BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Howie Franklin,  July 6, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Interview with Howie Franklin,  July 6, 2004
July 6, 2004
Mr Franklin was Steward, and later Chief Steward on presidential plane Air Force 1. Served under presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan , Bush and Clinton.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Franklin, Howie Interviewer: Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview: 7/6/2004 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length 54 min

Zarbock: Good Morning. My name is Paul Zarbock, staff person with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. We’re video taping today, Howie Franklin at the Brunswick County Airport. This is part of Special Collections, Activities and Collections at the University. What we are trying to do is to interview extraordinary people, either because of job title, previous activities, history, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Howie Franklin, manager of the airport and retired military noncommissioned officer, has played a very significant part in aviation in this part of the world. And with that brief introduction and indicating that today is the sixth of July in the year two thousand four, I’m going to say, “good morning Howie, how are you?”

Franklin: Good morning.

Zarbock: Please, start off by telling me, how did you get in the…how, where, and when did you get in…get into the Air Force.

Franklin: Nineteen sixty five. There is a very big war going on, Vietnam war that was…affected my life, and was affecting this country, and in August nineteen sixty five, I was living on the south shore of Long Island, I had a great job, had a great life, I was enjoying myself, I was twenty years old and I got a draft notice…came down. It said immediate induction as…when passing physical. So that was a little surprise to me, but it also was sent to several of my other friends. So I went to the Army recruiter, and I said to the…explained to the Army recruiter, I said, “look sir…”, I said, “if I get drafted into the United States Army, it’s two years. If I get enlisted into the United States Army, it’s three years, but if I enlist then it’s a volunteer status, do I get any better chance…if I test properly…any better chance of getting the career field of my wish if I enlist vs. just getting drafted?” I was very lucky, I had a big strong good looking black sergeant who was the head of the recruiters, and he said to me, he said, “son…”, he said, “in the United States Army, no matter how high you test, you always test highest in the infantry”. So that was a serious thing to me. That was a serious thing to me and it was something I had to take under serious consideration and we did a little…my friends and I did a little research and we…we realized…and a lot of people don’t know this today…that the United States Air Force is the only armed forces in the United States of America that the enlisted man is not the primary resource to get shot. In the Air Force, it’s the officer. So that was a strong consideration and we had to enlist for four years, so that was…we were not too sure about that, but we thought it was a better deal than going into the infantry. So we enlisted into the United States Air Force for four years. My first…I…my first experience in the United States Air Force…I put in for food service because I wanted to get a job working on Greek International Lines, a nice steamship company and travel the world. My dream was to see the world. And I told the owner of the steamship company if I went in the Air Force and I put in for food service and I spent four years in the Air Force that he could elevate me in a good position on these nice passenger lines and get to see the world. Well, anyway, my first experience in food service in the Air Force was not too what I was used to. I used to…I at one time worked at a private yacht club on Fire Island for the jet set…the ultra jet set at the time and interesting enough, we used to serve sixty five people, we used to buy our groceries back on the mainland, put ‘em on a boat, bring ‘em over to this island on Fire Island. And when I ended up on Air Force One we used to serve sixty five people, we used to go shopping in the grocery store, so it was a very similar situation except we were going to an airplane vs. going to this private yacht club. But that experience I had in the private yacht club gave me an edge compared to my counterparts in the military. They had the experience only what they experienced and learned in the Air Force. So anyway, I put in for food service, I got food service. It was not what I expected it to be. It was…it was almost like KP and my supervision supervisors were not up to what I considered ideal and anyway ended up in an inflight kitchen on Guam preparing all the meals for the B-52 crews that were going over to bomb Vietnam. They were boxed lunch type meals. And the flight crews would come in, and they liked my personality and liked me and asked me if I wanted to cross train and be a flight attendant working in base flight on Guam. Well I asked them what I had to do to do this and they told me that I had to extend my four year enlistment by eight years. I said, “well, I can’t do that, I’m not gonna stay over four years”. And they said, “well let’s take you on one flight to see how you like it”. Now, you have to think about…if you understand I was on Guam for nine months, and there was nothing but a bunch of GI’s on Guam. It was pretty. You worked seventy two hours a week. And they put me on a flight and I went to Okinawa for twenty four hours. Then went to Taipei Taiwan for five days. The flight crew and the majors and the lieutenant colonels treated me like a…like a de…like a reasonable person. They treated me well.

Zarbock: What was your rank Howie at that time?

Franklin: I was a buck sergeants, three striper. And…and I came back from this incredible trip seeing these two wonderful places, compared to Guam and I found out that, number one, they paid me to go, I couldn’t imagine that, they actually paid me per diem to go on the trip and they were gonna give me flight pay, and it was a wonderful experience. And I was not getting to see the world, only that which I wanted originally to do, but only a lot faster than being on the ship. So I fell in love with it and my needle…I used to say that I hated the United States Air Force became to I love the United States Air Force. From Guam, I worked for a general and…General Gillam, three star Air Force General who’s the head of ____ in southeast Asia. One of my Cinderella experiences is…is I was a buck sergeant and the general I had been working for for a couple of months came in the galley one day and said to me, “how’s everything going Howie?” I said, “general, I’m… it’s fine with me, I’m having a great time, I hope I’m taking care of you well”. He said, “oh, you’re taking care of me wonderfully, I appreciate it very much”. And a flight engineer came into the galley about the same time and said “we’ve got one problem with sergeant Franklin”. And general said “what’s that sir?” he said, “well…”, he said, “when we go to Yukoto Japan his rank is not high enough to get him in the club with us”. So the general said, “we’ll fix that” and he promoted me so I could go to the NCO club. And which was real special because I remember walking around looking at my arm…I was under three years in the military, a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force on flying status, very prestigious to me and really I appreciated it very much. Well from there the general later on wanted me to go to the presidential eighty ninth and recommended me to do that and I went to Omaha for about a year and then they shipped me to presidential…special missions…special air missions, Andrews Air Force base, nineteen seventy.

