Friday Flashback #366

The Connecticut Air & Space Center in Stratford is a very cool place. It’s one of a very few museums of its type in the country located in an original World War II aircraft factory.

Which made it a very fitting destination for Jean Hunt Tucker the other day.

The 1941 Staples High School graduate — who turns 99 in November — traveled from Florida with her daughter and granddaughter to see the Corsair.

There was a good reason: Jean was one of the first female engineers to work at the plant during World War II. Among her projects: the F4U Corsair.

Joan Tucker with the museum’s Corsair.

After Staples she headed to college in Ohio. After Pearl Harbor — a few months later — she returned to this area. She enrolled at Bridgeport State Trade School, to learn drafting.

At 18 she joined the engineering department of Chance Vought Aircraft in Stratford. She was one of very few females; most of the others were secretaries and clerks.

Jane made drawings of parts for electrical installations — without ever seeing the actual equipment. She also worked on fuselages.

Chance Vought sent her to the Academy of Aeronautics, near La Guardia Airport, to train women entering the industry.

Part of the Connecticut Air & Space Center’s exhibit is dedicated to Joan Tucker.

In 1945 Joan entered Northeastern University, as one of its first class of women.

She married in 1949. When the company moved to Dallas, she stayed here. She earned a degree in industrial engineering, and taught math for 38 years in 3 states and 2 foreign countries.

Thank you, Joan, for your service. Many Westport men served — 20% of the Staples Class of 1943 missed their graduation ceremony, as they were already in the military — but we can’t forget the important contributions of Westport’s women either. (Hat tips: Frank Rosen and Len Roberto)


50 Years Ago This Week (September 22, 1973): Officials announced that a $14 million enlargement plan would be sought for Staples High Schoo.

The proposed additions included an array of new athletic facilities such as a skating rink, 2 new baseball fields, and one additional field for soccer and field hockey.

The additions were never built. The “modernization” of 1978-81 — which connected 9 separate buildings — did include new athletic facilities: a fieldhouse and pool. (Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

The “new” Staples, circa 1959. The auditorium (center left) and gym (largest building in the rear) are the only original structures that remain today. 

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6 responses to “Friday Flashback #366

  1. Thank you Jean Hunt Tucker. I bet you knew my dad and step mother.
    My dad, always fondly know as Cookie Cookman worked for Chance Vought and worked on the F4U Corsairs from the very beginning and stayed on through Sikorsky and the Helicopters. My Step Mother’s maiden name was Elizabeth (Betty) Jane Donahue. I believe she was in Dallas early on during WWII. I am also guessing that you knew Nelson Downs. BJ as we fondly called her was his secretary in her later years with Sikorsky.
    Again, Thank You for your service to this country. You may not have worn a uniform but you did serve getting the pilots up in the air to win the war. I know from listening to my dad that the hours were long and the work exacting.

  2. That was interesting reading about Jean Hunt Tucker. I remember the F4U Corsair with it’s gull wings in my early teens.
    A couple of friends and I had liked the German Stuka Dive Bomber with it’s very pronounced gull wings, but it was German. So it was good to learn of an American plane with a gull wing design that we could be proud of. I rode my bicycle up to Stratford to see one but didn’t really think that would happen.

  3. Wow! What a story and kudos to Ms. Jean Hunt Tucker…way ahead of her time.

  4. Scooter Swanson, Wrecker '66

    Nice flashback Fred. Not sure but I do believe they still had a hockey-skating rink down on Post Road where Good Will is now? Staples hockey played there. Also, wow, considering the chlorine level in the pool at the YMCA downtown then, a new pool would have been nice. Watching a swim meet required a set of goggles to stop from tearing up. Nice post.

    • I can’t remember for sure if that rink on the Post Road was still around in 1973. I do know that the Staples hockey team during my high school years—1968-71—played its home games at a commercial rink in Norwalk and, notwithstanding that disadvantage, won the FCIAC title my senior year. The pool and the field house that were ultimately built I believe were part of the initial plans that were unveiled in ‘73. In my snippet, I focused on the various parts that were announced but never came to fruition. Thanks.

      • The rink was gone prior to 1967. That’s when orchestra leader Lester Lanin turned it into The Nines Club, a short-lived discotheque that he finagled some Long Lots Junior High students (yours truly included) into helping build.

        Among the bands that played there: ? and the Mysterians (“96 Tears”), the Left Banke (“Walk Away Renee”), Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, and the Youngbloods.

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