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232 FRANK MILLS Early Curtiss Pilot - Instructor Frank Mills was born in Chicago, Illinois, January 12, 1889. At age 11 he moved to New York and for a time attended schools there. Mechanically inclined, he became interested in gas engines and acquired some knowledge of them. Some three or four years later, with limited education, he shipped from New York at the auxiliary engine operator on a sailing schooner on a voyage to San Francesco. After a short time at sea the engine failed so the captain put young Mills to work as a sailor. The Panama Canal was under construction at that time but was not in use, so the voyage took them around Cape Horn. At San Francisco the cargo was changed and the return voyage started. By the time the Canal Zone was reached young Mills had enough of life at sea, so deserted ship and got a job on the canal construction project. He was soon amazed at the amount of steel-work involved and decided to learn more about this trade, and arranged to take an International Correspondence School course in boiler making. He studied and completed this course, and as a result was later put in charge of a large crew of men on steel construction work. After about five years in the Canal Zone Mills became interested in aviation and wanted to learn to fly. He had also conceived the idea of establishing coast to coast airline at the Canal Zone for fast transportation of mail, merchandise and passengers, but this idea was later abandoned and never carried out.
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