Zarbock: Let me take you back for a minute to the ge…when you were flying with the general. What were your specific duties, with food preparation, or service, or…specifically what were…?

Franklin: Yea the specific duties…we had…we had several, about five airplanes for our use base flight and we either flew with the general or we flew people on R and R and we took them to places like Hong Kong and Taiwan, and Philippines, and Okinawa and it was…Japan. And then…and then…or else the general would go out on a cru…on a trip and we would travel with him. But my specific duties…one is make sure the airplane was in good shape as far as interior wise and number two, plan a meal for the crew and purchase that meal and put it on the airplane. Order the meals for the passengers. I would also…if we were going on R and R to…to Hong Kong, I would find out how many families, how many single people and I’d wire ahead and say to the hotels and make hotel reservations for the passengers. So it was a wonderful experience at seeing that wonderful part of the world. It was just fantastic. It was…it was almost as good as being on Air Force One actually. Wonderful wonderful experience. And…and working with people that appreciated me, that was a thing that happened to me all my life. I…I learned early on, if you do a good job for people, and…and you try hard, and…and…the general response is they appreciate you. And that’s carried me a long ways. And some people are not going to appreciate you, but generally they do, and they did, and that’s what led me to the position that I even have right now. So…

Zarbock: Well…so we’re…tell me again…was Eighty Second, is that what you call it?

Franklin: Eighty Ninth.

Zarbock: Eighty Ninth.

Franklin: Eighty Ninth Military Airlift Wing which is a special air missions in Andrews Air Force Base. Got there in nineteen seventy.

Zarbock: Are you married now, by the way?

Franklin: Yes. No, I was not married. I got there and I was single. And I immediately starting flying these 707’s and flying Congressional trips with…they call ‘em in the news Congressional junkets and things of that nature, but Secretary of States, Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Education, and traveling with these people. Again, my experience that I had at Fire Island Talsman Yacht Club was essential to me because it gave me an edge again. And dealing with this caliber of people and the experience they had…and also I can’t emphasize…and I’ll emphasize this again…the fact that I understood that if you give good service, people will appreciate you. There was counterparts that didn’t feel that way. They looked at the job as a job and this is the way it is and that’s what we’re going to do and that’s all we’re going to do, and I looked at it differently. I looked at…when that airplane took off, I considered us a dinner theater. And I would say to my people the curtain goes up and you’re on stage. And we’re not just here to feed the people, we’re here to entertain the people, we’re here to give the people good service. And…and as I went along I got more and more people to buy into that, and when they did, they found out it worked and they were appreciated very much and it was very important to them. So the Eighty Ninth Military Airlift Wing…I’m flying out sighting in nineteen seventy…flying with Vice President Agnew. I remember traveling with that gentleman around the world. I remember flying with Secretary William Rogers who was Secretary of State and…

Zarbock: What was Vice President Agnew like? A little vignette would…would be appreciated.

Franklin: Well…you know, that was my first Vice President I ever worked for, so…he was a gentleman. And he was very…very first class. He traveled first class. He…he treated us with great respect, again the appreciation…if you did a job, he appreciated it. But we would…we were traveling well and he liked to go to Greece, of course, because that was his nationality. And if we went out on a trip and it was working hard and the last two days he’d make a…take a rest stop and to rejuvenate himself and we may got to Rome or we may go to Athens and things of that nature. And the crew appreciated that. And…and he took good care of himself and he took good care of the crew. He also…one of the quirks that he liked…cause he’s from Maryland…and we had to have Maryland backfin crab on the airplane all the time. And I would have it and we would serve it, and sometimes we couldn’t keep it fresh, we’d have to freeze it and we’d put it on dry ice. And one of the gentlemen that worked with him closely saw that I was defrosting this Maryland backfin crab and he said, “now, the Vice President just doesn’t eat frozen crab”. And I said, “well, I’m sorry sir, he’s been eating it for the last five days and he thought it was wonderful!” By the time we season it properly with some good Chesapeake Bay seasoning, he was very happy with it. And…but he was very…very…it was a…he was a great Vice President to work with. William Rogers is the first Secretary of State that I traveled with and an experience that I had with him has been long lasting and it actually has something to do with what’s going on in the world today. We were with William Rogers and we were at President…I mean, King Hussein’s palace of Jordan, and we were at…the crew was invited with the Secretary of State to join the Secretary of State’s group to a state dinner. And they set us with good protocol with King Hussein’s flight crew. And he liked to fly. He flew airplanes. And his flight crew was sitting down having dinner with the Secretary of State’s flight crew and a gentleman, a Jordanian who was educated extensively in the United States…I think he went to Harvard Business School…spoke probably better English than I do…while we were having dinner, he brought to my attention that “you Americans…” and this was in the early seventies…he said, “you Americans are amazing people”, he said, “you know, you’re so many nationalities, you’re so many different races, you’re so many different ethnic groups, you’re so many different religious groups, and you’re living and co-existing peacefully with each other”. Well that startled me a little bit because I was living in Washington DC at that time and there was a very social upheaval. There was race demonstrations. There was anti-war demonstrations. And he noticed my facial expression when he said we were living and co-existing peacefully. So he immediately responded to my nonverbal communication by saying, “I know what you’re thinking, but you guys…you Americans are not killing each other”. He said, “we the Arab nations…”, now this is according to him…he said, “we’re the same race, the same ethnic group, the same religious group, we’re different tribes. Just different tribes. And the prejudice between these different tribes is immense and there’s been prejudice between the different tribes for thousands of years. And we are not only prejudice but we…we also tend to fight with each other and kill each other. So you Americans, yes, you are amazing people”. And he felt very strongly about that. That’s something I’ll never forget for as long as I live. And it’s true. When you have to compare, you know, what we’re doing and what other people are doing. We may not do everything perfect, and we may not do everything right, but I’ve traveled in almost every country in the world, I think we do it better than most people. So, that was one of the experiences traveling throughout the world. And that’s why I wanted to see the world to get those kind of experiences.

