The Disappearance Of George Blodgett And Harold Golding

In the middle of a hot July in 1953, fifty-seven year old George Reddington Blodgett II and fifty-four year old Harold Golding of Cambridge, Massachusetts left Boston on a private plane. Their destination was Lima, Peru. Their plan was to deliver the plane to a buyer and see the sights on a month-long South American vacation. 

Blodgett, the pilot, was a Yale and Harvard grad and a corporate tax attorney with the Boston law firm of Herrick, Smith, Donald, Farley and Ketchum. He was also the older brother of pioneering General Electric scientist Dr. Katharine Burr Blodgett. Golding was the Vice-President of the International Equipment Company in Brighton.

Left: Harold Golding. Right: George Blodgett as a young man attending Yale during the Great War. Photo courtesy Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center, Wendy Schnur.

On July 16, the men spent the night in Guatemala City, flying to Managua, Nicaragua the next day. From there, they headed out on their Cessna 170 to San José, Costa Rica. They never arrived at their destination.

When the men failed to show up in San José, the alarm was raised. The U.S. Embassy was informed and the Nicaraguan, Panamanian and Costa Rican air forces co-ordinated in a search and rescue effort with the State Department in Washington, which sent two amphibians from the 26th Rescue Squadron at the American Embassy in Peru. One of Blodgett's co-workers, attorney Charles Hovey, made the trip down to Central America to aid in the search.

The area where they believed the plane may have crashed was a dense rainforest. Though hampered by poor visibility, pilots flew over the jungle looking for any signs of a downed plane... to no avail. Word was passed on to those living in neighbouring villages about the missing plane, instructing locals to report any sign of the missing men.

In early August, one rumour circulated that the plane had landed in the Canal Zone in Puerto Carrillo, but officials said there was no verification of this. They doubted that a small plane had sufficient fuel aboard to make it that far. Another rumour from a Costa Rican village said the plane crashed into the sea. 

Shortly after this, two messages were found written in the sand on a beach in Puerto Carrillo. One said 'OK' and the second, in Spanish, said that an aircraft had crashed into the mountains ten miles west of Puerto Carillo. 

The messages in the sand proved to be dead ends. On March 20, 1954, the Blodgett and Golding families both held memorial services at the First Congregational Church in Cambridge despite the fact that the plane or their bodies were never found.

There were a number of unusual 'coincidences' regarding George Blodgett. For one, his disappearance and presumed passing wasn't the only tragedy in his family. His father, a prominent General Electric patent attorney, was shot and killed by an intruder in his home in 1897, when George was just two years old. Less than a year prior to his disappearance, both George and a passenger suffered facial cuts when a plane he was flying from Paris to Cape Town crashed in Mbeye, Tanganyika (now Tanzania). While it was certainly possible that he had terrible luck, that's pretty terrible luck indeed! However, to suggest that Blodgett was an inexperienced or 'bad' pilot would be unfair. He had flown sixteen thousand miles around the perimeter of the United States in 1947, with his wife as co-pilot. He had also flown over the jungles of Central America at least once before.

What did this all have to do with figure skating? Well... George Blodgett was a relation of U.S. women's and pairs medallist Polly Blodgett. He was a respected skating judge and a former President of The Skating Club of Boston. Golding was the current President of the Skating Club of Boston. During World War II, the two men served together on the club's board - Blodgett as Secretary and Golding as Treasurer.

Left: Polly Blodgett. Right: Ollie Haupt Jr. and Polly Blodgett. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

What became of George Blodgett and Harold Golding? I think it's completely unprobable that they went on to live 'new lives under presumed names' like characters in a spy novel. The most likely scenario is that their plane had engine problems or ran into bad visibility in some remote region of Central America and that they both perished in the crash. There is also the remote possibility that one or both survived the crash but perished as a result of their injuries, starvation or getting lost in the jungle. However their stories ended, it is important that we remember their important contributions to the figure skating world.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":