Artifact of the month: Skydiving jumpsuit and gear

skydiving photo
F.J. Hale with canopy (skydivers’ term for parachute), circa early 1970s.

Francis J. Hale, co-founder of the UNC Parachute Club, recently dropped in with July’s Artifacts of the Month. Hale, Class of 1973, organized the Club in 1969 with fellow student Bob Bolch. Not surprisingly, the University did not easily warm to the idea of its students jumping out of airplanes. Hale recalls “The athletic department wanted nothing to do with us. I nagged the devil out of them, until I finally got some old warm up suits from the swim team.” Undaunted by the University’s lack of enthusiasm, the Club designed suits, acquired equipment, and thrived. Members were soon winning trophies in regional contests with other parachute clubs.

yearbook photo
F.J. Hale with his ParaCommander Mk1 parachute in his 1973 Yackety Yack photo.

Army regulations were looser back in those days and Club members were allowed to jump with the 18th Corps Sport Parachute Club at Fort Bragg and later the Green Beret Parachute Club. According to Hale, UNC Parachute Club members didn’t spend too much time at Fort Bragg, but hanging around the seasoned soldiers there opened their eyes “a little too wide.”

Also included in this gift is a helmet with camera, a t-shirt with logo designed by team member Canda Sue Reaugh, a logo pendant, and, most priceless of all, the stories Hale told us about his experiences as a student. Understandably, Hale is holding onto his Parachute Club jacket, which, like his 1969-1973 jumpsuit, still fits!

man in parachute gear
It still fits! F.J. Hale in his circa 1969-1973 UNC Parachute Club gear, June 2014.

5 thoughts on “Artifact of the month: Skydiving jumpsuit and gear”

  1. FJ I remember you from jumping between 70-75. Most likely with CSPC meets. I started in Raleigh moved to Charlotte, then to Calif. in 75. Check out old school skydiving group on FB. All the best…Ray Catlette

  2. Gosh Ray! I just happened to come back to this site looking for something and saw you note. Thanks for the heads up. I am in Raleigh and in the phone book!

  3. Ray, if you ever read this, I did post some of the photos I gave to the library on Old School Skydiving site. I am 9197411329 as I am no longer in the phone book. The Young Ones have told me that dropping the land line was ‘very millennial’ .

    does that mean i am finally cool?

  4. I was a suitemate of FJ’s his senior year. In the spring of 74, the team was making a jump over campus to promote something and several of his suitemates we’re old watching and noticed something was wrong due to the erratic flight path. FJ later showed us that night the burns on his foot due to the smoke bombs they taped to their boots to enable the spectators to see them better. During the skydive, they were trying unsuccessfully, to cut the tape and free the smoke bomb from their boot. Lesson well earned. FJ took me under his wing and was a great suitemate.

  5. I met FJ when I was a senior in 1976, I think, at the running track behind the indoor pool. I was primarily a swimmer, but trying to become a runner (tho I never progressed beyond “jogging.”) We were attracted to each other and we dated for a short time, but FJ had only recently lost his girlfriend in a parachute accident and was still, and understandably, sad. I don’t remember much more! But I somehow remembered him tonight and looked up his name, hoping he hadn’t suffered the same fate as his 1970’s girlfriend.
    Looks like he hasn’t!

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