Zarbock: How many presidents did you serve Howie? …while on active duty.

Franklin: I was very, very privileged to…to be on Air Force One and hired in nineteen seventy six and I initially worked for President Ford and I worked for President Carter, and President Regan, and President Bush, and President Clinton. He probably was guilty, but he was a nice guy. It was…it was…now I was the flight attendant…I was a flight attendant on Air Force One for all that period of time, at the end of the Bush administration I took over as the Chief Flight Attendant. And I was the Chief Flight Attendant into the Clinton administration. So I wasn’t the chief flight attendant through the whole time I was a flight attendant. I had wonderful bosses. Charlie Palmer, one of the greatest pers…people I ever worked as the Chief on Air Force One. John Hague, great people, set great examples, set great standards. And they were a wonderful part of my life then and I still hold them in very high esteem.

Zarbock: Now you’re writing a book aren’t you?

Franklin: Yea, we’re talking about writing a book that says Presidential…or Sky Tales. And we’re just gonna tell tales. We’re just gonna tell stories that happened behind the scenes and at the same time we’re gonna send…say nice things about our president. We don’t have anything terrible to say. There’s probably a little bit of off color things in there that…that the writer that’s writing with me demands to have, but I hope that…if I have anything to do with it, which I do have a lot to do with it, over eighty percent of it is all gonna be pleasant, humorous anecdotes and twenty percent will probably be things that…

Zarbock: A little racier.

Franklin: A little racy, yea. But nothing, nothing terrible.

Zarbock: Well, President Ford…then President Ford, was always…has been routinely defined as a really kind hearted guy. And pretty much of an athlete too. Was that your experience?

Franklin: Yea, absolutely, I mean, he was what I consider homespun Michigan fellow. Very family oriented, his wife and his children traveled with us. A very close family network, homespun, regular guy, appreciated the crew, never passed the cockpit, walked on the airplane, always would stop and say hello to the boys and Colonel Mack and “how ya doin?” And…and also a great athlete, I mean, he…when something happens to a president and…as example, President Ford tripped or he hit somebody with a golf ball and all of a sudden the press rolls it to this one direction, the presidents can’t answer that. They can’t go out and defend themselves, they just have to go with it. And myths are created that way, but the reality is that President Ford, I mean, he was a great snow skier, he’s a good golfer, he’s a great athlete, and probably one of the better athletes of all the presidents that we had, yet he had this myth around him that he was a klutz. I know he hit his head going in and out of the helicopter, I know I’ve hit my head going in and out of the helicopter, so did everybody else. And I think it was in Austria that he fell and because of an athlete…because he was an athlete he was able to roll and get up and things of that nature. So, yea, he…he…great…we…the crew was very comfortable with him and very sad to see him leave…leave the presidency. One of the things that happened to me is when he…first trip he ever flew as a Vice President, I was a steward that took care of him on the trip, and then the last trip he ever flew as President, we came back from Colorado, from Vale to Washington and I also…I took care of him on that trip, so that’s a little bit of the history that had happened. And we were sad, I mean, we were losing…losing this wonderful man and it was sad for the whole crew. And we didn’t deal with politics. We’re not talking about republicans or democrats, we’re talking about people and that you…that you get comfortable with and they get comfortable with you.

Zarbock: I think that’s an important point. The air crew did not shift when a different political party came in. Is that correct?

Franklin: They did in the past but when the Carter administration came in we convinced the Carter administration to have continuity. To change…to bring a new administration in and then to change a whole crew, that’s too great of a learning curve on both parts. On Air Force One we had a regular turnover rate, probably equal if not greater than civilian turnover rate, but we were…it was very valuable to have, say, in the maintenance, or have the crew that knew what they did in the past and have that continuity available. As an example for maintenance, if something happened to that airplane and something may happen to it every six years, to have somebody around that fixed it six years ago was very valuable to the pilot. To have people that were not star-struck with new presidents or movie stars that were con…were…knew how to handle the people professionally and comfortably. On the airplane, you know, my job as a flight attendant…we like to create an atmosphere comfortable yet professional. When the president walks in and off that airplane…whatever he…if he trips, or he smiles, or he doesn’t smile, he’s…he’s subject to that in the press. But when he walks on the airplane we want him to be able to do what you like to do when you get home, take your shoes off and get comfortable and not have that…that pressure on. And he needs to have that and we tried to create that on Air Force One.

Zarbock: Now the Press was also part of the…of the entourage that would follow the…the president on Air Force One?

Franklin: Yea, we had…we had…we traveled usually with…on a big 747 I think we had fourteen press. On the other one we had somewhere around ten, I’m not sure…I can’t, I’d have to think about it a little bit, but there’d always a…an ABC, a CBS, or an NBC reporter with a camera crew. There’d be a…a UPS and an AP reporter with a photog…still photographers. And there would be…if you were going to Los Angeles, there’d be a local Los Angeles Times. If you were going to New York, there may be a Boston Herald. So they would rotate that around. Helen Thomas, Senior White House Correspondent on the airplane. I flew with her for many, many years and she was the…kinda like the…she was the strength and the senior person on there. Just to branch out…you know, Air Force One’s main mission is to provide secure and safe air transportation for the president. The next part of the job is to try to provide the same services that the White House provides the president when he’s in the White House, only on Air Force One, those services are available as he travels throughout the world. The telephones…secured voice so the president could pick up the telephone and talk on the telephone and no one can intercept the conversation. Be able to tell…send emails…used to be teletyped…to be able to do speeches and things of that nature. So we try to provide the same service. And the 747 does a wonderful job. The 707 did a good job, but it can’t compare to what the 747 can do…capability.

