Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Such a romantic time period.

Gail Chumbley


She is bent over a small Mercury outboard, hoisting the little motor in and out of the water. Her hair is wrapped in a kerchief, much as it had been when she wired mine sweepers at the Bremerton shipyards during the war. Ailene has a cigarette in her pressed lips, Humphrey Bogart style. Her black and white knit shirt has a small pocket on the left sleeve, over her bicep, and tucked inside is a pack of cigarettes–her brand, Kent. At the end of her day on the lake, my grandmother regularly downed a couple of high balls of Canadian Club, on the rocks.

My life with my grandmother has aided tremendously with the writing of River of January.  and the sequel, The Figure Eight. She, like Helen and Chum held lifetime memberships in the “Greatest Generation,” so her attitudes, word choices, and music preferences shape my thinking while…

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Hey, I’ve Got a Better Idea


You’re on vacation! Kick back and read River of January on Kindle!

HC Lippiatt and Mr. King

In May, 1940, as British and French troops gathered on the beaches of Dunkirk waiting for a miracle, America remained lulled in complacency. Mont Chumbley, the primary figure in the memoir, “River of January: Figure Eight,” continued his sales flights for Waco Aircraft Company. The war came to the US a year and a half later.


This is Mont Chumbley’s logbook, recorded in early May, 1940. Two fellow pilots appear in this ledger, inscribed nearly 76 years ago. First, HC Lippiatt of Los Angeles, was best known as the largest aircraft distributor on the West Coast. Lippiatt specialized in Waco airplanes, and that fact frequently brought Waco sales representative, Chumbley to Lippiatt’s Bel Air “Ranch.” Another historic figure was Hollywood director, Henry King, best known for films such as “Twelve O’Clock High,” “The Sun Also Rises,” and “Carousel.” Chum explained that he sold King a Waco plane, and in the transaction the two men became fast friends.

For one week in May of 1940, Chum spent time with both airplane enthusiasts.

Henry King (with Tyrone Power & Patsy Kelly)    The grand “ranch” of HC Lippiatt

The story behind this logbook entry appears in “River of January, The Figure Eight,” part two of the story, out this summer.

Gail Chumbley is the author of River of January, a memoir. Also available on Kindle. River of January: Figure Eight, part two of the story can be found at

The Laundry Room

Almost finished with book two, River of January, “The Figure Eight.”

Gail Chumbley


Initially this post was supposed to discuss what a slob I’ve become since I began writing. I planned on stressing how my story, told in River of January has consumed my days and has trumped any other daily concern–in particular bothering to cook meals or even getting dressed each morning. Then I happened to catch Tina Fey in an interview on Inside the Actors Studio. I like Tina Fey. She reveals her honest opinions with no airs or pretense, openly laughing at her own shortcomings. This particular episode was clearly a rerun, with James Lipton discussing and sharing a clip from her newest film “Admission,” released back in 2013.

This taped exchange between Lipton and Fey eventually transitioned from her many successes on the big and small screens to authoring her first book, Miss Bossy Pants. She confessed that the writing process was surprisingly more difficult and caused her…

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