There was no Accelerated Freefall program, no AAD's, no Dytters, no altimeters and no packers. Your main canopy was a 28-foot round. Your reserve was a 24-foot flat circular canopy. All of which were purchased as "military surplus." And then, you had to convince some pilot that it was a good idea to take you up to five thousand feet, open the door, fling yourself out and learn.
Remembering Buquor And
The World's First 8-Man Star
By Brian Williams
Making the world's first 8-man star on October 17th, 1965 left us all with a great satisfaction. Once on the ground, we danced, howled, and whooped. It took us, the Arvin jumpers, about a year and a half of trying virtually every weekend to finally do it. The pictures of the jump that appeared nationwide were shot by Bob Buquor.
The following names are of the jumpers in order of hook-up: Gary Young, Al Paradowski, Bill Newell, Mitch Poteet, Bill Stage, Jim Dann, Don Henderson, and Brian Williams. I wrote a three page article about the jump for "Parachutist" magazine.
However, let's go back to the spring of 1960 where I first met Bob Buquor at Lake Elsinore, California. I had just paid my money to Florence Perkins for a ticket for a plane ride to 7000 feet. Florence's husband, Cy and son Larry were the owner/operators of Skylark Airport in Lake Elsinore, where skydiving started in Southern California. As I turned to leave, a nearby jumper asked me why I went so high. I kidded that I was practicing my turns and back loops. I smiled and mentioned that it also gave me plenty of time to get stable and find my ripcord. He seemed surprised and laughed. He said his name was Bob Buquor and had made his first jump in 1958. I told him I was Brian Williams, and that I had made my first jump in 1951. At the time, both of us had only a hand-full of jumps. I convinced Bob to jump with me and another jumper and thus started a long, close friendship.
We hit it off from day one and soon were joined by Wes Drennan, Dave Keaggy, and Marcel Larochel. We became the founders of the Parabats Skydiving Club. We weren't particularly interested in jumping from an airplane at 2500 feet and landing on a target. We were making most of our jumps from 12,500 and wanted to fly like a bird. We had a lot to learn, but by trial and error Wes and I made our first hook-up.
We found ourselves jumping at various D.Z s in Southern California; Piru, Perris, Lancaster, Avenal, Taft, ocean jumps, and so on. It was at Avenal that Bob, Wes and I made our first 3-way and later, with Dave, our first 4-way. We were jumping with another club called the "Condors" from Pasadena and spent a year jumping at Avenal and having a great time. Buquor fell madly in love with Joann. The people of Avenal treated us like royalty, and I started instructing a few of them in the sport of skydiving.
I don't know if we did this purposely or if it just happened by accident, but we had the heavy jumpers exit last. I recall Marcel, who had a few extra pounds, exiting last one day and narrowly passing us like a freight train going to hell; scared the poop out of us. He never went last again.
Unbelievable as it seems, we did not make the connection with the difference in our individual weights and body mass etc. I would come to realize this factor years later. We were just a group of people who liked to fling ourselves out of airplanes.
Oh yeah, in those early days, many thought we were deranged or had a death wish. Eventually we tired of driving the 240 miles each way to Avenal and moved on.
We wound-up jumping with the Rumbleseat Skydivers and others at Taft and had a blast jumping from a Twin Beech. Those were the days of baton passes, grab ass, and just plain general freefall mayhem.
Dave, being a licensed pilot, bought a Cessna 170 and Bob Buquor and I found ourselves making exhibition jumps from Dave's plane in Mexico. Bob fell madly in love with Teresa. Bob, Dave and I were the only ones left of the Parabats. Bob was taking pictures of people in freefall now, and with his Voitlander camera strapped to the back of his hand, he was getting some great shots. We continued to jump at most of the D.Z.s of the day including Oceanside, Corona, Lost Hills, and others. We returned to Elsinore for a stint and Bob fell madly in love with Beverly. However, after a few months of romancing, Beverly became fearful of meeting with Bob. She was afraid her husband would find out. Shucks!
Late 1963 and early 1964 I was instructing students at Fox Field in Lancaster, California when a female student of mine gave my phone number to a guy she met who was interested in making a parachute jump. I told this guy, Jerry Bird, to come by my house on Saturday morning and he would make his first jump at Fox Field in Lancaster. Without a doubt, he was the best student I ever had. I think it was on Jerry's tenth jump that he, Bob Buquor and I exited from Dave Keaggy's Cessna over Fox Field from an altitude of 10,000 feet. He was on his way to becoming the world's first famous relative work load organizer.
Anyone who has ever jumped at Fox Field will tell you that it's too damn windy most days for the old W.W.II surplus round parachutes. In the spring of 1964, the operators of the skydiving business at Fox (Chuck and Pep Hill) decided to move west to Arvin where there was practically no wind at all. I went to investigate and fell in love with the place, and so did Buquor who fell madly in love with Vanessa and married her.
Dave bought another plane and followed a few months later with a Cessna 195. We had a number of pilots come and go who flew us at Arvin; Gene McMahon with two 195s and Mark for a few weeks with a Twin Beech. However, it was Dave Keaggy with his Cessna 195 and Walt Mercer with his Howard that we jumped from on that special day when we made the first 8-man star, or 8-way star as it is now called.
It became quite apparent that Arvin was attracting some of the top jumpers of the times. We had met some at other DZs. To name a few of the notables over a period of two years were Bill Stage, Mitch Poteet, Gary Young, Jim Dann, Monty Cox, Fritzy Cox, Gary Mills, Inge Onnes, Tom Sitton, jeanni McCombs, Jerry Bird, Paul Gorman, Andy Keech, Bill Newell, Don Henderson, Louie Paproski, Terry Ward, Bob Thompson, Skratch Garrison, Clarice Garrison, John Rinard, Al Paradowski, Donna Wardean, Susie Bateman, Alan Walters, Pete Negrete, Tommy Owens, Joe McKinney, Don Oliva, Don Bradley, Ray "Pelon" Guerrero who headed up the Latin Skydivers Club, and countless others. A new group of jumpers who were interested and eager to learn relative work appeared also. Buquor and I thought we were back in Avenal again. Buquor, by this time, was a professional photographer, and jumpers were eager to get on a load that he was going to photograph.
The first four-way at Arvin was performed by Don Henderson, Mitch Poteet, Louie Paproski, and Andy Keech in the early part of 1964, with Buquor capturing the action with his brownie. In September, John De Porter, Mitch Poteet, Don Henderson, Richard Economy, Lou Paproski, and Bob Thompson made the world's first six-way with Buquor doing the shooting again. Five and six-way stars were now being put together on a regular basis.
Arvin became a jump center that attracted people who sensed that it was the place to be. Unlike Taft or Elsinore with hangers where you could escape from the heat, Arvin had nothing to offer but hard parched dirt with scraggly weeds and bones and blazing sun. Still, there was magnetism in the air. It seemed to take forever, however, before we were able to make an eight-way.
O.K. now, let's go back to about two to three weeks before we made the "Big Eight." It was late in the day, and we had just finished making another failed attempt at an 8-way. We were sitting and discussing the jump trying to figure-out what to try next. Considering the fact that we had a strong 6-way going, it was disheartening to have the seventh and eighth jumper pass by us like a ton of bricks. My mind flashed back to Avenal when Marcel came streaking by us like a freight train. How in hell could I forget something like that; something I'd known for years. I shook my head thinking-Brian, you're a dumb-ass. I felt like a stupid nerd as I spoke to the jumpers and said, "I think we're doing things bass ackwards. What we have are fast fallers and slow fallers. We've been putting the slow fallers out first with the idea that the fast fallers can get to us quickly or before we run out of time. I think the slow fallers should go out last."
There was silence as the words were digested. Finally, Bill Stage said, "Hell, Brian you flyers will never get down to us." Of course I argued that it might take a little longer, but once there, all we had to do was attain a modified French Frog position and hook-up. The idea was kicked around for awhile before everyone thought it was worth trying.
The first thing we knew, it was October 17, 1965, and we had just made the Word's First 8-Man Star. Believe me. We did do some celebrating that night, but why in hell did it take so long for us to figure out what to do? Can I say evolve? May I ask, "Why didn't some bright engineer come along with blue prints for the Mustang car in 1914 instead of letting Henry Ford screw around for all those years with the Model T?" Shall I say, evolve? Why didn't some bright kid come along and say to us that the slow fallers had to wear vests containing lead weights. Jeeze! That's as simple as the nose on your face. It simply had to evolve. I ultimately wore a vest weighing 12 pounds.
I don't remember anyone saying it out loud, but as soon as we landed from the 8-way, we were all in the frame of mind to make a 10-way. Tragically, Bob drowned off the coast of Malibu during the filming of the movie "Don't Make Waves" in July 1966. As a result, we were understandably bummed out for months afterwards.
I will add that jumping with such a fine group of people has had a lifelong beneficial effect on us all. There is one person I shall mention who has spent most of his adult life as the Administrator of the Bob Buquor Memorial Star Crest awards. Yes, I'm talking about my close buddy, Bill Newell. Bill thought that Bob Buquor had not received the recognition that he deserved as a skydiving photographer and therefore started the Star Crest Awards in his memory. Bill has done an outstanding job these many years, and I commend him for it.
Let me close by mentioning that the Arvin Good Guys went on to make the World's First 10-man Star on July 2nd, 1967 at Taft, CA. The participants were: Gary Young, John Rinard, Clark Fischer, Jim Dann, Bill Stage, Jerry Bird, Terry Ward, Bill Newell, Brian Williams, and Paul Gorman. I'm proud to say Jerry Bird and Paul Gorman were former students of mine.
Clear skies, Brian SCR-8 SCS-0
About the author:
Brian Williams is a man with a wide area of interests. He has been involved in helmet diving, scuba diving, powerboat racing, hang gliding, photography, raising pigeons, water skiing, motorcycling, woodworking, stereo sound systems, running, swimming, bicycling, skydiving, and is a published book author. He has owned ten boats down through the years navigating to ports from Oakland to San Diego.
Brian made his last jump in 2003 in which a rough landing gave him back problems. He now devotes more time to scuba diving, wood working, and bicycling, but he still stays in contact with his skydiving friends and is honored to be involved with so many fine people in the skydiving community.