Zarbock: Did the…did the press have free access to the president? How…how was communication arranged between the press and the president? Did the president invite the press to come up or did the press knock on the door and say “if you’ve got a few minutes, we’d like to talk”.

Franklin: Well the president…there was a movie Air Force One…very similar to that. And I’ll give you a little tour on the airplane. Up front is a private area for president, and then there is an Oval Office, there’s a bathroom and then the Oval Office for the president, then a medical annex as we go back through the airplane. Front galley, senior staff area, a working staff area, a VIP guest area over the wing, and then the secret service area and then the press area in the back of the airplane. For the press area…press to leave that area…they were not allowed to leave unless they were invited. And it would happen from time to time. The president would invite the press up or the president would come back. I know the president…several presidents used that opportunity to go back and speak to the press on taxiway…we’d be taxiing the airplane leaving Andrews Air Force Base and he would use this strategically to be able to go back there and the airplane’s taxiing and getting ready to take off. Well, if he decided to stop the conversation, he’s could say “well, I gotta go” at any time, because we’re getting ready to take off and things of that nature. And that’s a strategic method of doing it. I know one of the things that I found out dealing with…listening to the president dealing with the press, he’s got more control than you think. If somebody asks some questions and their in the press that were very…that he just…very distasteful…not has anything to do with factual questions, but a distasteful something that was not what he thought responsible question, all he had to do was refused to call on that person. And once you refuse to call on ‘em, the person becomes…you know, it’s mute…it’s…so anyway, there is some…some power on the president’s part. The press…I found them very enjoyable. I…I say, some of my counterparts didn’t find them so enjoyable. I don’t know if it’s my personality or coming from Long Island New York, but I found Sam Donaldson enjoyable and as I said, Helen Thomas. And I remember Tom Brokaw being the White House Correspondent and Ed Bradley from CBS News, and Chris Wallace, and those people, and we knew ‘em…Ed Bradley, I think, is a tremendous gentleman and we always…we…the crew voted him as best dressed press, and he still is to this day. He dresses very well. And what a wonderful personality…I remember…he asked me where I was from and I said Long Island and I’m…I said I’m still trying to lose this Long Island accent. And he said, “don’t do that”, he said, “that’s who you are”. And I agreed with him. So…that’s…well remember I’m from the south shore of Long Island, so try to be a little well accepted down here in the south, which I love dear…tremendously.

Zarbock: Who took over after President Ford…it was…?

Franklin: Well President Ford and then President Carter and we…

Zarbock: What was he like…reserved individual, or…?

Franklin: Yea, President Carter was very reserved…very much a teacher. And he was…he…very educational. Very, very, very…he was a former…an engineer. So engineers like to line things up and organize things…that’s a profile that they have and it’s what engineer’s do. He was very, very caring, but very educational. And Mrs. Carter, who I thought was delightful, and traveled a lot with her extensively, especially toward the end of their administration…if you recall, that the Ayatollah had our hostages over in Iran and President Carter decided to stay in the White House and stay in the rose garden and not go out on the campaign trail. And we traveled extensively with Mrs. Carter. It was a…it was a wonderful experience. A wonderful lady. A lady who wrote her speeches. A wonderful first lady, she was delightful to be around, and just a southern genteel. And…and president’s wives do influence the presidents. They do share their feelings with the presidents. Whether the president takes it or not, that’s up to him and his decisions, but Mrs. Carter, I believe, is very…President Carter appreciated Mrs. Carter and appreciated her input tremendously. The…after the Carter administration we picked up the Reagan administration. And my first impression of Ronald Reagan when the people came on the airplane, they…one of the senior staff people came to me and said, “Howie, do you have a birthday cake on the airplane…on the airplane?” And I said, “I don’t know sir, I…I don’t think so”. He said, “well, I just want you to keep that in mind. The president likes celebrating birthdays, he considers that very important”. And it came true, I mean, if anybody had a birthday on the airplane, he wanted to know about it, and he would come back and sing happy birthday and take a picture with ‘em regardless if it was a security policeman or a secret service, or a senator. He took it very serious.

Zarbock: And from that point on, you carried a birthday cake?

Franklin: And they still do. We still carry a birthday cake on Air Force One, and maybe two of ‘em just in case. So…I mean…and I was the type of guy that I didn’t know. You know, I didn’t know Ronald Reagan. I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know if he’s an actor. I’ve been around a lot of politicians and you know, they…they…sometimes politicians have diverse personalities. Some are up front in the camera and some are behinds the scenes…different. But…so I was kinda…it was probably not fair to Ronald Reagan, but I personally I was trying to…I was trying to catch him being a phony. I mean, this guy’s an actor and he…he’s doing so good, I’m gonna catch him. Well, eight years, I couldn’t do it. He was the same guy the whole time. Same guy when I…if we woke him up or put him to bed, he was…he was appreciative. He was the type…he got it. I mean, he got it as far as leadership was concerned. He figured if you were working for him, you were qualified. So his job was to help you get your job done. And one of the ways he did it was appreciate you and raise your self esteem when he was around you. Now that’s a boss. You know, bosses need to know that. Can you imagine what people would, you know, you would do anything for this guy just because. And he was sincere. He couldn’t pull that off. A boss can’t pull it off if you’re not sincere. And he was very sincere in that…that delivery of…and being optimistic and always telling a joke. And, you know, I remember going to California…it well…if we left Washington and we were heading towards California and say the trip was Washington to Ohio, he’d get on the airplane and say, “well we’re going in the right direction, but we’re not going far enough”. And, one time I remember him going to…we were going to California…and he loved California. And he…he was in the conference room. And he was sitting there, and he was doing presidential work diligently. And the staff was on the other end of this small conference room, and they were…they had finished their work, so now they were relaxing and socializing a little bit, and they’re not interrupting the president, and they were discussing about whether or not Hollywood at the time was considering making the life story of Mickey Rooney. And so the discussion goes on to about, you know, wonder who they’re going to get to play Mickey Rooney. And, they haven’t done it yet, and they probably will some day. But anyway, so finally…the president’s still doing his work, no one thinks he’s paying attention whatsoever, and somebody in the group finally said…come up with the idea, “well, why don’t they get Mickey Rooney to play Mickey Rooney?” Well, the president turned to the group right then and said, “he’s too short”. And so, a great sense of humor, and never did he say anything that would be mean or to hurt somebody and still, you know, kinda like Bill Cosby as an example…always tell a great joke and they’re all clean, you know, and still get a great laugh. One time he got on the airplane and we were going to Texas, and he was…he stopped and he kinda shook his head, and he said, “you know, we’re going to a political event and they’re going to a turkey shoot in Texas”, he said, “I don’t know why I have to go to Texas to shoot turkeys, I’ve got enough turkeys in Washington”. So…he…he was fantastic. I remember the last trip…President Bush has been inaugurated now, and President…President Reagan is the former president, but we still addressed him as president. We flew him to California on twenty seven thousand 707, that is now at the Reagan Library, and they’re gonna put it ________ …put it there for observation. And before we landed in California, I went into the State Room and I said to him, “sir, would you like to make the last landing…observe the last landing in the cockpit?” And he said, “sure”, he said, “that’d be great”. So he comes up in the cockpit and he sits down and the pilot and the copilot and the flight engineer and navigator…and I was standing in the doorway…and the landing gear is coming down and we see LAX Airport in front of us, and he turned to me at the doorway and said, “Howie what time is it in Washington?” and I said, “sir, it’s five o’clock in Washington”. And he said, “hey boys, just think, George Bush is putting his clothes in my closet right now”. So, always an optimist. When I was up at the Reagan Library, a week before he passed away, and they gave me a real first class tour of the Reagan Library…my son Adam, who was traveling with me…I took him to California to see the difference between the East coast and the West coast and geography and we…but we stopped at the Reagan Library. And a little lady that took us around and gave us this wonderful tour, said to us, “he took us out to his gravesite, and we didn’t know that a week later he was going to pass on”. But they have his gravesite and it overlooks the Simi Valley and its…its…I don’t know what you saw on that television but it’s spectacular, absolutely spectacular. Gorgeous view, goes down to the ocean. I mean, you can seen groves of avocado trees and horse farms, it’s just beautiful. But she said she brought President Reagan out there when he was in tune and he was, you know, he was…he was not…his disease hadn’t controlled him yet, and she brought him out to…and they showed him his gravesite. And they said to President Reagan, “isn’t this gonna be a…aren’t you gonna have a wonderful view here?” And he just immediately looked up in the sky and said “it’s always a good view in California”. So, you know, he did love California. The Bush administration came along. A gentleman who was a business man and a great business man. He’s the only president that I know of that ran his own country, “his own country”, his own company for over twenty six years. He ran it in the black. People were counting on him to make a profit which is…I don’t think is a dirty word, I think it’s a good thing, and people would count on him to make a profit so he could make a payroll, so they could make a house payment. And that’s very…that’s success to me. I don’t know if there’s any other presidents…and I’ve studied the American presidents that were able and capable of doing that. So a real good business man. And a real down to earth family man…his wife Barbara, who was a wonderful first lady. But Mary Madeline who you seen on Talk NBC shows once and a while, she ran the campaign for the Bush administration…to quote her, she said, “in…in the Bush administration, the only one that we respectfully feared, and I say respectfully, was Barbara Bush”. Because she’s the cheerleader. And she’s the patriarch of the family. And she takes good care of them, and they know it, and they appreciate it. Bush is another athlete. And…and he’s been known to play golf…eighteen holes of golf in two hours and fifteen minutes. It does affect his game. I remember one time we were…we were in Bermuda. And it was in the spring of the year. And it was a cold weekend…a cold couple of days in Bermuda. We got in there the first day and it was windy and he went to his meetings, and the crew…we went and played golf in Bermuda. It was really very pretty, but I don’t know if you know, Bermuda is very up and down…it’s very hilly. And…so