Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Early WH Womens' Basketball Phenoms II - Gertrude Van Hoven

As shown in the previous post West Hempstead owns a rich tradition of womens basketball excellence. In the previous post we linked to the website luckyshow.org that contains, among other fun facts, a page dedicated to the 1925 National Champion Hempstead High Women's Basketball team. The photo below, taken from that page, shows the lineup for that team.

The team traveled to Struthers, OH to compete for the Westfield Cup - the national Women's HS basketball championship, and victoriuosly brought home the trophy. The following year, they started their season in spectacular fashion by trouncing the Malverne ladies team 64-5 and went on to a 9-1 record, their only loss coming at the hands of Lynbrook. They were again invited to defend their national title in Struthers, OH, but this time Hempstead superintendent John Calkins refused to let them make the trip.

At least one of these young ladies, 5ft 5in Gertrude Van Hoven on the far right holding the basketball, was from West Hempstead. (Van Hoven was on both the 1925 and 1926 teams).

Gertrude Van Hoven was a middle child born in 1909 who lived in an 1888 home which still stands at 263 Locust Street, together with her parents and two sisters. According to the 1920 federal census, her father, Emil, worked as a machinist for an auto manufacturing company.

Having been born before 1910, she and her older sister Emilie were among the earliest students at the new SD27's Chestnut St. school, built in 1912 and conveniently located right behind their house. Since the local school district did not have a high school back then, WH teens attended Hempstead High until 1952 when a new SD27 high school was built on Nassau Blvd. After graduating high school Gertrude took a trip to Havana and Panama, and when she returned she went to work for the Eastern Air Transport Co., the forerunner to Eastern Airlines. In 1931, Eastern began to experiment with "airplane hostesses" on their commercial flights, women who would "greet passengers...distribute reading matter and cigarettes, and serve light meals and refreshments". The experiment was a huge success, touching off a wave of female applicants to this coveted job, and setting the standard for all modern commercial air travel. Van Hoven was part of this early experiment and was thus among the very first flight attendants to fly the frienly skies. Her short height made her the perfect candidate for navigating the short cabin ceilings of their fleet of 18 passenger Curtiss Condor airplane. Here is a pic of Eastern's Condor -

The photo below gives a good perspective of the interior (though this depicts a model produced a couple years later for American Airlines). Hey, what's that boy doing out of his seat without his belt securely fastened?

No comments: