Thank You For Visiting Sedona Legend-
The Jack And Helen Frye Story!
Sedona's Celebrity Love Story!
This is the official, not to mention only, web portal in the world
dedicated exclusively to the legacy of Jack and Helen Frye!
The Frye Legacy-
a Lifetime of Accomplishment!
By Randall Reynolds
The Sedona Legend Web Site is a copyrighted historical photo enhanced narrative presented for
educational and entertainment purposes. Some materials may be displayed in regard to the
United States Fair Use Act. This web portal is totally non-profit and generates no income nor
does it seek or has it ever accepted a single donation. It is an independent venture.
Sedona Legend was envisioned and created to provide Red Rock State Park visitors a
comprehensive historic overview for Jack and Helen Frye and their Deer-Lick and Smoke Trail
Ranches. This effort is now officially cited by R.R.S.P. as an indepth historical venue
representing Jack and Helen Frye.
Sedona Legend is encouraged by the many friends of Jack and Helen Frye. A gracious thank
you to the Frye and Varner families for invaluable support and Red Rock State Park staff and
volunteers for their enthusiasm.
Sedona Legend Helen Frye a.k.a. the Jack and Helen Frye Story
A Decade of Research and Presentation- Created By Randall D. Reynolds
Copyright © 2003 All Rights Reserved
Ople Mae "Sunny" Frye Thomas
The "Daring Duo" Flying Under The Wire
Beyond the Reach of Future TWA President Jack Frye!
Sunny Frye was born on December 13, 1909
at Texola, Texas. She moved out to
California when she was just 12 (about
1921). First, she lived with her
grandparents, but shortly after, she lodged
with her brother Jack. Sunny envisioned
this residence as a more adventurous
home-life, and it appears she was right!
Jack lived near an aviation school airport
he owned called Burdett Air Field, near
Inglewood, California. The Fryes lived in a
small house with the following residents,
Jack and his wife Debbie, her mother Alta,
Jack's brother Donald, and a family poodle.
Somehow Jack's baby sister Sunny was
moved in as well. All parties were trying to
secure a foothold in this exciting new state
of California- a land of unlimited
opportunities and beautiful weather! By the
time Sunny was to start high school she
spent all her spare time out at Burdett Air
Field (about 1924) and soon started palling
around with one of Jack's closest friends.
This young pilot had his own plane (a real luxury in the day) and would board Sunny for flights
whenever she would appear. Sunny related to me that they would have great fun diving at the
ships in the harbor, roaring through haystacks, and buzzing up and down the Los Angeles coast,
all at full throttle! At the time these areas were all open sandy land devoid of the current
present gridlock of Los Angeles homes and boulevards. Jack trusted this 'Paul' with his sister,
perhaps blindly so, after all, Jack taught Paul how to fly as he did so many early California
aviators. Either way, luckily Paul and Sunny never had a mishap and Jack was never to find out
the mischief they sought. Surely a grounding would have been in store if the wild duo was ever
found out. Paul lived in a big house down on Sunset Boulevard, at that time, an area sparsely
Please note: the Jack Frye's lived at 4 separate Los Angeles locations in the 1920's:
bungalow in Santa Monica (not verified)
816 W. 78th Street (Inglewood) near Burdett Airport and Aero Corporation
4233 Sutro Avenue (Los Angeles)
3401 Waverly Drive (Los Feliz) in the Hollywood Foothills
(Sunny would have lived at the first location. More indepth information on these addresses can
be found on Page 1933.)
Mystery Aviator Named "Paul"
Sunny, and her daughter Pat, say Paul and his English actor business partner Reginald Denny
successfully operated a airplane hobby shop on Hollywood Boulevard. Both partners were
extremely talented model airplane engineers. The store opened in 1935 and sold "Denny-
Planes" among other hobby items. Once quite a popular hang out, it was frequented by
celebrities and Pat's husband along with all his high school buddies. What did Paul and Reginald
do in their spare time? They went "hedge-hopping" in their planes. Not at all surprising for
Denny who was a Hollywood Black Cat (local Hollywood aerial stunt team) see Page 1928. It is
not known if "Paul" was a member too but Jack Frye was one of the original 13 members per
Denny. The team performed in many Hollywood movies. Other memories of this time period
was Denny's wife who Sunny remembers they called "Bubbles". One exciting weekend is
recalled, traveling with Jack and his wife Debbie to stay at Paul's family farm, out past Palm
Springs, perhaps Indio? With a piano in the living room, all guests had a weekend of
camaraderie and great fun!
