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1910-When the LA Motordome Became the LA Aerodome

Although best known for automobile races, the LAM hosted one of the first air meets.
Although best known for automobile races, the LAM hosted one of the first air meets.
Author's Collection

Along with the automobile, another new invention; just seven years old, the airplane, was introduced to the region when the first air meet was held at the Rancho Dominguez Adobe land in nearby Carson, CA, in January 1910.

In September 1910, the Los Angeles Examiner announced a flying meet would be held at the Playa Del Rey Motordrome on October 22, and 23rd, which would be open to Novice California Aviators only. Major prizes would be awarded including cash in four categories, distance, height, duration, and circles. The only conditions were that all contestants be amateur, have their own airplane, and a ten dollar entrance fee.

On October 22, the Novice Aviator Meet got underway. Several would be famous flyers were present, including Glenn Martin, who would one day control the mammoth Lockheed-Martin Aerospace Company, The Eaton Bros., Jack Cannon, and Charles Walsh. With his daring showmanship, Charlie Walsh won all the prizes consisting of four large silver loving cups and $500 in cash. Awarded were: The Examiner Trophy for duration 14 minutes; The San Diego Cup for the highest flight, 80 feet; The Whitley Trophy for endurance; and The Leonard-Smith Cup for circular flights.

In 1912 Glenn L. Martin built an airplane factory in an old Methodist church in Los Angeles, California. To make money to finance this business, he had been stunt flying at fairs and local airfields, including Playa Del Rey.

He saw an advertisement for a pilot/airplane owner to play a role in a movie. Sensing an opportunity to market his airplanes, he replied to the ad and got the part. He was to play the role of a dashing hero in the movie A Girl of Yesterday (1915) starring Mary Pickford.

He soon found that it would be harder than he thought. In addition to flying Pickford around in his airplane, he had a scene where he had to kiss Frances Marion who later became a legendary Hollywood screenwriter. Martin in describing his hesitance having to kiss Marion declared "my mother would not like it" which astounded Pickford. He worked up the courage however and completed the scene.

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