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
Early On- California Here We Come!
Limited Factual Information
Jack’s early life is little documented but for a few scraps of information pulled from various
sources. He grew up isolated and later shared a similar path to that of many young men of the
1920’s who struggled with hard times trying to gain a foothold during this pre-depression era.
The following is a general overview (1920-1924) from Jack’s family and from interviews with
Jack himself. One thing that must be mentioned is that Jack did not like “going back” and
mulling over his early life before aviation. I take this to indicate his early life was a struggle
with little direction and he saw no comparison of it to his beloved career (which followed) as an
aviator. Nevertheless, occasionally, a reporter could cajole him to relate experiences of his early
youth. Certainly poignant is the fact that Jack’s aviation career started very early at just 18.
The earliest years of his life he was just a kid; a kid who had to grow up fast!
Early Life Was Hard Work With Simple Rewards
Jack grew up on the family ranch in the Texas Panhandle. The Frye Ranch, at 15,000-acres,
near Wheeler Texas was a historic ranch which belonged to his grandparents. Since his mother
died when he was 8, Jack and his father, along with his sister, Ople, and brother Don, resided
here until the mid-teens.
As soon as Jack and Don were old enough they were integrated into the typical Texas ranch life.
As was the family custom they both received a heifer when they were born and a horse of their
own as soon as they could ride. Time was spent with chores, education at the nearby
1-room red rock school (Rock School), and cattle drives to Canadian Texas where the Frye
cattle were shipped to Kansas City by railroad. Always the entrepreneur, a skill that made
Jack’s life a monumental success story, by 7 years old, the youngster was earning his own way
as the owner of not one, but five heifers. Each was branded by Jack with his own iron, as (“JF”).
This brand was later, possibly, utilized at the Frye Ranch at Sedona. Summers were hard with
leisure balanced between putting up hay and other ranch chores. Winters were spent with 7
other students in a simplistic educative atmosphere. After the 5th grade Jack started school at
Clarendon Texas. Education back then for ranch children was not as structured as today.
Early Exposure To Aviation
According to Jack’s sister Sunny, Jack became acquainted with Texas fliers who offered
airplane rides for money back in the teens. Of course there is another incident as well, the well-
circulated story about the Army fliers who broke down and were forced to land on Jack’s family
ranch near Wheeler Texas in the spring of 1918.
A Spark is Ignited
As a 14-year-old freshman at Clarendon High, Jack Frye was ice skating one day on a pond at
his family’s Texas ranch with new skates he received from his father as a Christmas gift.
Suddenly he heard the sputter of airplane engines. He soon forgot about the skates as he went
to assist 3 Army Curtiss JN-4 “Jennies” which had been forced to land nearby with mechanical
problems. He spent his day visiting with the pilots and excitedly running around securing parts
for the planes while incurring a chill and wet feet in the process. Late in the evening Jack
trudged back home to a warm fire and dinner at home. This; however, would be the last time he
left the house and almost the last time he saw another summer. (In regard to a comment Jack
made later in life, he very well may have taken a flight that frosty day while chilled and wet).
Near Death Experience
This bright young boy named Jack Frye paid a severe price for his long day of exposure to the
chilling Texas elements as he soon developed a nearly lethal case of pneumonia, even to the
point of the doctor telling his father he would not make it and possibly would die. For the next 2
months his family hovered around him as Jack’s breathing became more and more shallow.
Finally though, after ten weeks, Jack started to come out of it. Slowly he regained his strength
making a miraculous recovery! This was no doubt due to his young age and vitality.
Later in life, Jack related this troubling experience saying the planes were actually there for
3-4 days but because he was so sick he never got to see them take off. As a matter of fact, Jack
said he had more to think about than planes (meaning his life) and didn’t think about them
again for several years. From this experience though, eventually, Jack Frye would become one
of the world’s foremost aviation visionaries, bringing forth in a short life great advancements of
the air-transportation industry, which benefited all of mankind, to include every single current
modern airline passenger.
Joins the Army Air Corp of Engineers
At the age of just 16, Jack Frye joined the Army Corp of Engineers at El Paso for 2 years. His
brother Don, at 15, soon joined him. Jack served across the country at a variety of locations, to
include Camp Dodge, Iowa and Camp Lewis, Washington. Don was said to have eventually
served in Hawaii. After a year though Jack stated he had had enough and got out returning to
ranch life and family. It is of record that John William Frye joined the Army Corp of Engineers
in 1921 and was discharged in 1922 as Corporal.
Little Known Fact
Somewhere in between all this (according to Jack's sister Sunny Frye) Jack went to Carver
Chiropractor College in Oklahoma City for 2 years, learning chiropractics and actually opened
his own practice at Sweetwater Oklahoma for a brief stint. (The time element lends itself to
perhaps 1 year of schooling in the summer? His father was referred to as Dr. Frye and
previously followed this same path, practicing for many years. So therein is Jack's connection.
