Bobbie Broussard, the Skydiving Reporter

Published 2:29 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2017

By Mike Louviere

The Orange Leader

Over the century plus that Orange has existed there have been some unique people, places, and things. Orange was a prosperous sawmill town, loaded with millionaires. Orange was the only town in Texas to build warships during World War II. Orange built three ferries for the Staten Island run in New York City. The Orange Leader was unique in that it did not publish glamour photography, but they had three glamorous photographers.

In an article published in the Leader, in July 1959, they photographs of the three beauties, each holding their large cameras, about the size of the proverbial breadbox. The three ladies were Jean Lea, Billie Jean Stewart, and Bobbie Broussard. The ladies were beautiful. They were also reporters and photographers that took any story assigned to them.

In 1961, Broussard was assigned to write an article about the Golden Triangle Parachute Club, which used the Brown airport to conduct their skydiving activities. She thought that to really write an in depth story she ought to consider making a jump herself. Her husband and two daughters were not overly enthusiastic about her jumping out of an airplane, but knowing her dedication to her job, they agreed to her making a jump.

She made contact with the parachute club and they agreed to give her instruction and let her make a jump at the airport. When the word got around that she was going to make her jump, there was a lot of kidding.

“My hairdresser told me she would not fix my hair if I became a corpse,” said Broussard.

Finally the day came when she had completed ground school and was ready to make the jump.

The first attempt was delayed when they could not find jump boots to fit her small feet. Finally boots that fit were found and she was ready to go. The second try, the wind was too high for safe jumping. At the third attempt, there had been so much rain that roads were flooded and some of the personnel could not make it to the airport. Finally, on the fourth day, conditions were right. It was a clear day with less than a five mile per hour wind.

Skippy Mannino, secretary of the club, loaned her his jump coveralls and helmet. She had on the borrowed boots. Lance Call, who had been her instructor would be the jumpmaster, and Clarence Feuge, the owner of Sky Harbor Flying Service, would be the pilot.

“I am afraid of creepy crawly things, but I have no fear of heights. But, was I scared? I was petrified!” said Broussard.

The plane climbed to an altitude of 2800 feet and slowed from 120 mph to 60 mph. She got out of the cabin and stood with one foot on the step and one foot on the locked wheel. Her hands were on the strut. Call touched her on the shoulder as the signal to jump. She kicked up with her feet and pushed off with her hands, and she was away from the plane.

“Almost as soon as I cleared the plane, I felt the parachute open. My jumpmaster had pulled the ripcord, instead of letting the static line open the chute. the chute opened and I was dropping at 17 feet per second, but had no sensation of falling. I was seeing the local area from the air and it was all quiet and beautiful,” said Broussard.

As she came down, Richard Humphrey, a 17 year old who had jumped before her, her friend Jean, and Mannino were all hollering instructions to her.

“I was a couple of hundred above the ground and I could hear them clearly,” said Broussard. “They yelled that I was close to landing and for me to look straight ahead. I felt a gentle bump, about like jumping on a trampoline, I had landed. I was just a couple of feet off the runway and in the only mud puddle anywhere around.”

Her jump had lasted only about two and one half minutes.

“I probably won’t try it again, but it is an experience I will never forget,” said Broussard.

The story of her jump was published in the Leader and made it onto the wire. The picture of the beauty in helmet, coveralls, boots and a parachute strapped to her back and another, the reserve chute, on her chest sitting in the cabin of the small plane, as well as the story of the jump was too good not to share.

After the story was published in the Leader it was published in the Breckenridge American, Taylor Daily Press, and the Daily News Telegram, in Sulphur Springs, Texas.

Broussard had a career with the Orange Leader that lasted over 30 years. She now lives in Houston and is still a beauty. She has fond memories of her time as a reporter with the Orange Leader and is quick to share memories of her time behind the camera with her notebook close by.

“And now you know”