In my Sedona Legend work I try to verify every detail possible. This of course is often difficult
with a time span of 1920 to 2010. I was aware of this "Paul" as he and Jack once owned a
business together- the W-F-W Company. They flew together and also once managed to get their
names in the paper with an aerial publicity stunt over Beverly Hills. Something Jack, an
aviation entrepreneur excelled at in a time when publicity meant the success or failure of one's
business. However, up to this point, I was never able to find anything specific about this aviator
associate. Recently, however, Sunny, at 97, remembered, among other details, the last name of
this elusive aviation hero! As well, the house Paul and his family once lived in! This mansion
she related, was eventually sold to a Saudi Sheik. Further research revealed the well-publicized
controversy of this sale, and this was the breakthrough I desperately sought. I found there was
indeed a notorious "Beverly Hills Sheik" called Mohammed al-Fassi. After securing the
mansion in 1978 (historically described as a "quasi-Palladian palazzo") the Sheik proceeded to
execute quite a make-over, inside and out, with little regard for provenance.
Some of the renovations included a brilliant coat of lime green paint. The stunning original
Grecian statuary on the veranda and pool side? All re-painted in flesh tones and adorned with
hair and realistic looking appendages. All this gaudy landscaping was further enhanced by filling
giant Grecian urns bordering Sunset Boulevard with brightly colored pink, blue, and orange
plastic flowers. Needless to say, this blatant lack of neighborly decorum and respect horrified
the adjoining conservative somewhat staid Beverly Hills neighbors. Especially, when one
considers the significance of this particular historic property. The traffic stopping display was
short lived; however, as the 38-room-mansion suffered a devastating (mysterious) fire on
January 1, 1980, and in 1985, was demolished. Shortly before this; however, in 1979, the Sheik
allowed film makers to shoot part of the Steve Martin movie “The Jerk” at the property.
Thankfully this gives us our last documented visual of the historic mansion, as seen in the film.
Although, keep in mind, the Hearst Beverly House Mansion was in the mix of shots as well, so it
can be confusing. The interior of the Whittier Mansion can be readily recognized with the
scenes of Middle Eastern décor, and of course, the basement disco that the Sheik designed and
built for his family and guests.
The real tragedy is that this stately historic mansion had been built by one of Beverly Hills’
most renowned families. The name was Whittier, as in Mericos "Max" Hector Whittier. This is
the very same illustrious entrepreneur who developed and founded Beverly Hills, from about
1906, the famous Beverly Hills Hotel in 1912, Rodeo Land and Water Company, a huge dairy,
and lastly, Belridge Oil Company in 1911. The latter company, soon developed one of
California's richest oil deposits into a multi-billion dollar dynasty. It goes without saying that in
the haste of the building boom of the 1970’s, when so many historic homes were demolished to
make way for garish Mac-Mansions, that the Whittier Mansion, which should now be one of
Beverly Hills’ most treasured landmarks, has been erased from the landscape forever. Such is
progress? What a tragedy!
Sunny knew not of any of this frivolous opulence, though, just Paul's name, where he lived, and
the fun they shared together. Discovering "where" Paul lived was the break in this story I
needed. The Whittier Mansion, @ 1001 Sunset Boulevard, was built in 1915-1917, on about 3.6
acres (some sources state 4.5 acres). A once revered landmark quite well-known in the Beverly
Hills area. Max, originally, was from Caribou Maine, but around the turn of the century went
out to California to find his fortune. And what a fortune he discovered! Through speculation and
risk he created a dynasty for a generation of Whittiers. Unfortunately, though, Max wasn't to
reap the long term benefits of this legacy as he died at a the Loma Linda Sanitarium Spa at
Redlands, on June 27, 1925. His dear wife Joanna, preceded him in death (1923). Interestingly,
this is the locale the Whittiers had the family farm Sunny visited with Jack and his wife Debbie
in the 1920's.
