Selma Caroline Olsen was born in 1905 in Mason
City, Nebraska the youngest of a family of eight. In 1910, her
family moved to Hansford County Texas where they were part of the
Oslo Community. Selma attended school in Oslo, Texas and Goodwell,
Oklahoma and then graduated from high school in Tyrone, Oklahoma.
|In 1926, Selma met Harold English, and,
on 13 May 1927, they married in Hereford, Texas. Harold was a
full-time brick layer and, although he possessed a commercial
pilot license with an instructor's rating, he was only a
part-time pilot. Harold flew out of Bivins property on E 10th
|In order to further their
flying ambitions, Harold and Selma would spend their weekends
barnstorming (flying boldly and, some thought, dangerously) at
towns around the Texas Panhandle. On Sunday afternoons while
Harold was flying, Selma would be at their car selling candy,
ice cream and ride tickets--anything to make an honest dollar
that they could invest in a better plane.
|In 1928, Harold and Selma leased the
Bivins Flying Field (which was located northwest of Amarillo)
from Jude Bivins and renamed the field English-Bivins Airport.
Because the field was experiencing tremendous growth with
cross-country flights needing fuel and service, and, with locals
residents needing flight instruction and charter flights, Selma
assumed the full-time job of handling all administrative duties
of the airport.
|Also in 1928, Selma and
Harold joined brothers Thornton and Jimmy Oxnard to form the
Amarillo Airport Corporation. In 1929, the corporation made a
bid to manage Amarillo's new Municipal Airport. Upon being
rejected by the city, the Corporation bought 740 acres of land
seven and one half miles east of the city, within three months
built one of the nation's finest airports and, on 1 September
1929, open the new English Field and closed English-Bivins
|Within three years, through the efforts
of the Corporation, English Field was recognized as one of the
finest airports in the nation and was lauded in two national
aviation magazines. Selma oversaw the operation of three major
airlines, eight planes of the corporation, a major aircraft
repair shop and the ever-increasing business of servicing and
fueling and airline and US Army aircraft. In 1933, due to an air
mail fiasco by the federal government, aviation growth slowed
|In 1935, Harold died in an
auto accident, Jimmy Oxnard withdrew from the Corporation, and,
in a reorganization, Selma, Thornton Oxnard, Fred Smith and
Harold Carter formed Amarillo Flying Service. In 1937, the
English Field terminal building and hanger burned to the ground
putting great stress on the Corporation to accommodate the air
|Late in 1938, the Corporation rebuilt the
terminal, hanger and FBO and, in 1939, Selma became the first
female airport manager. Changes continued--in 1941, Thornton
left to fly for the US Army Air Force, in 1946, the Corporation
sold the airport to the city of Amarillo and, in 1947--English
Field's 17th year--Selma left Amarillo and moved to San Diego to
care for Harold's ailing mother.
|In 1951, Selma moved to
Portland, Oregon to join her sister Ester. There she was active
in fruit production and construction. She never worked in the
aviation business again. Selma passed away in Portland on 27
July 1997 at the age of 93 years.
Selma was truly a pioneer of aviation in the Texas Panhandle.
Additional information regarding
other aviation pioneers may be seen at the Texas Air &
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