Orange woman, pilot and hunter, celebrates 100 years

Ann Chandler of Orange

by the Bernie Buzz

Anna Chandler was born on March 11, 1922. As a child, Ann lived in Connecticut for a time before the family moved back to Vermont, settling in Rochester. In 1949, Ann moved to Orange, and has made it her home ever since.

Ann is a pilot, earning her commercial rating in 1967 with over 500 hours of flying time. She is a member of the “99’s,” an association of women pilots that counts Amelia Earhart among its founders. She took lessons in aerobatic flying from a World War II pilot in Middlebury. She enjoyed flying her husband, George Smith, and has logged air work and maneuvers in various aircraft types, including the the Piper Cub and Tri-Pacer, the Citabria 7ECA, and the Smith DSA-1 Miniplane biplane.

As an FCC licensed amateur radio operator, Ann really is a jack-of-all-trades. She also enjoys gardening, golfing, and hunting.

Here are some excerpts from the conversation.

(This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

Q: I heard you have a birthday coming up. 100 years?

Ann: Oh, yes, it’s coming up. The 11th of March.

Q: Wow! Congratulations! Well, you’ve led such an incredible life. You served as a pilot. Is that right?

Ann: Oh, yeah, I worked. I said, you know, now that we don’t have the chickens anymore – it costs more to graze them than to have them – I said you know what I’m going to do. I have a little free time. I can do all the work on the farm, and I was going to work at National Life. They said they could use more people. So, I went down, and sure enough I got a job. And I also went out, started flying. I didn’t know too much about flying. My husband was a pilot. He had come out of the war. So, he got to be a pilot. And I got my license and started right in. And I really worked at it, you know? And I enjoyed it. Everything came to me. He bought me an airplane. It was an aerobatic airplane. I could use that for a lot of aerobatics and a lot of different kinds of flying. I would get them right, you know what I mean? So that’s what I did. I really took interest in it. That was my life.

Q: I heard that you were a member of the Ladies 99 Flying Club?

Ann: Yes, the Thirty Threes. That’s what they call themselves. The Thirty Threes. They’re part of the flying outfit of women, you know. And they have organizations all around the country and the world and I’ve been a member of that 50 years. I got my 50-year pin. Yeah, I was busy with that. I was a regular pilot. I could pilot anything. I studied. I really studied hard and everything came to me easy because I got interested in it. This is something that I really enjoyed. I was at the airport a lot and I never grew old of the hangar. I always went and the plane was always outdoors filled with gas. George always filled it with gas. And away I went flying.

Q: So today you live in Orange, Vermont?

Ann: Yes, I do. A little town. A little town of Orange.

Q: How long have you lived in Vermont?

Ann: Oh since ’49. It’s right after the war when we came up from Connecticut. My father passed away in ‘43. We were going to school. You know, we studied. My brother studied too. My brother was an amateur radio operator. We never heard of amateurs up here – it was kind of a back in the hills a little bit. And so it was amusing to hear about that at school. Because we went down to Connecticut and there was half a dozen fellows that were ham operators. And my brother got his license before the war, and went into the war. That was a sad time. During the war, you know. It wasn’t so easy for us. And we came back to Vermont. We all said we were going to end up going back to Vermont and we did. Yeah, it was a wonderful thing going back.

Q: After Connecticut, where in Vermont did you live?

Ann: We lived in Rochester, on a farm with my mother and father. Beautiful town. Just over the hill from a little town, Bethel. Over the mountain. There’s a lot of beautiful places up here. This is where we had a farm and a beautiful garden with veggies. And one thing I do remember very vividly and that’s the pig. We have always had a pig every year. One side was a fence of the garden. And then it was a third fence that I had for my piggy. You know they were as nice to have as a dog, and I love my dog. I have a dachshund. But I got to like those pigs with the blue eyes. I love animals and we had a lot of wonderful little animals.

Q: Well, Ann, I have to ask, what was it like growing up in Vermont back then?

Ann: It was wonderful. Growing up in Vermont. You know, a wonderful thing. Each town had its way of producing people, interesting people. Every town is unique.

Q: I heard that you like to garden, golf, and hunt, is that right?

Ann: Oh yes, I hunted the second year I was here in Vermont, ’49, ’50. And you know what I did? I learned how to shoot. We learned how to shoot bb shots on the photos, the make-believe birds, for fun. And we’d practice like that. A lot of things were just barely starting up at that time. It was the beginning of time for us.

Q: What do you love most about living in Vermont? And how would you describe Vermont for people who have never been here?

Ann: Well, it’s one of the best states I know because I live here. You know, thinking about Vermont. We have our hills and mountains and our streams and our lakes and there’s fishing. My mother loved to fish. My father and my mother both went fishing. You know, Vermont has a lot to offer. And they have the sugar maples where we can make maple syrup. It’s going to start anytime now. As soon as it starts to warm up – it’s been a cold, cold week – and it will be like that for another few days. Then we’re going to have our sugar business. There’s a lot that we’ll be doing for the sugaring and maple syrup. And I think more than usual, there’s more people that are into this kind of thing. And you can’t get over the maple syrup we make up here.

Q: My last question: As you look to the future for Vermonters and our community, is there anything you’re worried about, or anything you’re hopeful for?

Ann: No. Take life the way it comes. And that’s how I wanted to fly.

Q: Well, thank you so much for speaking with us, Ann.

Ann: It’s one of the happiest birthdays I’m having. Having you call. I’ve enjoyed talking with you.

Q: It was wonderful speaking with you, Ann.

Ann: Take care now.

Q: Take care.

Excerpted from the Bernie Buzz, a production of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Categories: History

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