Neta Snook

Neta Snook Southern (1896-1991), pioneer aviatrix, moved to Ames with her parents while in her teens.  She graduated from Ames High School in 1915, and after attending a girls' finishing school, attended Iowa State College.  Neta's love of flying stemmed from her father's love of automobiles.  Reading about balloons and airplanes in the college library, she became convinced she wanted to fly.  After attending flying schools, Neta became a pilot, and is believed to be the first licensed woman pilot in Iowa.  During the first World War, she worked for the British Air Ministry in Elmira, New York.  After the war she brought a wrecked Canadian “Canuck” plane to her home at 828 Wilson Avenue, rebuilt it and took passengers on flights over the town.  She also barnstormed the country,  taught students to fly, and did aerial advertising.  She later shipped her plane to California and became a licensed flight instructor, with Amelia Earhart her most famous student.  For two years she operated a commercial flying field in California.  Neta retired to a California ranch, sometimes finding time to tour the lecture circuit speaking on her aviation experiences. (Farwell T. Brown Photographic Archive)

Neta's comments about her baby picture:

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Papa, mama, Neta and Vivian in the side yard

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Snook family in their Kissel Kar in the front yard in Mt. Carroll, Illinois
Papa driving, mama, Neta and Vivian in the back seat

Neta Snook's Ames High School graduation photo
1915

Neta is shown on the Iowa State College campus in the Snook Overland.
Central Hall (Beardshear) is visible in the background.

The campus roads were gravel.  The Main Street of Ames was the only paved street.  That pavement was unusual in that the paving blocks were made of wood.  Oak trees had been sawed in foot-long chunks.  These were split into blocks about eight inches square and set in the street close together with the cross grain facing up.  Sand scattered on top filled the crakcs.  The whole was periodically given a coat of preservative oil.  A streetcar track ran down the middle of Main Street and out to the college campus -- about two miles.

From an early age, Neta's father had let Neta sit on his lap and help him steer his Stanley Steamer up and down the hills of their small Illinois town. As she grew older, he had taught her the inner workings of cars.  Neta now took more than the required load of Home Economics courses so that she could choose courses that I really wanted -- mechanical drawing, combustion engines, and a course in the repair, maintenance and overhaul of farm tractors.

When not in class, I spent much of my time at the college library.  There, I read all about balloons and learned of the daring feats of young Tom Baldwin.... I also read about heavier-than-air craft -- planes that used mechanical power.  Now I really wanted to learn to fly.  Without telling her parents, she applied for admission to the one aviation school in the country (in Newport News, Virginia).  She received notice, however, that no females were allowed.  Early in 1917 Neta happened to see a notice in a Des Moines newspaper for a new flying school in Davenport, Iowa.  It read, Davenport Flying School -- competent instructors -- superb equipment.  We guarantee to teach anybody to learn to fly for only $400.

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