The Whittier oil interests were bought out in 1979 by Shell Oil Company. The 1910 Beverly Hills
development? Well, that is just about the most glorious legacy in the world, as shared by Max
and his two business partners, Charles Canfield and Burton Green. The Whittier children in the
early 1920's were tragically left without parents at early ages, fortunately, though, with ample
income. These four children, were three sons, two were named Donald and Leland, with a
daughter named Helen (later the renowned philanthropist Helen Whittier Woodward). But what
of this Paul? Not so easy to track this elusive aviator, especially when I found his name was not
quite what it appeared! At last I discovered him as "Nelson Paul Whittier", an early California
aviator who went by the name of "N. Paul Whittier" or "Paul". Today, we know him as a very
successful and famous oil tycoon. And that folks is Sunny’s mystery aviator!
The Whittier Mansion's address in 1920, was 1001 Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills California.
At that time, it was quite well-appointed with 20,000 square feet, 58 rooms, tennis courts, and a
pool, certainly, more akin to an Italian Renaissance palace, than a private home. Yet, this pink-
hued grand villa, when new, was frequented by the Fryes (Jack, Debbie, and Sunny) and other
intimate Whittier friends. It is not remembered by Sunny as a cold sterile Bel Air-like estate
but rather a "home" where early Los Angeles residents were welcomed and entertained
warmly. Tragically, it is only remembered now for the fact that a Sheik once owned it, albeit a
very short time, and not for the 70-some years of Whittier history. For anyone desiring to visit
this historic site the address is rather hard to find as the street numbers have changed
throughout the years. However, the Beverly Hills Hotel, developed in part by Max Whittier, is
just 10 minutes southwest at 9641 Sunset Boulevard. The current street address of the historic
Whittier mansion property (now demolished) is 9577 Sunset Boulevard, second building south of
Sunset Boulevard and Alpine Drive.
N. Paul Whittier was noted for his appealing personality with a passion for aviation and boating.
It was this young man who grew up in that lovely old historic mansion just two blocks east of
the Beverly Hills Hotel. A man in his carefree youth, before the tragedy of his father's death,
flew with Jack Frye and the "Flyers of Burdett Field". His other partner in adventure was no
other than Jack Frye's "baby" sister! A time of innocence soon snatched away as Paul dealt
with the sorrow of the death of his mother (first) and father (next) resulting in a mind-boggling
empire of wealth and responsibility which demanded instant maturity. Sunny hoped that I would
find him alive reuniting them in a journey of remembrance; however, this was not to be, as Paul
Whittier died in 1991, at the age 87.
Jack Frye and Paul Whittier were both born in 1904, their age perhaps a common bond that
belies the reason Jack trusted him with the sister he adored. And, let's not forget their
founding of W.F.W. Aircraft Corporation (see Page 1926). The initials represented Theodore A.
Woolsey, Jack Frye, and Paul Whittier.
Sunny, now at 97, has lived a life rich and full..... within the depths of her weary body she has to
but close her eyes, soon the shadows clear and orange groves appear, the memory of a 2-seater,
sputtering in the sunset materializes with the fumes of petrol and oil overwhelming her senses.
Amid the heady scent of the Los Angeles Valley citrus groves, she climbs in the bi-plane behind
her trusted aviator friend N. Paul Whittier. With engine roaring the plane speeds down the
primitive dirt runway of Burdett Airport in a cloud of dust, climbing up and away, out over the
bejeweled California coastline. For hours, the two fly through the intoxicating evening air, over
the small town of Los Angeles, swooping, diving, never wanting to land, immersed in the
constant sound of the engine and the whistling breeze. Pilot and passenger free from earth's
gravity, free from life on the ground, a time now sadly gone forever, the true dawning of
aviation in California and America!
Update- October 2007
Sadly, Ople "Sunny" Frye Thomas, reigning matriarch of the Frye family has passed away. This
remarkable woman was the very last of Jack Frye's childhood family, a lady who truly knew
him his entire life. I am saddened by her death and honored to have been her friend. Sunny was
a rich wealth of information in regard to the Frye Legacy and a staunch advocate of my work, a
milestone effort that had never been attempted by anyone- family or friends, previously. Bless
you Sunny, you are missed by so many, and speaking for myself, you enriched my life!