On the business card of Jack Frye the following print was found (per his sister Sunny) as
follows- William J. Frye 'I’m feeling great- how are you feeling?'
Land of Milk & Honey- Paved with Hard Knocks
When Jack and Don went out to California in 1922 they had limited funds and drove an old
Model T Ford which they later sold to pay the rent. They brought along a 2 friends from home.
Before Jack started his phenomenal aviation career he struggled to survive. He found a job
across the street from the landmark Garland Building, in downtown Los Angeles, at a mid-town
restaurant, which was likely in the Tower Theatre complex (still a Los Angeles landmark). Jack
Frye, always a hard worker, also sold newspapers and worked in a drugstore as a soda jerk,
among other odd jobs, just trying to survive. It was while working downtown at the restaurant
that he utilized his hard-earned income to finance his flight lessons at Burdett Airstrip where
he later became a half-owner. Meanwhile his traveling companions also struggled to survive. His
brother Don got a job with the phone company, another boy started work at a bank, and the
third decided to return home to re-group.
Later in life, Jack related the following experience of that period- "I sold the car and spent that
money, I was hungry and behind in my room rent- I got desperate.” Even though he could have
wired his father or grandparents for the rent money and they would have gladly helped him, he
said he was too proud. “I started walking down the street, asking at every place for a job. I had
walked eight blocks and canvassed every store, when I came upon a restaurant with a sign in
the window saying “Dishwasher Wanted” I got the job and was told to report the following
morning at 6 A.M."
Jack hurriedly rushed back to his landlady who was way past the point of any further
negotiation and somehow talked her into an extension on the rent. He started the next morning
at 12 dollars a week- with one meal a day. “Believe it or not, I washed dishes in that place for 3
weeks. Then I went to selling newspapers on the streets in Los Angeles. I got to making $18 a
week and was getting along." Each day, coming and going from his way to both his jobs, Jack
passed a drugstore on a busy intersection where he would stop on occasion and ask for a drink
of water (he could not afford to buy a fountain drink). One day the owner asked Jack if he
knew anyone who would like a job as a fountain attendant? "I'll take it," said Jack jumping at
the chance! The drugstore owner asked the lanky young boy if he had any experience, to which
Jack replied, as any young man would, “sure!” The next morning behind the counter, as it
started to get busy, Jack realized that being a soda jerk was a more complicated than he
envisioned- "To tell the truth, I couldn't even mix a coke, but the proprietor was a good old soul
and helped me get started. And think of it! The salary was $25 a week, and my meals!" Jack
was now working 13-hours a day, with no time for anything other than work, crashing at night
from exhaustion. But, he was soon saving 18 dollars a week. It's heartbreaking to think of Jack
suffering such dire straights but as we all learn life is full of hard knocks.
Interestingly, after about 8 years, Jack’s posh executive office ended up being located at the
very same Garland Building (across from where he once washed dishes in 1922). However, this
time around in 1930 Jack served as “vice-president of operations” for the airline Western Air
Express. Nice change of fortunes I would say! Of course this downtown office address was short-
lived as Jack soon took the same position with Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc., after a
merger, and was required to move to Kansas City in about ‘31. This historic 1912 building is now
the site of “The Chapman” a fashionable residential building (luxury flats) in downtown L.A. at
756 South Broadway.
Almost Becomes an Aussie
Jack had become friends with a boy who worked at the movie house next to the drug store. They
both decided to quit their jobs and sign up on a steamer headed for Australia so they could
"travel the world" as young men often desire. But at the last minute the theater usher/ticket
boy got cold feet and left Jack high and dry. Jack didn't want to go on a sea cruise without a pal,
so he tried to get his job(s) back, so he could remain in L.A. This he accomplished at the
drugstore with the wise and fatherly proprietor but the dishwasher position? It was long gone.
Aviation Again- This Time It Sticks
Jack Frye & Burdett Fuller Form a Legendary Partnership
Soon, Jack’s mind again turned to flying, the new fangled rage that was consuming Southern
California. A customer who often came into the drugstore and sat at the fountain, one day
offered to show Jack around Los Angeles by motor car. After the grand tour, they ended up at
an airfield out on Western Avenue near Inglewood. Here, this L.A. (guide-pilot) was taking
people up in his old Army surplus Jenny for 15-minute hops at $5.00, a head. The man was a
25-year old aviator named Burdett Fuller. He tried to sell Jack a flight, no, it was not pro-bono.
A glitch though, believe it or not, Jack Frye was afraid. Yes, afraid to fly! Burdett convinced
Jack there was no cause for alarm and nothing to fear. They agreed the next week when he
came downtown he would pick up Jack and take him out to the field for a spin. "Yes", Jack
later related, “I paid $5 for a ride in the same kind of plane that gave me pneumonia."
