I find myself sitting here amidst stacks of Briegleb family history in the form of newspaper articles and photographs, which are evoking memories of years gone by. Some good, some not so good. I will attempt to put the foregoing on this site in the days, months and years to come. The 30 or so years of my family’s and others experiences at El Mirage could undoubtedly fill volumes. But it won’t. I have my limits. To begin with, the reader will learn about some of my ancestors, most noteworthy, my Grandfather, Gustav Arminius Briegleb (GAB), my father William Gustave Briegleb (Gus) my mother Annie Briegleb, and brother Ken. The narrative will then follow my family’s journey from Van Nuys, California to the Mojave Desert where my Dad purchased from the War Assets Administration an ex army airfield known as Mirage Field Auxiliary #3. The viewer, reader of this site will notice a section of pictures that will eventually accompany the story of my experiences in homebuilt/experimental aviation in which I’m still active. My father was always involved in experimental gliders and sailplanes so we will have photos and stories of his aircraft as well. Of course there’s the myriad of humans that were with us over the years at El Mirage. So many, I can’t recount them all. I wish I could.  I would like to acknowledge and thank my good friend Trip Mellinger who is responsible for building not only this site, but the idea of it as well, and my son Ken, who, without his help we would not be doing this.

Ross Briegleb










We will get started with my Grandfather Gustav Arminius Briegleb. Later on I will refer to him as GAB(great initials for a preacher).The following narrative was his obituary and lists his ministerial pursuits.  Later on we’ll visit some of his experiences with family and the corrupt Los Angeles officials and gangsters he was engaged in sparring with.

Gustav Arminius Briegleb was born in Jersey City Heights, N.J. on September 26, 1881.

With a widowed Mother he began to earn his way at an early age, keeping up with his school work, and attending Sunday school regularly.  As a very young man he took great interest in Green point Y .M. C. A. activities, never wavering from his desires to study the Bible and preach.

At last the day came when Rev Chas. C. Cooke opened the way for him to go to Chicago where heentered Moody Bible Institute and studied under Dr. William Evans. He worked hard and long hours to keep himself at the institute.

In 1904 he graduated and with his young wife Marie Bella Hartzell went to Kirkland, Ill. where he was ordained in the Trinity Congregational Church on June 16, 1906 at the age of 28, still continuing to study, this particular course being Greek.

After one year he went to New Haven, Conn., attending Yale Divinity School, presiding in a small suburban church.  Charges in Tuckahoe and Syracuse, N.Y. followed.

Young Mr. Briegleb had the desire to become identified with the Presbyterian Church of Baltimore, Md.,being received into the Presbytery of Baltimore in 1911.  The young preacher did an outstanding piece of work there, making extensive improvements in the structure, pacing this congregation upon a faith basis by their tithes and paying off the mortgage. Holland Memorial Presbyterian in Philadelphia sought him and here he served during the years 1916 and 1917, then came the call to California.

Mr. Briegleb entered upon his pastorate in Westlake Church in June, 1917, received his Doctor of Divinity and received his Doctor of Divinity Degree from Whitman College Walla Walla, Wash. at this time also.  After Westlake, came St. Paul’s and Bethany churches.  Ill health caused him to resign from the active pastorate in September, 1937.

Dr. Briegleb was three times a commissioner to the General Assembly, held the office of moderatorof the Presbytery of Los Angeles, was elected by acclamation to be the Moderator of the Synod of Calif.in 1924, and was President of the Ministerial Union of Los Angeles for one year.  In 1926 he was a delegate to the Twelfth Council of the General Presbyterian alliance, Cardiff, Wales. He was a member of the Knights Templar Commondery No. 9, Utopia Lodge F & A.M No. 537 and Hiram’s Masonic Club of M.G.M. Studios.  He was honorary Chaplain of the Utopia Lodge and the Hiram’s Club,also of the Los Angeles Fire Department. Active in civic affairs and in the improving of conditions in general, he endeavored to give his Christian testimony by his daily life in the community, trying to make it a better place.

Dr. Briegleb is survived by his widow Sarah Frances Briegleb.