Paul and his wife Lucy (up until they died) lived in a 9000 square foot teak-paneled home on
beautiful San Juan Island, off the coast of Washington State. When not enjoying Puget Sound,
they traveled in their private Cessna and lived in California. Paul was always a consummate
aviator and mariner, he maintained and restored many vessels (as in 'the Paulu'), and owned
many fine aircraft. He and his sister Helen were both noted philanthropists, but Paul was much
more than a man who inherited and made millions. He was a man with a hidden past, one of the
earliest associates of Burdett Airport, business partner of TWA's Jack Frye, and one of the first
aerial sheriffs of the United States.
Just a little of Paul’s early aviation experience:
He graduated from Burdett School of Aviation in the fall of 1924 and was often called by the
press “the millionaire flyer”.
On September 7, 1926 Paul Whittier (at the time a member of the Beverly Hills Air Patrol) was
asked to perform a feat for a man who reached the height of god-like status on earth. The
event was Rudolph Valentino's infamous Beverly Hills funeral. In an unprecedented display of
pomp and circumstance Paul Whittier was hired to fly low over the funeral procession and dump
a plane full of red, white, and pink rose petals on the marching mourners as they walked from
the Beverly Hills catholic church (The Good Shepherd) to the Hollywood Memorial Park
Cemetery. Historically, one of Hollywood's most lavish and moving funerals, Paul's contribution
was the grand finale, never forgotten by thousands of mourners, even to this day!
In July 1929, Paul was the refueling man, with pilot Slade Hurlbert, for the record breaking
endurance flight of 10-days (246 hours) of the plane “Angeleno” as it circled above Los Angeles
without landing. The aim was to break a recent record set by the Army ship “Question Mark”.
The endurance pilots of the winning ship were Loren W. Mendell, and Roland B. (Pete)
Reinhart, who at this time (July 12, 1929) broke the world’s endurance record. The Buhl Air
Sedan was powered by a Wright Whirlwind J5 motor, which never missed a beat, albeit a couple
plugs that would occasionally misfire. A real “first” in airplane engine reliability of the then
early time frame of flight. A miracle- the two endurance fliers stated- that should not be taken
lightly and aided them greatly in their success. After the flight, the engine was examined by
W. E. Thomas of Wright Aeronautical Corp., and found to be in superior condition after having
performed 24,453,000 revolutions. The used 9-cylinder 220 hp engine had 450 hours on it pre-
flight and the plane had 17000 hours on the airframe.
Paul Whittier, in his Curtiss Carrier Pigeon, and his assistant Slade (Chief Mechanic of the
Culver City Airport), refueled the main plane and supported the endurance pilots with food and
supplies for the 8-days the Angeleno was flying in Los Angeles airspace. Although they broke
the intended record, Reinhart and Mendell had to land, after the tail section developed damage
which prevented all further attempts at refueling. Both men landed safely and were toasted by a
crowd of over 5000 spectators, plus, thousands more stranded in an endless traffic jam of cars
near the airport. The exhausted L.A. aviation heroes were hospitalized for observation after the
festivities and declared in good health! The flight, which started on the morning of July 2,
logged approximately 19,760 miles, consumed 4,085 gallons of gas, and 105 gallons of oil, most
of which was shuttled up by Paul Whittier in his ship. A ship, which by the way burned up its
original Liberty engine due to the tremendous load of fuel, after which a second engine was
quickly installed. In November 1929, Paul again stepped up to the plate to help fellow aviators.
This time, to assist aviatrix Bobbie Trout and her companion pilot Eleanor Smith, in their
attempt to break a similar world record. Also, assisting in the pre-endurance flight was “Pete”
Reinhart (from Salem Oregon). Paul provided his services and ship (the Curtiss Carrier Pigeon)
for training at Van Nuys California, after which Trout and Smith did set a women's endurance
Jack and Paul both, developed the famous speedy ThunderBird biplane. Jack sought a modern
passenger transport, Paul offered to back the project, and Theodore Woolsey, the noted aviation
engineer, was contracted to design the plane. More information available on Page 1926. Jack
Frye was the Chief Test Pilot for both ThunderBird Aircraft Company and Aero Corporation of
California. Jack Frye and Paul Whittier, with different agencies were instrumental in the
development of the very first aerial patrol organization for the United States. It is not clear how
these two agencies were connected, but because of the dates they were obviously intertwined.