we played golf, and it was very windy, and we had a good time. Well, the president played golf the last day of our stay in Bermuda and that day it was rainy and forty five degrees and just thirty knots of wind…it’s just miserable…and they’re out there playing golf. And General Scowcroft, head of National Security Council, gets on the airplane…he’s chilled to the bone, and he had been playing golf with the president. And he walked up to me and he said, “Howie, you gotta get me a warm cup of tea”. And I said, “yes sir”, I said, “what seems to be the problem?” He said, “the man’s crazy”. I said, “what sir?” He said, “we just got done playing two and a half hours of aerobic aquatic golf”. And that is true. The president went…loved to run and…and play golf rapidly…but…and the weather was miserable. So…but a great, great family. I…we would go up to Kennebunkport and we’d get a phone call….the president wants to invite the crew up to the house for a Fourth of July festival. Well, right away, we think it’s going to be a big deal…it’s gonna be the whole White House staff’s gonna be there, and White House people, and secret service, and that’s what we are assuming. And we get there and it’s the president, and the family and immediate family and the Air Force One crew. And we’re sitting there, you know, eating fried chicken and singing America The Beautiful with this president and somebody comes and provides a small fireworks show for us and it was just a, you know, very intimate time. Of course, after the Bush administration, we came into the Clinton administration. And Bill Clinton…you know, you either like somebody or you don’t like somebody. And when you’re around somebody you can feel it. Well, President Clinton was one year younger than me, and we grew up in the same timeframe, and he grew up it…he was in Washington and we listened to…grew up listening to rock and roll. We grew up listening to the…the Motown, and he’s a musician. And even though he came from Arkansas…but we grew up in the same time…same timeframe. And…and I felt comfortable around him, and I think he felt comfortable around me. And so, this has nothing to do with politics, it has to do with two people working together. And he was one of these TQM guys, and that was a…it was a buzzword several years ago…total quality management where you empower your people and involve them in process, and he believed in that very strongly. And he would allow me to do things on the airplane that…he may come to me and say “Howie this is what I need you to do”, but I could say, “sir, I can do that however if we do it this way…”, he said, “well you’re the chief, go ahead and do it”. Well, another thing, he also knew when I…when he gave me the responsibility, now my names on it, and I gotta make sure it’s…it’s right. So he knew what he was doing as well. I…I enjoyed it very much and…and the first lady, Hillary, you know, the things that people say in the press, and things of this nature, the Air Force One crew, as far as I know, have all great things to say about Hillary. And…now she’s a smart lady, believe me, and the president is a smart gentleman. I’ve seen the president sitting there and doing the New York Times crossword puzzle in fifteen minutes and carry on a conversation and enjoying doing the puzzle. Also, the first lady and the president…I was one of the people that didn’t…I predicted they weren’t gonna get a divorce after all those problems that they had…the personal problems…because I saw them caring about each other. And I saw them caring about each other as far as admiring each other’s gifts, admiring each other’s abilities. And I remember when Chelsea was a young girl and…and on the airplane, and Hillary mothering this…this young girl, and making sure she did the right thing and things of that nature. So don’t believe everything you read in the press. And, you know, the family…they were very caring. They were very caring about that…and she said the other day…Hillary spoke about the insurance thing. They were…they were trying to get to where a little old lady in the United States didn’t loose her house because of insurance. That was her goals…now, she had problems getting them there…she said it’s still a goal of hers, but they were very, very responsible, and I enjoyed them very much. One of the more memorable times I had with ‘em…one of our first trips to Moscow. And this was the first trip we had with him and it was in February. And his…I believe it was in February…but his mother had just passed away, and he was very close with his mother. And everybody knows how tiring and fatiguing a funeral is. Well, he went to Arkansas and he was with his family and they buried his mother, and he flew back on what we call a Gulfstream, a small airplane, and we were standing by in the 747 to take him. So he flew from Arkansas to Andrews Air Force Base, got off this…this Gulfstream airplane, and immediately goes on Air Force One and that was Air Force One…remember Air Force One is any airplane the president is on. So this Gulfstream, which is a small executive jet…gets off that at nine thirty at night and walks up the stairs of the 747…and Ted Koppel is doing Nightline. Comes from his mother’s funeral, Ted Koppel is doing Nightline, on the way to a summit in Moscow. Presidents stay under the gun, they work very hard. I remember during that interview and they took us through the airplane and…and President Clinton was finally being talked…personally by Ted Koppel, and Ted said to him, “I understand you didn’t speak at your mother’s funeral, and why is that?” And the president started to answer…Clinton’s answer was, “well I thought it was the day for a son to be a son”. And I thought that was a very good answer, he meant that very much. He was up doing work and we end up putting to…finally getting him to bed late at night. He…he does stay up late anyway historically and we ended up giving him two and a half hours of sleep. I shoulda gave him two. Because we had…from the time I walked in the state…they knew they had to get him up and get him moving and the staff said, “well let Howie do it”. No one wanted to wake up because it’s tough to wake up. So they…I go into the Stateroom and now from the moment I walked into the door to…to…from that moment, I had an hour and thirty minutes…from the time the airplane’s gonna be stopped and the doors gonna open and the president has to walk out. So I got an hour and a half to get him up, get him dressed, and ready to go. I should have taken two hours. But he needed the rest, and I felt, you know, just wanted to give him every moment that we could give him. So I went into the stateroom and it’s in the nose of the airplane and two couches made up into beds. Hillary is on one side and the president is on the other side. And I went over and leaned on the president. And he kinda moaned. And I leaned on him again and he moaned again. And finally I said, “boy I hate to do this”. And he said, “well don’t do it”. And I said, “well sir, it’s time to get your butt up and go to work”. Well I…I don’t think I’d said that to any other president, but he felt comfortable with me saying that. There’s terminology that he was used to…get your butt up and go to work.

