By Rich Tarrant
After a recent hip replacement I was grousing about my aches and pains to Vermilionite Dawn Full. She looked at me with a “so what?” smile on her face and said, “Getting old ain’t for wimps.” Well, she should know. On January 28th she will celebrate her 100th birthday.
What follows was the third of a series of oral history interviews conducted by the Vermilion Area Archival Society on July 30, 2011. It was first published in the VPJ on 8/21/2011. But no matter: like last week’s column this one is also worthy of repetition. Dawn is, in short, a very interesting personality.
Born Dawn Narcissa Malson she was the only child of Dr. Totten S, and Montros Narcissa Malson in Akron, Ohio on January 28,1918. Following her father’s graduation from dental school the family moved to Cleveland – “to Shaker” (Heights)- where he established his practice. She attended (photo) and graduated from Shaker Heights High.
Not many people know it but Dawn was a pilot and an Air Traffic Controller. While attending Wittenberg college she recalled, “They had civil pilot training. They had [ruled that] ‘so many boys and one girl’ [would be eligible for the training]. I was the ‘one girl‘ so I got my pilot’s license. And then I worked at the Cleveland airport. Well, no, I take that back. I got my license and I worked at the Springfield airport. And after I graduated the head of the airport said that they were looking for people for airway traffic control because you could either have a pilot’s license or you could have a college degree. And since I had both [it was suggested] that I should send my application in. So I did; and, blithely, took off for Long Island to a wedding. My father [then] sent me a telegram, and said to come home because I was to report to the Cleveland airport in July.”
“I had an airplane – a Taylorcraft with slotted wings – along with some of the fellas in the tower. I was in the airway traffic control and they were in the tower. And so during those days – I can’t remember exactly what the years were – but they were having an air race in Miami. You could fly into different airports and you could get gas and oil and they didn’t charge you for it. So this friend of mine – we packed our bags and we started off. We went to Bucyrus, I think. From Bucyrus we went to Cincinnati. After we took off from Cincinnati we ran into a snowstorm, oddly enough. It was just a freak. So we had to land. And that was one of my first”, she chuckled – “well my first on this trip – my first [forced] landing. So she [her friend] had to take everything out. And I had to fly the airplane to a little airport to pick her up. Get loaded again. Then from there we were supposed to go to…ah…it’s at the top of a hill… Can’t think of the name of it. And we were flying along, and it was getting dark, and my airplane wouldn’t go any higher (chuckle). So, uh, we had another forced landing. This was in a field that at that time it had been cotton. But it had been picked so it was an empty field. It rained that night so you couldn’t get the airplane out because it was all stuck in this mud. We spent the night. We went looking around and we stayed in a house – the only one in the whole group that had paint on it. (chuckle) All the little kids came running out saying, ‘Stay at our house.’ So they took us in and we stayed all night. And then the people from the little airport, which wasn’t too far from there, came and picked us up. One of the men was driving to Miami. So we went with him. The people from the [Cleveland] tower were going to go to Miami so they just arranged to pick up the airplane at the little airport. They picked it up, and they flew it down to Daytona Beach, and put it up on its nose when they landed on the beach (chuckle). I did umpteen forced landings and never did anything to it. “
Her work at the Cleveland airport was no less fateful. In fact it led her to meet and marry a Vermilion man named Ray Full (1918-1985). At the airport she explained, “The airway traffic control was upstairs in ‘Sundorff Hanger’. Down below they had the planes for civil pilot training. My husband was an ‘A&E’ – an aircraft and engine mechanic. I used to go upstairs, and the only thing I’d see was his butt hanging out because he was always working on the engines. My supervisor told him that if he would buy a war bond he would get a date with me. So that was where I met him. He bought a war bond. The funny part was that he was a ‘Star Boater’ years back when Al Wakefield and everybody had star boats. My first date with him was on the star boat. Al had named the star boat the ‘Crack of Dawn’. So that did it.”
Tracing the history of Kishman Fish, which Dawn and Ray purchased from Lester Kishman in the early 1970’s, she stated “Kishman Fish was started by Adam Kishman (1831-1901) in 1864. It was four miles east of Vermilion on Lake Erie. I don’t know exactly where it was. And then in 1905 Henry (1858-1948), Adam’s son, located the business on the west bank of the Vermilion River. It expanded. …Lester (1905-2000) took over in 1931 after Henry’s death. And in 1948 he became president.” Ray then, worked for Lester. “He was his accountant. He gradually started managing the company.”
“In about ’70 the commercial fishing was kind ‘a dying down and they closed gillnetting in 1984.” The gill net tugs, she said, “were those “with the covered body. You weren’t’ allowed to use them after 1984, and that really cut back on fishing. Then you go to trap nets.”
She went on to say that Ray “was on the Fish and Wildlife or something like that; something to do with the government. So we would take two trips a year. One trip would be to Washington and the next trip would be to…Seattle or wherever. I know one year we were supposed to go to Hawaii. And Ray said,’ I’m not going to Hawaii’. And I said, ‘Oh yes you are. The government’s paying for it and we’re going.’ It didn’t pay for me, but it paid for him. So when we were leaving I said, ‘How much money have you got?’ And he said, ‘Twelve dollars and 95 cents.’ And I said, ‘You better go down to Kishman and get some money because you’re not using any of mine.’ After he got to Hawaii he had a wonderful time.” But they did work she said. “They were all conferring with Canada and all the different fisheries. I’m sure they – the whole group – got together and passed different laws.“
There are many accomplishments in Dawn’s life that she didn’t have the time to touch on during this interview. What, for instance, might anyone say about his or her life in 30 minutes or less? As English author Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689 1762) so aptly put it “Life is too short for a long story.” And so it is. Happy 100th Dawn!
Ref: Published in the Vermilion Photojournal 8/251/11; Special Thanks to Dawn Full.
Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant has agreed to share many of the photos and stories he has acquired from the former Vermilion News and other local sources with the readers of the Photojournal. Rich is the youngest son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at: email@example.com