Florence "Pancho" Barnes By Women Fly
One of aviation's most colorful characters.
��_��_��_Pancho��_��_ Lowe Barnes was born in 1901 to a wealthy Pasadena family. She began flying in 1928 and spent the next ten years setting speed records, competing in races, stunt flying for movie moguls and organizing the stunt pilots��_��_ labor union. Pancho nearly exhausted the family fortune by 1933. so she sold off her remaining property and bought 80 acres of land in the desert ��_��_��_ next to what is now Edwards Air Force Base. There she established an airstrip and a hog ranch. In 1934, Pancho organized the Women��_��_s Air Reserve to fly in aid to victims of national emergencies, she also established the Civilian Pilot Training Program. By the 1940��_��_s she had parlayed her land into 380 acres, built a bar and dance hall, guest houses, a swimming pool and a restaurant. At Pancho��_��_s Ranch you could ride horses, hear live bands, attend rodeos and horse shows, see nude underwater ballets and exchange tall aviation tales. Most of her customers were military personnel,especially the test pilots and officers. From privates to generals, everyone loved Pancho. Pancho��_��_s Ranch grew in popularity until the top brass at Edwards decided they wanted to build a longer landing strip. They needed her land and conspired to get it by accusing her of being a madam running a house of ill repute. In Pancho��_��_s words, ��_��_��_They picked the wrong gal to push around.��_��_ Acting as her own attorney, Pancho battled in the courts for years, eventually clearing herself of all charges. The Air Force did, however, have the final word and the Happy Bottom Riding Club was closed forever. Pancho was forced to sell her beloved ranch, and moved to a more remote location in the desert. Pancho died in 1975. Each year, thousands of people convene where the ranch once stood and celebrate her memory with a party.
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