Zarbock: But a light just came on in my head. If you put him to bed, and you wake him up, you’re not getting much more sleep than that yourself.

Franklin: Oh no, we…we didn’t get much sleep. You worked real hard.

Zarbock: And you’re on duty all of the time.

Franklin: Oh yea, on duty all the time and…myself and the pilot…example is, here you are the chief pilot of Air Force One and I’m the chief flight attendant…you…you’re gonna be working sometimes for thirty hours and you get a chance to take a nap. Well, you have all this responsibility…now you go take a nap. See…see how restful your nap is. So I appreciate you understanding that. Well, we wake him up, and…and he’s…finally he’s getting out of the bed, and Hillary’s smiling and looking under the covers…peeking out, I said, “don’t you smile, you’re next”, alright…they haven’t had your coffee yet. I’m waking ‘em up at three o’clock in the morning body time in Washington. So if you go by REM, that’s your…you get your greatest rest the last three hours of your normal sleep cycle. We’ll I’m…I’ve just wiped out his normal sleep cycle, so he doesn’t get his REM and I’m waking him up, he hasn’t had his coffee yet, and I’m literally doing…almost giving him orders… “you get up, you get in the bathroom, you get over there, I got coffee coming…”, and they’re responding. Okay, they’re in the shower, he’s in the shower, I’m gonna…and then we…one of the things that happened…we’re going through his luggage. I ____ his luggage and her luggage up there, we’re trying to get things that he’s gonna wear, and he’s asking me about this…well I immediately ask the secret service where the valet was. The valet’s the gentleman that packed the suitcase, I didn’t pack the suitcase. And they explained to me that the valet was in the back up on the other airplane. I want you to know that hasn’t happened anymore. The gentleman that I needed to be there that knew where…I’m rifling through these clothes and stuff and trying to find the things that he wanted…and we… So, anyway, the thing that…that came to my thought process was, “these people are pretty nice folks”. I mean they’re getting along better than sometimes my wife and my family are when we’re getting ready to go to church on Sunday morning trying to meet the service time. And that was…that was a moment that I really realized, they…they were responding, they were trying, they were helpful and they were caring about each other. And those are real positive experiences with them.

Zarbock: Howie, looking back over your shoulder metaphorically, the care and maintenance of presidents, has that changed over…over your life experience? Was…the activities…how have you conducted yourself dependent upon the personality or were there an ever increasing series of obligations and duties that were placed upon you?

Franklin: Well, the…the duties are to remember first secure and safe transportation of the president, first mission. And to try to provide the same services that the president has in the White House. Those are the things…that’s not gonna…as…as the services in…in the White House increase and the services available on Air Force One increase…those things…but it’s a lot to do with the personality of the president. Some of ‘em are very private, so you allow that privacy. Some of ‘em want to be more social, and some of them want to be private at times and they want to be social at times. Remember my theory was to create a professional but comfortable environment. Hold on one second. I can’t see it. ________ if you want.

Zarbock: Okay, as things change…you’ve said, as things change in the White House, things have to change on the aircraft. What sort of things would change?

Franklin: Well, one of the things…you know, diets. I remem…we went into low fat, you know, so we…they…the chefs down in the White House started…they had to go to courses on how to cook low fat meals. And we had to go down and learn how to cook low fat meals. In the 747 we had eighty five telephones on the airplane. We can make twenty two phone calls at one time and we went from a 707 that you could make about twelve phone calls to twenty two phone calls at one time with secure voice. The airplane had the capability of, you know, the president…when he speaks, he’s got a monitor that they put in front of him around the room…and that’s where his speech, so he can look at this, he can look at the people and look at the monitors and his speech comes up on that monitor. Well they could send that speech from the airplane. And if something…also, if something comes into effect…a news breaking story, they can intercept a news breaking story and they can send it to him while he’s giving a speech and he can break it if he wants to. So, I mean, technology is always growing. And communications is…is busting as far as communication. Look at our cell phone situation, I mean, really, we’ve come a long ways in cell phones. I remember when…these big bricks, you know, and…and in a short period of time now…and…and they’re getting cheaper and everybody uses them, so…as technology goes in communications. But, you know, the personalities, you have to understand the personality. If the personality is very private, you want to give ‘em that privacy. If they want to be social, you should provide that.

Zarbock: What about food fads or food peculiarities? Was there anything, by gosh, I want…?

