Bells (Nostalgia from Bygone Streetcar Days)
By Jerry D. Kelly
From a Baltimore Transit Company's Transit Topics Issue
Just after the Christmas issue of Transit Topics went to press, we received the following letter from Lieutenant Clinton Hammond, the pilot of the Transit Belle, a Flying Fortress in action on bombing raids over Germany and occupied Europe. This Fortress was named "Transit Belle" by Lieutenant Hammond in honor of the Baltimore Transit Company and the design painted on her nose is the work of [Richard Q.] Yardley, the well-known cartoonist of the Morning Sun.
For many months we have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the photographs of the Belle reproduced on this page [next page] and it wasn't until February that we received them even though Lieutenant Hammond sent them long before.
According to Army regulations, pictures of this sort cannot be reproduced in any magazine without the special permission of the public relations officer. This is probably the reason for the delay.
Here is Lieutenant Hammond's letter:
"At last I have the snaps of the Transit Belle. I had to sweat out the photo lab. I have had these snaps censored to get them through the mail. The public relations officer okayed them and told me it would be permissible to reprint them in the Transit Topics. I have a lot more photographs, but I will have to bring them home with me since they since they are mostly action shots. The crew of the Belle and myself are in the best of health. My navigator, Lieutenant Cantrell, was married on the 13th of January. He has also been promoted to First Lieutenant. My new tail gunner, old waist gunner, new ball turret gunner, old radio man, old engineer and new bombardier have all been promoted. I am still sweating out my captain's rating.
Well. I will close for now. Those patches around the Belle are flak holes and the Belle has a patch where I have shaded. Give my regards to all. As ever, Skipper."
Not long after we received the above letter, Lieutenant Hanmond sent us the following one with a description of the war record of the Belle. Here it is:
"Dear Fellow Workers:
I received the copies of Transit Topics and think they were swell all through. Thanks very much for the swell write-up you all gave the 'Belle.' And her crew. We all agree it was swell.
I have been waiting for a reply to the letter and three photographs I mailed you a while back. If you have not received them, call my home in Baltimore and my folks can supply with some of the snaps so you can make copies of them. It could be that the censor has taken them up and is holding them for the duration.
Now for some news of the Transit Belle. She now has completed 82 missions so you can see she really has been doing her share of the work in this man's war. She has had fourteen different engines in her and the Lord only knows how many flak patches all over her. But they only tend to make her fly all the better. She is truly a wonderful airplane.
I have completed my Operational training but I must stay over here on the job as Assistant Operational Officer, checking out the new crews, but not in combat. My combat days are over in this theater. Maybe I will take the Belle over the second name on the P.C.C. car. I do want so much to come home, but like the other boys over here, I still have a job to do. Even if it is behind a desk. It takes all kinds of jobs to finish this war and it looks to me like it is in its last stages.
I shall close for now with best regards to all. Here's hoping the "Transit Queen" can do as much good in the war as her big sister has and will do. As ever, Skipper Hammond."
A short while back, the Information and Service Department had a large quantity of pocket-size calendars printed bearing reproductions of Transit Belle and the Transit Queen's designs, along with brief write-ups about each. These calendars were distributed throughout the offices in the Equitable Building and each department was given a supply of them to insert in each piece of mail sent out from the offices. In this way, the Belle and Queen were introduced to thousands of friends and patrons of the Transit Company not only here in Baltimore, but throughout the country. These attractive calendars caused quite a bit of comment. President Bancroft Hill was particularly intrigued and delighted with them. He carried a supply of them in his pocket all day long and gave them to everyone he met in his travels around the system.
Another interesting byline on the Transit Belle. Last month the Information and Service Department received a request by postal for a copy of the Transit Belle in full colors from Mrs. E.C. Baggett of Bay Minette, Alabama. Mrs. Baggett is the sister of Sergeant Harold A. Lowry, first engineer of the Transit Belle.
(Reprinted with permission from the Baltimore Streetcar Museum's quarterly newsletter, The Live Wire.
Copyright 1999, The Baltimore Streetcar Museum, Inc. All rights reserved.)
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