by Merle Blasjo
Allan Hancock left giant footprints in Los Angeles and in Santa Barbara North County.
In Los Angeles, he donated Hancock Park and its La Brae Tar Pits, which would be available to the public in perpetuity for tourists and scientists alike. He also donated much of his oceanographic information to the University of Southern California. He founded the Los Angeles Automobile Club and owned the second automobile in California. He also founded the California Bank.
In the 1920’s, he moved to Santa Barbara North County where he developed oil extraction facilities in Cat Canyon and acquired a farm for experiments with crop rotation and irrigation.
One of Captain Hancock’s interests, almost from its beginning, was aviation. In 1927, he created the Allan Hancock Airfield. Later the same year, Allan established the Hancock Foundation College of Aeronautics which would soon gain national significance. With war imminent, the Army Air Corps issued a call for pilot training facilities, and the Hancock School grew prominent. During the war, more than 8000 pilot candidates trained at the school. Today, the Santa Maria Airport bears then name, “The G. Alan Hancock Field”, in honor of him.
Allan Hancock died peacefully in his sleep in 1965. A story emerged about the Elk’s Rodeo parade the morning after his death. Thousands lined Broadway curb to curb as the start time approached. Suddenly a sound erupted—not bands beginning to march – but the shrill scream of a powerful engine accompanied by the huge shadow of a very low-flying aircraft following the parade route south. As it passed over the last of the parade-goers, the pilot pushed the throttle forward, resulting in a new roar as the aircraft turned and climbed in a graceful arc and disappeared into the clouds.
One of Allan’s proudest possessions had been a restored World War 2, P-51 Mustang aircraft. Allan’s friend and pilot flew the P-51 over the parade route down Broadway Avenue at tree-top level, dipping wings in salute. This was, of course, totally in violation of flight regulations, but there were no complaints as an entire community paused to honor its friend and benefactor.