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Burchams to share aviation history

BRECKENRIDGE – Frank and Meredith Burcham will share the stories of their lives in the airline industry as part of the Father Dyer Church’s Oral History Series.

The free, informal discussion is slated for 3 p.m. Sunday at the church at the corner of Wellington Road and Briar Rose Lane in Breckenridge. The programs, sponsored by the church’s Fine Arts Council, are held so longtime residents can share their memories and stories with others in the community.

The two – he’s 89 and she’s 87 – might not have met if not for the long hours Meredith put in as a nurse in Philadelphia. The frustration of 24-hour workdays was the impetus for her quitting the nursing job and going to work for TransWorld Airlines (TWA) in 1939. Frank, a Air Force graduate from Pensacola, Fla., was a co-pilot on the new pressurized-cabin airplanes.



“I helped her make upper berths,” he said of the sleeping quarters available in the aircraft.

“I couldn’t reach the far corners,” Meredith explained. “I thought he’d be handy around the house for bed-making purposes. That was the start of it.”



It wouldn’t be that easy, Frank learned.

“I kept proposing to her and proposing to her and she wouldn’t marry me,” he said.

“I had vacation time,” she interjected. “I didn’t want to lose it.”

“I told her life with me would be one big vacation,” he continued. “I dazzled her with my income. I made $190 a month. I told her she’d live a life of ease and affluence.”

The two finally found two days they both had off work and rushed to Missouri to get married, with only Meredith’s mother, father and aunt in attendance. The bride wore a brown wool dress.

“She said she’d marry me on the first cool day in Missouri,” Frank said. “I knew it was true love when she wore that wool dress.”

The couple will celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary in September.

Forced into early retirement – at the time, the airlines didn’t allow married women to work – Meredith settled into that life of ease and affluence, raising children Bill, Jean and Paul in Kansas City, Mo.

The couple spent what free time they could find traveling the world over.

“We’d just pack up the kids and fly to Tokyo, Cairo,” Frank said. “Once we were supposed to go to Spain and Portugal, and we studied all about those two countries, and we got to the airport and we couldn’t get on the plane. So we went to Milan, instead.”

It’s that kind of flexibility – the give and take – that’s made their relationship work over six decades that saw them through World War II, the Fabulous Fifties, the Age of Aquarius and the go-go ’70s. The hardest challenge the couple faced was being apart when Frank had to go to the Philippines at the end of World War II.

“It’s not just being in love, but liking each other,” Meredith said of their longevity together. “It’s been so good, sometimes we can’t believe it.”

The couple visited Summit County in 1970, and within 30 minutes decided it was where they’d spend the rest of their days.

“We said, “This is it’; we fell in love with it, and we’ve been in love with it ever since,” said Meredith, reminiscing about the long hauls to Kremmling and Leadville for groceries, before the days of Interstate 70, and when there was only one doctor in town.

In their 33 years here, the Burchams have been involved in the Breckenridge Music Institute and sailing; Frank has pursued bird-watching and Meredith helped found Bristlecone Hospice.

Sunday, the couple will discuss “American Aviation: 1935-1965.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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