cover of Island Bush Pilot


Franklin's Island Bush Pilot is Enjoyable Reading

Island Bush Pilot: Founder of San Juan Airlines © 2006 Roy Franklin

Launching a new book review column addressing writing about the San Juan Islands and books by local authors is somewhat daunting. Who am I to write reviews for the Journal?  Well, I am a seventeen year resident, a five year veteran of the San Juan Island Library staff, a community volunteer, a former president of the Friends of the San Juans, a gardener, bird watcher and intermittent naturalist, and (hopefully good) neighbor. In addition to working at the library, I am a candidate for a Masters in Library Science at a distance learning program, and an avid reader. Sometimes I have described myself as humor-impaired, and friends know it takes a good one to get me to laugh out loud.

Islanders are fond of touting the vast array of life experience and ability of other islanders.  Certainly we have neighbors as able or more than I am to review books, but Journal editor Richard Walker asked me to write this column, and I humbly accept it as a new challenge.

From a number of titles Richard suggested I chose to begin with Roy Franklin’s new book, Island Bush Pilot: Founder of San Juan Airlines.  The subject is interesting, and the style personal and light. Mr. Franklin’s voice can clearly be heard in his telling of his adventures in flying scheduled air service between San Juan Island air strips and area cities like Bellingham and Seattle. 

Sometimes it is the pride in his accomplishments—for instance, laboriously and tediously clearing a forest by hand over ten years to build what is now the Friday Harbor Airport—that comes through most strongly. Other times, the book twinkles with self-deprecating humor, and Roy (I feel like I know him after reading this book) sees the funny side of frightening and difficult situations. I laughed aloud more than once. I especially enjoyed his depiction of landing float planes in Friday Harbor long before the breakwater. His comment to his paying passengers? “That’s right sweetheart: just jump right out there and grab that greasy piling before we drift away! Now look at you! You should have jumped farther.” One wonders if the drenched and chilled passengers laughed!

The book shares many pieces of island history, like the end of the Roche Harbor Lime and Cement Company era, tales of Dr. Heath, and the development of Friday Harbor. Unfortunately, the folksy writing style, while often diverting, fails to mask errors that an editor should have corrected. Luminous prose it is not, but enjoyable reading, yes indeed.

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