Three sons and one daughter;

H. Evans Briegleb

William G. Briegleb

John F, Briegleb

Catherine Briegleb- Taylor

Four Grandchildren and a Nephew, C.T. Briegleb

(All the afore mentioned are deceased with the exception of the Grandchildren)

More to follow ——-









GAB was a powerful orator and a good singer. (he was part of a singing quartet at the Moody Bible Institute before his ordination.) It’s clear that whatever church he was serving he seemed to be able to secure and impressive flock. Enough of a flock that he alway left that particular church in a better financial standing than it was in when he found it.

gustav, choir






After arriving in Los Angeles, Ca. in 1917, he seemed to really come into his own and the faithful were numerous in Los Angeles. So, even competing with the likes of Reverend Shuler and Aimee Semple McPherson not only did he draw large congregations, he had in attendance the rich and famous, which included movie mogels, politicians and gangsters such as Charlie Crawford.

As mentioned in the book “A Bright and Guilty Place” gangster/politician Charlie Crawford joined GAB’s church and was baptized. He seemed so enthusiastic in trying for a ticket to paradise that he gave large donatons to the church. Some of which were to be used to build a radio station in the basement of the church that in part could be used to promote Charlie’s political ambitions in Los Angeles.

Not long after the donations began, Charlie was gunned down. GAB was called to be at the dying mans’s side. Apparently with his dying breath he told GAB his killer was “Dave”. Dave Clark was and ex-district attorney in Los Angeles. At the time and after going to Charlie’s office they got into a scuffle and wouldn’t you know it, Dave’s gun went off wounding Charlie and killing a reporter who was also present. So “DA” Dave killed two people and ultimately got off.

GAB gave the eulogy at Charlie’s funeral in his packed church and was observed to be sobbing. His cash cow was dead. According to reports the radio station was never used. Some of the foregoing was garnered from the book, “A Bright and Guilty Place” by Richard Raynor.

GAB was also recently portrayed in the movie ” The Changeling” by actor John Malkovitch, also starring Angelina Jolie.

The above is a small sampling of the issues GAB was involved in. Gustav Arminius Briegleb was the champion of the misjugded and a fighter of corruption during his years as a minister in Los Angeles. He and his seconed wife Sarah raised a family of four children, all of which were properly educated and went on to be upstanding citizens.

Apparently, he dabbled at being private detective after leaving the ministry and finished up his working life as a night watchman. Go figure.

For reasons I’ll never be clear on, I didn’t succumb to the religious beliefs of my grandfather. I was also fortunate that my parents didn’t ram the Jesus story down my throat as I was growing up. The religious thing has always struck me as odd.

Next up,  a little history about my Dad and Mom.




26 Responses to About

  1. Ray Zinkowski says:

    Nice webpage. I had my first glider ride from Ross in 1969. I still remember it as we raced down to beat the tow plane, landing first with the tow plane going around. My dad, Raymond, learned to fly sailplanes from Ross and and became active in Glider clubs. I still remember staying in the “bunk house” on weekends. Great memories of the field and the friendly family that ran it.

  2. Jack Gravance says:


    I have enjoyed getting re-connected with you and the Briegleb family.

    Jack Gravance

  3. Ron Knutsen says:

    I learned how to fly at El Mirage. I started taking lessons from Ross and other instructors at the field in September of 1966 in a TG-3 and later graduated to a 2-32 and 1-26.
    I took my FAA fight test with Gus on Nov 19, 1968 and passed! I continued flying there on weekends until 1970 when I moved to Northern California. I have a lot of great memories of those years, including post-flight gatherings at the “Lazy 3”.

  4. Walter Klemperer says:

    Congratulations, Ross! This is fascinating reading! Keep up the good work.

    Walt K.

  5. Bob Bledsoe says:

    My memories of Ross go back so far I’m not sure even Ross would remember them.
    Bassett St in Van Nuys. Around the end of WW2.
    We used to play in the hulk of a glider that sat outside the building where Gus worked his magic. We were maybe 6-7 years old ?
    This website gets the memory juices flowing for sure.

  6. Richard Van Kesteren says:

    Nice web page! There are many memories here. I met Gus just after he got the L2 Taylorcraft home on Bassett St. in Van Nuys. I remember running around Rosamond Dry Lake in the ground trainer with Gus on the running board of his 37 Plymoth yelling instructions. Gus gave me my first glider ride in the BG8 at Cuddeback Dry Lake on 07-07-1945. I took my private flight exam at El Mirage airport in the TG1A “Anne”. Later it was destroyed in a storm on the Dry Lake. I tried to hold it down but I dropped off into the back of the Dusenberg.