In the first week of August 1926, Paul Whittier was sworn in as an officer of the Beverly Hills
Police Department by Chief Charles Blair. Whittier, who’s father founded Beverly Hills, filled a
brand new position with the Police Department in a new division, which was titled the Beverly
Hills Police Aerial (Air) Patrol. The agency was set up to patrol the skies over Beverly Hills,
which Whittier dutifully policed daily with an official police “chase” plane, with “Beverly Hills
Aerial Patrol” emblazoned on the side of the fuselage, and 2 huge police shields on the bottom
side (tip) of each wing. For several weeks Whittier patrolled the skies and hills over Beverly
Hills, aiding in the recovery of stolen cars, thwarting crime, and acting as a fire-spotter. So, for
history sake, it can be stated that Nelson Paul Whittier was indeed the first official aerial patrol
officer of the State of California, and it is thought for the entire United States.
As a public demonstration of this new service and a promo of sorts for the equipment used in
the air-patrols, on Saturday, August 14, 1926, Jack Frye raced low over Beverly Hills at a ear
pounding elevation of 600 feet and performed aerial stunts well below the legal ceiling of 1000
feet. At that time, it is accurate to say that cities like Beverly Hills enacted the elevation limit
to protect citizens from the many Los Angeles aviators who were terrorizing the people on the
ground with their new fangled aero contraptions. As Jack Frye zoomed in low over Beverly
Hills, Whittier, who just happened to be nearby in the air, swooped after him with red light
blazing and siren howling, using his plane to force the violator down to a quick landing. The
result was an air “pull-over” of the lawbreaking and discourteous Frye, making him to land at a
very public and visible location where there just happened to be a crowd of observers (mostly
celebrities and movie people). This performance was all staged for public education and the
press of course, and as well to promote the efficiency of this new police service which utilized
the new ThunderBird speedster racer, which just happened to have been built by Whittier and
Frye at the ThunderBird Co., which they owned. And interestingly, the Beverly Hills Police
ThunderBird, just happened to be based, serviced, and hangared at Frye’s Aero Corporation
Field. Previous to this day Frye had conducted the first public demonstration of the
ThunderBird on July 11, 1926 for a crowd of 100’s, at Aero Corporation, near Inglewood. Frye
was quickly arrested by Whittier for breaking the law and hauled off to the Beverly Hills jail
where he was held until he posted bail.
So, here we have the first “sky officer” and the very first arrest of (Jack Frye) on August 14,
1926, at Beverly Hills, California. Frye posted $100.00 bail and was ordered to appear on
Monday morning, August 16, 1926. On Monday, Beverly Hills Judge Strelinger presided over
this landmark case, the first ever to appear before a judge in a California court (of a man
arrested for an air violation). The outcome is not known, but likely, all charges were dropped
because of this being a “first” offence and a publicity promo event.
Shortly thereafter, Jack Frye spearheaded the organization of the first Aerial Sheriff’s
Squadron of Los Angeles (September 27, 1926) which he sponsored as based and launched at his
Aero Corporation of California Field (104th and Western) at Los Angeles. The aero patrol was
organized with Los Angeles Sheriff William I. Traeger, who enlisted the services of five Aero
Corporation (Burdett Airport) aviators as officers. These fliers included, William John (Jack)
Frye, Richmond A. Edwards, Lee Wiley, Paul E. Richter, Jr., and Walter A. Hamilton. All men
were sworn in as aerial sheriffs and were required to respond “on call” to the Los Angeles
Sheriff’s Department at any time, day or night, to assist in emergencies and aiding law
enforcement, recovering stolen cars, missing persons, and the capture of bandits, etc. The
aviators were thoroughly trained as police officers, and all passed tests in regard to criminal
codes and procedures. The planes were equipped with powerful spotlights for night use.
Yes, this was the very beginning and foundation of the our current State Highway Patrol and
County Sheriff aerial agencies which utilize planes and helicopters to patrol our skies. This
“history” was recently discussed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Aerial
Bureau in correspondence with Sedona Legend, in efforts to recognize this valuable connection.
Conjointly with the creation of the California Aerial Sheriff’s Association in 1926, it is my
understanding that Paul Richter, along with his duties with the Sheriff’s Squadron, was also
contracted by the United States Forest Service to patrol the forests adjoining Los Angeles for
forest fires as the nation's first official national forest “aerial fire spotter”.
Paul Whittier Was Much More Than A Corporate Icon
(Left) Sunny Frye at the top of the Mark
Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco California.