Franklin: Well…that’s one of the questions that usually gets asked me a lot…what the presidents eat. Well, the reality is, you know, you’re the president of the United States…he’s gotta watch his diet. You know, he can afford to eat anything that he can have, but he cannot eat, you know, Lobster Thermador for every day. He’s got to watch his diet. And they all did. I mean, I wasn’t there during the Nixon administration, but Nixon used to eat cottage cheese and salads. And President Ford…his novelty, he used cottage cheese with A-1 Sauce. And green seedless grapes and salads. And Rockefeller used to eat tuna fish sandwiches and celery sticks and carrot sticks. But these guys could afford to eat anything in the world, but you can’t afford to do it. So, you know, they’re always very weight conscious. Now, President Carter, I mean, he ate sandwich…light sandwiches, family style sandwiches and things of that nature, and, you know, we…we eat light though. He ate light and Rosalind ate light also. President Reagan came along and he ate light and took care of…his favorite meal…President Reagan’s favorite meal was macaroni and cheese and meatloaf. And his favorite dessert was lemon meringue pie. So he’d fit in very good in the southeastern North Carolina. But…and…but the pie, if Nancy Reagan was on board, he wouldn’t get a chance to eat the pie. She’d say, no, you gotta, you know, watch that. But they all ate light. President Bush also ate light. Bushes came in and the whole menu for breakfast changed. The…a breakfast on Air Force One historically used to be scrambled eggs with cream cheese because it makes it lighter and…and also with big Italian sausage or big large country sausages, and biscuits and hash brown potatoes and…and probably some…fruit cup, and maybe a danish and things of that nature. Well in the Bush administration, and even into the…roll into the Clinton administration, we ended up…Granola, cereal, and bran muffins, and fresh fruit, and yogurt, and plain yogurt, and then fruit yogurt, and that was a pretty big transition for us. And for us…for the people who fixed…prepared the meals, it was a lot easier breakfast to prepare than the other breakfast and it was a lot healthier for us. But I remember one of our pilots used to say to me, “you know, bran muffins are killing me Howie”, he says, “you know, I get ready to land in Paris thirty minutes out and I gotta go to the bathroom”, you know. So, they had their effect which was…designed to do also. President Clinton, he was in low fat, and Hillary was very much into low fat, but President Clinton, he…he’s allergic to cheese and dairy products. And he’s allergic to alcohol. He…he…once in a while he may have a beer, so…but…and he’s an Irishman. He liked to have a beer, but he’s allergic to it, he can’t do it. And…but, he liked ethnic food. He liked Mexican food and he liked…we’d go to New York and go to Little Italy and we’d have somebody prepare…now, we never told ‘em who they were preparing the foods for. And they had cheese in ‘em and…he liked to sit down at a little buffet…a little bit of this and a little bit of that and pick at it. And sometimes we’d have cheese, cause I know he loved it, even though he…he’d say to me, he said, “Howie, you know, I’m not supposed to have this”. I’d say, “well, do you want me to take it away?” “No, no, no, no.” And he loved it. He loved ethnic food. So, you know, they’re the same as us, you know? Only they’ve got tremendous responsibilities. And presidents take their jobs very, very seriously, for many reasons. Number one, this process that we put a president through, is a pretty good process. To go from grass roots to…and…and they’re very qualified people when they get to that level, and we don’t…we don’t elect somebody that’s not qualified, regardless of the parties. They’re qualified and they take it very serious and they take if very serious because they’re serious about what they do and they work very diligently. That’s another thing. The poor old presidents I worked for worked hard. I mean sixteen hour day is nothing to these people. And worked, you know, seven days a week. And when the president gets…goes on vacation and they get him…he’s on vacation…well, he’s walking around a golf course with a military aide, with a football…that’s the codes to start a nuclear war…that every place he goes he travels with him, so that’s not quite a vacation that you and I could get…go on. And of course, you lose your privacy and you can’t walk down the street without an entourage and things of that nature. So, the…and the other thing that holds the presidents feet to the fire more so than people realize, is they are very concerned about how they’re gonna be looked at in history. And that…that holds their feet to the fire also. So, all our presidents, the five that I worked for, were…were very, very serious and took their job and their responsibility as the leader of the United States very, very seriously. All of ‘em did…now, the very one thing I didn’t…and they were all nice. I mean, I enjoyed them very much. I didn’t work for LBJ. I have a friend of mine, and there’s a picture of him in here in the room, that worked for LBJ, Charlie Green. His role in history is that he was personally fired by LBJ eight times. But he got hired, rehired by him nine times, so he was able to finish the administration out. So, LBJ was a tough guy to work for. Myself, the greatest trainer I had was Henry Kissinger. And I flew a lot of shuttle diplomacy missions. If you recall, shuttle diplomacy traveled throughout the middle east and shuttle diplomacy with the north Vietnamese in Paris. And if you could work for Henry, you could work for anybody.

Zarbock: He was that demanding?

Franklin: He was very demanding and he was very, very old World War type management. You know, now days they tell you to stroke the people and get ‘em through and tell ‘em they’re doing a good job. Well, at the end of around-the-world mission with Henry Kissinger, he said, “you did good”. That was a big deal!

Zarbock: That was all you were gonna get!

Franklin: That’s all you were gonna get. Well, he did…he…I consider one of the greatest compliments that I’ve had…ever had given to me in my life…we took him around the world and he visited…one of the stops we visited in Switzerland. His family was there, mother and father. And then we went on to…to Saigon and traveled…and Japan, and traveled throughout the world…around the world. And he came in the back of the airplane and put his hand on my shoulder, and he said, “you treat me better than an old Jewish mother”. So, I…that was…that was successful as far as I was concerned.

Zarbock: Howie, tell…tell me again, the name of your book is going to be?

Franklin: Skytales.

Zarbock: And it’ll be out possibly when?

Franklin: I…hopefully by 2005.

Zarbock: Who’s your publisher?

Franklin: We’re…we’re getting ready to present the…the outline to publishers, and we’re working on right now, publishers bidding on it. That’s what our goal is. We’re…it’s never been done before. No one’s ever told tales. We’re not…as is said, we’re not gonna tell negative tales. We’re gonna try to tell humerus tales and things of that nature. And…and it’s going to take up the five presidents, including President Bush, Jr. I do have some input from people who are…who have traveled with this president. So it’ll be over six presidents. And the Kissinger days…it’s gonna talk about the press, talk about Sam Donaldson. One of the stories on Sam Donaldson…we were…it was with the Bush Administration and Marlin Fitzwater, who is the press secretary, said to me, he said, “you know, Sam’s making…Sam’s making two million dollars a year, I mean, a million dollars a year now”. And I said, “no kidding?” I said, “I remember when he wasn’t making that much”. He says, “yea, you know, you oughta to back to the back of the airplane and spill coffee on him and say ‘oops I spilled coffee on the million dollar man’, now he’ll like that, you know”. So I went back and sure enough, Sam’s sitting at a table, he’s sitting in the corner and Helen Thomas is sitting at the corner, and I don’t know who the other correspondents were. I kinda jabbed, moved, jiggled the table with my leg, and I said, you know, I said, “ooops, I almost spilled coffee on the million dollar man”. Sam loved that, you know, he liked…and I said, “you know, Sam, I remember when you were making two hundred fifty thousand dollars a year”. And he smiled and he said, “yea”. I said “I remember when you were making five hundred thousand dollars a year”. He said, “yea”. I said “I remember landing in California at Point McGough Naval Base and there was a helicopter there to pick up President Reagan, and there was a helicopter there to pick up Sam Donaldson”. He said, “yea”. I said, “I understand now you’re making a million dollars a year”. he said, “isn’t that amazing?” I said, “yea, but I understand Willard Scott’s making two million dollars a year”. (laughing) And Sam said, “that Goddamn weatherman!”

Zarbock: Thanks Howie! I’m going to be in the front of the line to buy your book. Thanks sir.

Franklin: Thank you.

UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign