?
Frank Durant: I was at work, I got the call from Steven the medium around 8:30 that he received a Twitter feed, stating that there will be a news conference about the longest unsolved murder mystery being solved they have the identity, more to come later. And then within an hour, people kept asking the question, this has to be Lady of the Dunes so NBC and CBS kept changing the news feed every 30 seconds to include that it is the Lady of the Dunes so it was kind of a shock because we were all kind of being prepared for Halloween. And we thought really, of all days Halloween, they're gonna this is happening. But we were beyond thrilled. It was very surreal because you thought this day would never come.
CS: Yeah, it was wild. I just remember being on my way to get new tires, and you calling and sending texts saying that this was happening. And it was kind of like, are you serious of all days Halloween? Obviously, with the name, Ruth Marie Terry, what did you think of that? Did anything that came out with the press conference with the FBI, or news release did anything sound like anything familiar or was it all kind of out of left field?
FD: The only thing left field was she was a mother of a wife and a mother because we all thought that you know, who she last seen with and everybody's asked that question, once you find out who she was last seen with, we'll know exactly who the murderer was. But to find out that she had a huge family. We were shocked. It took this long for the DNA to match up because the Terry family, there are hundreds of people down in Tennessee, it's a large family. So it wasn't like she was from a very small unknown family. She had quite an abundance of bloodlines connected to her. So it was almost easy once they once they were able to match that DNA up and get a name everything started to fall into place.
CS: That's right. So the fact is she actually had family that had been looking for right?
FD: From what I was told. Yes, I guess, in 1974, there was a missing persons report made by the Terry family. And everything on that police report matched up to what was in the public information about her height, weight, and everything about that.
CS: Okay, so without naming names, obviously he has anyone from the documentary that was either in it or help us behind the scenes have reached out to you since the Lady of the Dunes was revealed to be Ruth Marie Terry?
CS: Did anyone say anything about how the documentary might have influenced law enforcement or pushed forward getting her identified?
FD: Yes. (pause) I'm proud of the movie period, I talked to all three of my producers, all my investors, and crew members, we all stand by and believe in the movie that we produced period, but we agree with everything that we said in the documentary, and we will admit we got some stuff wrong. But we got a lot of things right. And we brought a lot of new insight to the public's attention. And whether it was the movie or the research that led to the movie because we made at least 1000 phone calls. We talked to a lot of people in forensic law enforcement, federal, state, and local level, talk to a lot of people who are players in this from journalists, historians, and people who just knew people. So before we even yelled action in April of 2021. We collectively pissed off some good people, powerful people, and if that's what did if that's what helped push, light the fire, as opposed to when we premiered this in April of 2022. We know for a fact a lot of people in law enforcement came to the free premieres in Dennis and Provincetown. And this is six months before her identity came to be. So will we get the credit? Probably not. But at the end of the day, we're proud of what we did and what we set out to accomplish. We did it.
CS: Well, so we're out in the dunes right now where her body was found. And we're standing where the body was found. So what do you think this site where she was found says about her killer or killers like you know, as far as their relationship to her?
FD: Well, it's definitely not a random site. Because if you decide to take a walk out here, there are literally a thousand other places to dispose of a body. This is not random, it's actually quite specific to the old intersection was to the dune shack road. And whoever came out here must have known a place because you're literally in the backyard of where the C-Scape used to be, before you get to house two which I believe is the Adam's House or three or four. So to get out here is a challenge. So I truly feel this is a drop site I believe she was murdered someplace else. And whoever knew of this area knew that they won't find her body for weeks, if not months.
CS: It's interesting because standing here, you can see a couple of Dune shacks, but yet it's still it's so secluded, it's you would have to know this area to get out to here because I can tell you walking out here, it was quite a hike.
FD: Well, you know, south of here’s the campgrounds. So if I was to dispose of a body, the body would be found within a day, if I go to the East, I'd be back with the old parking lot was for the public hiking up to the dunes, and the body would be found sooner than later. And organized crime knew that all the drugs was coming in from the western part of Race Point. So whoever dropped it here knew about those three locations, this was not random, they had the four-wheel capability of a jeep, which I was told that Guy Muldavin had an international Jeepster, I think they would call. But then again, unless he knew how to drive out these roads, and he would have needed help out here. So I'm pretty sure this location, he's been out here before or the person with whom knew about this location.
CS: So you actually just brought it up now that Ruth Marie Terry has been identified, you know, that was our whole thing, the documentary, and with the book was to give her name back. So now she's got her name. So it kind of turns to who killed her and why she ended up out here. What do you think? You mentioned Guy Muldavin. That was her last husband? What do you think? Is anything else going to come out about her?
FD: I hope so. But to defend law enforcement, they gave her name back. And they tied everything to this Guy Muldavin. So to answer the question, it is just window dressing to the people who have been really involved with this person's case, I feel honestly giving her a name back to her identity, and bring her back to the family is more than justice. And her murderer is obviously dead. But really, I hope so. But at the end of the day, I feel that we're kind of closing the last chapter of her story.
CS: We actually just came from the grave site, and she now has a stone with her name on it. And it's kind of, I mean, we're doing this for closure. But it was kind of surreal, knowing where this all started where she was this Jane Doe for almost 50 years. And now we go to her cemetery for the grave for maybe the last time and she's actually got a name.
FD: Well, she has a son. And I was told that the son one day is going to visit his mom's grave. And I'm very grateful that the people of Provincetown have left mementos. They've left flowers, seashells, rocks, coins, they left something behind just to remind anybody who comes to visit her that people in this community wanted to keep her memory alive. That's love. Weather, your local journalist, local law enforcement, local podcasters, people have not exploited but they've kept her memory alive too for this day to come. So I along with you, Christopher, we brought sand from where her body was found. And we placed it at the gravestone and, you know, it won’t last that much time, it won’t be there in a couple of days, but we were there today. We said our goodbyes, we said how grateful we were. We also stopped by the grave of Leslie Metcalfe. And Chief James Meads to say thank you, and for a resolution or closure. I believe today we received it.
CS: I agree. I totally agree. This whole journey has been just for me growing up on Cape Cod growing up with the lady of the dunes mystery. If you had told me when I was a teenager that I'd be even slightly involved with her getting her name back out. It's there's no way but you know, as we kind of get done with Provincetown and leave that behind Leave the Lady of the Dunes behind at least in the documentary. I'm still working on the book and getting that published. But after her identity reveal now, how has this project the lady of the dunes documentary been different for you than others that you've done?
FD: It shows the power of filmmaking. You know, I started this with the goal of making a murder mystery series. With the investors, I assume they wanted to hire me to do a feature a feature project or commercial something. And when they when they sprung this on me, I thought, okay, there, it's where my talents meet the needs of the world. You know, that's, that's the ego talking, but I truly felt like they were calling me, they commissioned me to produce this documentary. So I felt, okay, this isn't just doing a fun movie for giggles, this isn't doing something just to put a few dollars in my pocket. This is something where they want me to affect this case, they want me to try to bring her identity to light. And out of everything I've done last 20 years, yes, it's probably the most important film-related project I've been involved in. I'm proud of having spent the last two years investigating, producing and making the documentary and coming this far was rewarded with resolution.
CS: I agree when it comes to all of the work I've done in writing and such like that this has been the most important project of my career. So I'm totally in agreement with that. And as far as the film itself, where are people going to be able to see it because now the time has come when people are actually going to be able to see it outside of a theater setting?
FD: Well, if you visit her grave, I left a DVD copy there for someone to hopefully see it, take it with them, watch it and then pass it on to someone else who wants to watch as well. Local libraries through the Cape Cod network will receive free copies in their library directory, we should have a free screening through social media, whether it's Vimeo or YouTube, and alpha new cinema, which owns all these, they work with Allied foreign, they're releasing it the first of the month of 2023. So there will be different ways to watch the documentary either online or through DVD. So I hope if there is interest in watching what we did enjoy it.
CS: With all that said and done kind of what's the next step? What's the next chapter as we go? Not necessarily just in the lady of the dunes, but in general, where do we go from here?
FD: Well, first, I can't wait to read the book, when this book comes out of yours. Everybody who's interested in the documentary not just the subject matter, is waiting for this book to see the light of day, I can't wait to read about what I did and who I am in this book, whether it's a murder mystery, or fiction or what have you. So I can't wait to read that. But at the same time, the phone rang two years ago, and I was asked to do this. So I think I'm on the path where I'm waiting for that phone to ring. So if there's another Cape Cod project, whether it be a feature film or documentary, I'm going to wait for that phone to ring.
CS: There you go. So people that are listening to this interview, if you've got an idea, reach out to us. If you see the lady the dunes documentary, if you read the book, it's great stuff. And it's a true story. And never in my wildest dreams that I think that I'd be a part of even a little bit of resolution to the case. So that's all thanks to you, Frank. I mean, I never would have thought I’d be involved in something like this.
FD: It's been good it's been a wild trip for us. So I would do it again in a heartbeat. Yeah.
The audio of this interview can be heard in the video below which also features photos and clips of our trek out into the dunes to where Ruth Marie Terry was discovered back in 1974.
This was the first interview with Director Frank Durant, who directed the Lady of the Dunes documentary that premiered on April 1, 2022 in Dennis at the Cape Cinema and April 2 at the Provincetown Theatre. This was before the Lady of the Dunes was identified as Ruth Marie Terry. A second interview with Frank, from after the identification, can be found in a subsequent post in this blog.
This interview took place in his car as we drove Cape Cod out towards Provincetown for a special excursion we had planned to a few spots that are pertinent to the Lady of the Dunes and more. I've been writing the companion book to the documentary so we talk a lot about that. He goes deeper into the story of the Lady of the Dunes, what made him want to do the documentary some of the highlights and some of the difficulties that he faced, and a little more about who he is. The full audio can be found in Episode 62 of the In My Footsteps Podcast at the bottom of the page.