  7. Einar Enevoldson says:

    More, more!


  8. Bob Bledsoe says:

    Richard, Wayne is living in Washington state now. Retired from the air force. Flew F-101 Voodoos in Nam and other smelly liquid powered flying machines. Talked to him on the phone and relayed your posts and some other stuff on the site. His memory seems sharp concerning those days and he remembered all of it. Talked about you guys doping fabric on wings for Gus etc. Talked about your brother Jack also. It’s a shame he doesn’t mess around with computers, I know he would really enjoy this site. He said say “Hello” to you guys.

  9. Keith Williams says:

    Hi Ross,
    Interesting reading. Looking at all the old pictures in slideshow brings back a lot of memories back in 1950-52 when I was hanging around El Mirage as a teenager. Would like to get with you again for some conversation when you have time. Told my brothers Phil and Dan about having lunch with you a few months ago. They had been wondering about you and yours. I’ll point them to this website. Give me a call when you get a chance.


  10. Dave Patterson says:

    I was recently given the link to your website by an old friend, Stuart Ondek. I was really happy to see all your great pictures of El Mirage. They really brought back a lot of memories. Your Dad, Gus, saved my life multiple times by teaching me to LOOK before starting a turn. My first training in aviation was at El Mirage and the two years I spent there as tow pilot contain many fond memories. I have quite a few pictures of my time there and would be happy to send them to you. Hope both you, Kenney and families are doing well……………….Your (now very old) tow pilot, Dave Patterson

    • Steve Slaughter says:


      You are one of those people I always wanted to know “what ever happened” to.

      If you’re ever out in the area, give a shout. I’m a few decades overdue to visit Ross myself.

      qedqed at verizon dot net

  11. david chapman says:

    Thanks Ross, very nicely done.
    I remember once, I was maybe 13, I headed out with Gus in his old truck to get something from somebody and we got stuck in the sand out on some portion of old Sheep Creek road. We had no shovel so I’m the guy under the wheels scooping out burning hot sand with my hands and he’s collecting the brush to put under the real wheels. Finally, with me standing on the rear bumper for extra weight, he get’s it out of the ruts. I climbed in and he said to me “don’t ever get stuck up Sheep Creek without a shovel”.

  12. Bob Storck says:

    Hello Ross –

    We’ve crossed paths many times across the country since 1959, and I’m delighted to find you again. We first met changing a couple PT-23 cylinders out in the sun, and you let me pull the lower one … which earned me a hot oil bath! That task was to earn me a flight in one of the Cinemas, and though I had rinsed my shirt, the odor of sweat and oil made me queasy enough to keep my flight to just over an hour … despite booming conditions!
    Thank you and Ken for keeping El Mirage history alive through sharing your photos.

    Cheers, Bob
    Now Kansas City, MO

  13. Hi,

    My brother and I had lots of fun at El Mirage as kids.

    Collin Gyenes


  14. Tom Manzer says:

    50+ years ago in El Mirage, you, Ken, Gus and Annie and all who came and went and laughed and played, allowed two brothers named Bob and Tom to share your life, work the alfalfa fields, run wing, clean up and grow up. You were our heros.
    You have never been forgotten.
    Thank you.

  15. GEORGE UVEGES says:

    many decades of fond memories at the best soaring site in the west


  16. Chuck Francis says:

    Graduated Victor Valley 1960 with Ken / lived in Lucerne Valley 1949 -1960

  17. Todd Greenwood says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading this. I would like to know if any of your grandfather’s writings have been preserved. Journals, sermons, sh… anything at all. He seems like the sort of man who would have recorded his opinions, views comments and the like.

    I’ve looked for records of these in publication but don’t find anything on the internet.

    I’m not interested in anything that names people or embarrasses anyone in anyway but rather in the substance of the sort of issues that he cared about and the language he used. Supposedly he was a gifted and passionate orator who dealt with some of the most important social and political issues of his day which were at the time repressed by the now fairly infamous Los Angeles press of that era through the Depression years.

  18. Bill Berle says:

    Congratulations to Ross and Trip for getting this website up and running, and for creating an online home for all of this important history. RB you were always the coolest guy i n the room, now you’re the coolest guy on the internet 🙂

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