Quiet Birdmen

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Chet’s membership card read as follows:

The bearer is a member of the Anciente and Secret order of
QUIET BIRDMEN
and is a certified goodfellow. He has mounted alone into the realms beyond the reach of Keewee and Modock and should be accorded all gestures of friendship and aid by fellow Quiet Birdmen wherever they may meet.

One thing is clear about these “goodfellows:” they weren’t quiet. Keewee and Modock didn’t have a chance of keeping up with this crew, founded in 1921.

Chet joined the Birdmen 3 March 1933.  It didn’t take long for him to make an impact: on 20 April 1933, along with his friend Earl Steinhauer and others, the Washington Hangar (“hangar” is how the Birdmen refer to their local chapters) was organised at the old Raquet Club on 16th Street.

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Early officers and founders of the Washington Hangar.

The early years of the Hangar were eventful, to say the least.  According to a history of the Hangar, written in 1964:

Among the meeting places during these early years were Hybla Valley and College Park fields, the Corinthian Yacht Club, Glen Echo Amusement Park, a Potomac excursion boat, a burlesque joint, several restaurants and, for several months running, a “permanent” quarters in the Burlington Hotel annex. In more than one instance one meeting killed any desire of the host to host another, these being the years of the biscuit heavers.

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Chet with his son Henry, my father.  Chet missed his birthday–and more–to be with the “biscuit heavers.”

The first year (1933) saw eight of these gatherings.  For Chet, probably the most memorable one took place at College Park one Monday evening in September, where they gathered for “Amature Night.” In addition to the implied promise of scantily clad women, the Washington Hangar of this group spelled out that, for $1.50, they would have “plenty of beer/plenty of supper/plenty of entertainment/The big flight of the evening will be watching amateur performers compete for prizes. Pins will be presented to our new members and a general good time is assured”–all this on Chet’s son’s eighth birthday! Topping this off, the next day Chet’s uncle James died in California, leaving Chet the Vulcan Iron Works!

The subject of the Quiet Birdmen has generated about as many inquiries to this site as just about anything.  I am indebted to to Jim Davis and David Fields of the Washington Hangar, who have enriched this page with additional material.

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