Where It All Began...
By Doris Abbate
Long Island Chapter Historian
99 NEWS Magazine
The Long Island Chapter hosted a gala Fall New York-New Jersey Section meeting in October  in Ronkonkoma, Long Island to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of The Ninety-Nines' first meeting where it all began.
"Sadly, this is the first year we must celebrate without even one of our beloved Charter Ninety- Nines," lamented Long Island Chapter Historian Doris Abbate, who, as luncheon speaker, provided a backward glance at Ninety-Nines' history that began on NY-NJ Section turf.
The Long Island Chapter recreates the first Ninety-Nines meeting held on November 2, 1929. From left, sittings, Dorothy Campbell, Joyce Malkmes, Mae Smith, Doris Abbate, Pat Ohlsson, Carol Levine. Standing: Bozena Syska, Christine Fry, Jill Hopfenmuller, Nancy Neumann, International President Elaine Morrow and Governor Mary Sullivan.
On November 2, 1929, 26 licensed women pilots flew, drove, took a train and walked here to Valley Stream, Long Island for that memorable meeting and their first photo in a hangar at Curtiss Field. Serving tea from a delicate teapot and cookies on a spare parts wagon were Fay Gillis Wells, in her helmet and flight suit, and Viola Gentry, with a bouquet of mums presented her as she left the hospital after a plane crash while attempting an endurance record. "The women are going to organize—we don't know what for," a skeptical columnist bluntly observed.
The Long Island Chapter, as host of the Fall Section meeting, reenacted that first Ninety-Nines meeting dressed up as the Charter 99s for a photoop as President Elaine Morrow cheered on, just as they did in 1982 as host of the Fall Section meeting at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. That photo of the Long Island Chapter Ninety-Nines in their Charter gear made it to the cover of the December 1982 issue of the 99 News.
Elaine, along with Past Governor Linda Scully, installed the NY-NJ leadership team: Governor Mary Sullivan, Vice Governor Barbara Harris- Para, Secretary Martha Anne Hull, Treasurer Shirley Onacilla and Directors Joanne Campbell, Diana Dade and Sandra Brown. She joined in congratulating the Long Island Chapter on its 75th Anniversary celebration immersed in Long Island heritage.
The event was held at the Sayville Inn Banquet, the site of Chapter Charters for both the Long Island Chapter and the Garden State Chapter on October 10, 1965. Other highlights included a 56th Fighter Group Sunday Brunch surrounded by the aviation history of WWII; a trip to the Air Power Museum Republic Airport in Farmingdale, featuring Long Island memorabilia from WWII, WASPs and lunar space; and finally a climb to the top of the Old Republic Airport Control Tower.
Elaine thanked the NY-NJ Section for hosting the memorable 75th Anniversary Convention held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It has become a Ninety-Nines tradition that the NY-NJ Section host the International Conferences where it all began on each 10th anniversary in years ending with a "9" and always highlighting our living Charter Ninety-Nines.
The 20th and 40th anniversary Conferences and formal dinner dances were elegantly held at New York City's Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The 50th Anniversary was held in Albany, New York. The 60th Anniversary was celebrated at New York City's Broadway Marriott Marquis in 1989. On the 50th Anniversary, November 2, 1979, NY-NJ hosted a multi-media event with NBC's Chuck Scarborough in Valley Stream at which the Long Island Chapter presented a photo-etched bronze plaque of that first meeting honoring the Charter Ninety-Nines. It was placed at the site of the first meeting.
Charter 99 Neva Paris wrote in December 1929, "With such splendid response for membership, we feel sure our organization is destined to accomplish meritorious service." And Amelia Earhart stated, also in 1929, "If enough of us keep trying, we'll get someplace." And how!
On this 75th Anniversary, no doubt the Charter Ninety-Nines as well as some of the skeptics look down on us with pride. We'll always miss those courageous Ninety-Nines women. We're proud to renew our vow to carry the torch inspired by our mentors.