My Father's Flying Secret Revealed

My Father’s Flying Secret Revealed







* Handley-page aeroplane, British WWI bomber.


Delivering Smoot’s Smack 150 Proof by Air Until—


     Smoot Smeddly changed the life of a seventeen-year-old farm boy who would, in four years, become my father. (Click on...My Father Out of Poverty)

     Smoot Smeddly bought the run-down farm next to the (not-much-better farm) on which my father and his three, younger brothers lived with their mother and father in Manalapan, New Jersey. The year, when it all began, as my father recalled, was 1919. World War I ended a year earlier.

     “How old were you then?” I asked.

     “I was twelve.” my father replied. “I still milked our one cow and did my daily farm chores besides going to school. Smoot Smeddly had three cows. Only one gave milk. I knew that because he hired me to milk it,” my father added.


     Dad worked for Smoot for almost two years before he made the three discoveries that changed his life. The first discovery was the alcohol still in the big shed behind the barn. He didn’t know what it was until Smoot explained it to him and pledged my father, age 14, to everlasting silence about it. It had something to do with prohibition. My father was fourteen years old and knew about the government ban on drinking alcohol. It was against the law to make, drink or sell any drinking alcohol. Smoot did all three.


     Then there was the steady delivery of brand new, empty milk bottles to Smoot’s farm. Who would suspect empty milk bottles? They arrived in cases of a dozen bottles in each case. Five cases to each carton of 60 new milk bottle to the carton. My father often signed for the deliveries, counting ten cartons per month for a monthly total of 600 new milk bottles. What did Smoot need 600 new, empty milk bottles each month with only one cow giving milk and not much at that?  He soon discovered the answer was Smoot’s Smack 150 proof selling for $25.00 a quart for a total of $15,000 per month. That would be about $1,500,000 in today’s dollars.


     Dad’s biggest discovery was under a canvas cover in an isolated meadow far from prying eyes and ears. It was a huge airplane (aeroplane). The full, intriguing story I would learn later and will happily share with you shortly. It would be the first aeroplane (British spelling) that my father had ever seen either on the ground or in the air. It was to play a life-changing role in my father’s life.


     Just a little background on just how a British World War I, twin-engine bomber ended up on Smoot Smeddly’s farm in Manalapan, New Jersey one year after World War I ended in Europe.


     According to my father, the British sent a Handley-page twin-engine bomber by ship to the United States army in 1917 in order to teach Americans to fly it prior to their presumed entering the war. Smoot Smeddly was one of those Americans. He learned to fly the bomber before it crashed somewhere in New Jersey, U.S.A.  None of the American pilots ever left New Jersey before the war ended and before they were all discharged.



     Smoot Smeddly could make or repair almost anything. That included a badly damaged Handley-page twin-engine bomber that the army considered to be junk. He offered to tow the junk away for $100 and got the job. Smoot towed it to his recently purchased farm in Manalapan, New Jersey. There, he restored it with modifications. Instead of carrying a 2000 pound bomb load, he redesigned it to carry almost 2000 pounds of Smoot’s Smack 150 proof in one quart milk bottles.



     1923! Smoot Smeddly had been flying his Handley-page bomber on monthly, night-delivery trips for the past three years  to the North Philadelphia Peoples Platoon Against the Depression and Prohibition (NPPPAD and P), an extremely large, heavy drinking crowd that was filled with optimism for the future. They happily drank and paid for 600 bottles of Smoot’s Smack 150 Proof each month and clamored for more.


     It was his failing night vision that convinced Smoot that his flying days were coming to an end. What to do? The answer lay with my father who in 1923 was now sixteen years old. Smoot trained him to fly the Handley-page bomber. Night flying was scarier but Dad learned. At seventeen, he quit high school (His parents never noticed.) to fly Smoot’s Smack 150 Proof  on a continuing monthly, nighttime delivery schedule, weather permitting.


     My father flew the night delivery run for almost a year before it happened!






     My father had just taken off after making his monthly night delivery of 600 bottles of Smoot’s Smack 150 Proof to the North Philadelphia Peoples Platoon Against the Depression and Prohibition (NPPPAD and P) when bullets struck the plane. He didn’t realize what was happening at first until a bullet hit the cabin causing a splinter to strike his goggles cracking the lens. That was to be his last flight delivering Smoot’s Smack 150 Proof.




     As for Smoot Smeddly, he flew off in his Handley-page bomber carrying a full load of Smoot’s Smack 150 Proof and a great deal of cash. Where he flew to and what happened to him my father claimed he didn’t know. I think Dad must have had some idea for he had a problem suppressing a smile as he spoke.




Bob Flicker

Summer 2016

 © robert 2014