The Legend of Pancho Barnes

The next Laguna Beach Historical Society program will be Monday, Nov. 17.  “The Legend of Pancho Barnes” by Nick Spark, writer-producer of a television documentary on Barnes, will discuss his research on the pioneer aviator and preview a portion of the upcoming film. The program will be held at the Laguna Beach City Hall, 505 Forest Avenue. The public is invited and there is no charge. 

Florence “Pancho” Barnes, considered Hollywood’s first female stunt pilot and an influential woman in early aviation.  "Pancho” Barnes was a society woman turned daring woman of action.  She gained renown as a tough and fearless pilot, who performed as a barnstormer throughout California and briefly worked as a test pilot for Lockheed.  She was a friend and competitor of another woman air pioneer, Amelia Earhart, and broke Earhart’s air speed record by flying at 196 miles per hour in 1930. For a time, Pancho maintained a residence in Laguna Beach that was well-known as a party house.  It was equipped with its own air strip on what is now McKnight Drive. 

Nick Spark, writer-producer of an upcoming television documentary “The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club.” will discuss his research on the pioneer aviator. The director of the film, USC Film School professor Amanda Pope, will co-present.  The film, which was made on a non-profit basis, is scheduled to air on KOCE-TV, the PBS station in Orange County, early next year. 

For more information, visit the website: or contact Nick Spark, Producer, at 310 428-6139. Donations for the completion of the film are welcome. 


The Murphy-Smith Bungalow located at 278 Ocean Avenue and which is opened to the public at no-charge every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., now has a binder of Susi Q articles. The Laguna Beach Historical Society thanks the sons of Elizabeth H. Quilter (Charlie, Chris, Patrick, and Matthew) for permission to reproduce and disseminate these historical articles. The Susi Q articles will shortly be online at where photos and additional information can be viewed. 

Step back into 1920s Laguna by visiting the Laguna Beach Historical Society Murphy-Smith Bungalow. Volunteers are needed to greet visitors to the Murphy-Smith Bungalow and should call 939-7257.  

Those interested in supporting and joining the Laguna Beach Historical Society should send $15 per individual, $25 per household or $50 per business/organization to 278 Ocean Avenue, Laguna Beach CA 92651. The Laguna Beach Historical Society is a section 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Tax ID #33-0519882. 

While supplies last, those donating $100 to the Laguna Beach Historical Society will receive a copy of Joan Irvine Smith’s new book “A California Woman’s Story”.