The flight was a life-changing experience for Jack, the passion ignited that day would not be
extinguished for a lifetime and would only end at death. Jack Frye truly had discovered his
soul's path! Soon after the initial flight Burdett talked Jack into taking flying lessons at $20.00
an hour. Imagine that fee for young Jack in a day when times were so hard! But it was too late
for reason, Jack Frye wanted to be a pilot, and a pilot he would be! It was in his blood and how!
After 7 and 1/2 hours of lessons and the forfeit of his hard-earned savings Jack Frye became an
official pilot in 1922-23. On his very first solo flight, so as to not waste gas, he boarded a paying
passenger, who was none the wiser. Just 2-weeks later, after Jack continued to rent the plane
as he could afford to, Burdett offered him a golden opportunity, a half-interest in the Jenny.
Jack was keenly interested as he realized this plane was a tool both of them could use to earn a
living, henceforth, as instructors and sight-seeing pilots.
But Jack related later, "I didn't have that much money, I had sold my cows at the ranch, so I
asked my grandparents for a loan and got an emphatic, “No”! I asked my brother Don about
borrowing the money, and in consideration of my promise to teach him to fly, he sold his cows
and gave me the loan.” In those early days, being a pilot was not well thought of and most
people equated aviators to flimflam drifters, thus, explaining his grandparents chilly reception
with Jack’s proposition. Jack fulfilled his obligation and taught his beloved brother how to fly
(and another aviator was born). At the time Don was said to be the youngest (or one of the
youngest) pilots in the nation. Jack became quite successful with Burdett. Soon he and Burdett
built a very successful flight hop business at L.A. Life was looking up up into the blue yonder!
Marriage- Texas Style
At some point Jack met his San Antonio born wife Debbie Greer at a downtown Los Angeles
theatre where she was a dancer with the Los Angeles Follies. They sparked and were married
September 4 1924, at Tijuana Mexico. More information on Debbie can be found on Page 1933.
Little Sunny- We Miss You
Jack and Don soon wrote their wee sister Sunny and told her how wonderful the weather was in
California and encouraged her to come on out. Finally, Sunny did travel out to Santa Ana where
she lived with her grandmother first, but soon she moved in with Jack and his wife.
Wild Trip Out West
The trip out was quite an adventure for little Sunny. She drove her grandmother’s car (thought
to be a Hupmobile) from Texas to California. Her youngster-cousin, with no where to sit, stood
up in the back seat the entire trip. Sunny remembers the journey as such: she had never seen a
stop light before, having lived out on a ranch her whole life, so when they approached the first
light at Amarillo, she just drove straight on through. She followed this procedure all the way to
Los Angeles. Somehow though they made it safely with no tickets or accidents and a car full of
people. Lordy! Please see Page 1909 for more information on Sunny Frye.
Living The Aviation Dream
After Debbie and Jack were married, Sunny related to me that Debbie made really good money
as a “big wheel” (Sunny's words) at a large Mercantile at Western and Manchester Avenue (s),
where they sold groceries, clothing, and sundries, etc. This was a store that would be akin to a
modern day “Wal-Mart” very near Jack’s work at Burdett Airport. In those early days, times
were hard and Debbie helped Jack financially when he was struggling to build up the Burdett
business, a burden for which Debbie deserves great credit according to Sunny.
Lovers and Cruising Early Western Avenue
Jack and Debbie would drive around Los Angeles with Sunny and her high school dates in the
back seat. Jack would keep an eye on them in the rear view mirror to make sure they were not
necking and getting too carried away; however, Sunny remembers Debbie and Jack themselves
would neck so much while driving, that she looks back now wondering how they ever stayed on
the road. Jack it seems was never looking ahead! Sunny related the women were always after
her brother, he was tall, attractive, a pilot, and had a million dollar smile! Women adored his
Jack Frye- Natural Born Leader In Aviation
Sunny remembers one night in the mid-1920's at dinner Jack even then showed incredible
vision as to the future of aviation. He stated to her and her young friend that there would soon
be sleeper flights and dinner flights cross-country. She says she and her friend just looked at
each other and pointed at their heads indicating he was surely nuts! But Jack Frye was always a
visionary, known as “a man with a habit of making dreams come true”! Indeed, there were such
flights soon after and Jack Frye accomplished such with TWA!
Hollywood Set and Flying Jalopies
Sunny loved hanging out at her brother’s airfield which was populated in the 1920’s by a lot of
movie people. Walt Hamilton and Don Frye were friends and it was Walt who taught Don how to
be an aircraft mechanic. Walter, Don, and Paul Richter were pals and attended air shows
|Jack Frye the Aviator- Flying Over Los Angeles in 1924