James G. LaVake ****
1915 – 1991
James Gifford La Vake, well known photographer of trains and planes
was born in Minneapolis, MN. As a young boy he fueled aircraft to earn
lessons at the end of the day, eventually becoming a “barn stormer”
and a businss pilot. Just 24, and with enough flight hours under his belt,
he traveled to New York City to fly banners for the 1939 World's Fair.
While sitting in an airport gin mill he came upon a rumor of pilots
being hired by Eastern Airlines. Now just 25, he sported Captain's stripes
and flew with the Great Silver fleet until his retirement in 1975.
But Jim was not just a lover of aviation. He also had a great passion
for trains and photography. As a teenager in Minnesota, he carried
his trusty camera everywhere, working as a photo journalist for a
Minneapolis newpaper. He was one of those very lucky souls
who learned his passions early in life and followed them
with unstoppable determination.
Jim lived in an exciting time for aviation. Commercial airlines
were still new and glamorous with a future filled with opportunity.
But his love of trains never wavered, and wherever he flew,
he found the nearest railroad yard, making life-long friends, and
taking exciting photographs. Often his photos of train yards
were taken while in flight. A lovely mixture of talents.
Jim had a collection of railroad engineer hats, and –
much to the chagrin of the airline he flew for – more than
once wore one while waving at on-lookers poking his head
out of the cockpit of the big silver bird he was piloting.
In fact, he would have been just as happy driving trains as
he was driving airplanes. Jim left a wonderful legacy of trains
and planes in the form of published photographs and articles
which capture the “Golden Age” of trains and planes,
with Jim’s very special way of seeing them.
Our thanks to Jim’s daughter, Peggy La Vake
"TraiNutz" © 2012
by Andy Romano
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