His parents came to the U.S. from Croatia in the 1890s. His father first worked the coal mines in Pennsylvania and then went to work at the H.J. Heinz Co. factory.
“I was born in a four-room flat above the Heinz pickle factory, and one of my earliest memories was the smell of vinegar and pickling spices,” Jackline said.
When Jackline was 4, his mother was killed in an accident. Walking home from the factory one day, she was struck by a railcar that accidently broke loose.
“It was a tragedy. My poor father did the best he could, but with eight kids to support, we were basically left on our own. Fortunately, my oldest brother John, who was 17 at the time, helped raise me, my other four brothers and my two sisters,” he said.
During World War II, Jackline and three of his brothers served in the military. Along with Edward and Frank, Jackline joined the Navy, while his brother John, who signed up with the Army, participated in the Battle of the Bulge. Jackline flew F4U planes, landing them on aircraft carriers in the Pacific Ocean.
Jackline said he took flying lessons at Johnson Airport, outside of Pittsburgh, and received his license at the age of 17. In 1942, Jackline was sworn in as a naval aviation cadet. After the war, he and his shipmate Don Louis founded Pacific Air Industries, a business which provided the U.S. government with aerial war maps of Europe for future use. That job led to contracts with land developers and engineering firms, and the company grew to include 85 employees working around the clock. “We produced everything from annual reports to postcards for corporations,” Jackline said.
Jackline’s career high above the clouds eventually landed him in Santa Fe.
“From 1948 through 1960, I photo-mapped almost all of New Mexico for the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture,” he said. “As I got to know the people of Santa Fe, and I realized that you could go hunting and fishing five minutes from downtown, I was prompted to sell my company in 1961 and move here.”
In the past 51 years, Jackline has experienced many reincarnations. Some old-timers might remember him as “Trail Cook Charlie,” which is the name he went by when he ran the restaurant and bar at the Mountain View Guest Ranch in Cowles, N.M., just north of Pecos. Later, he purchased the bar and restaurant at the Santa Fe Airport, which he named Good Time Charlie’s Crazy-Ass Hat Bar.
“That was a lot of fun. I had about a hundred different hats, including one of a bullfighter. Everyone from high-powered politicians to regular people wore the hats while they drank and had a good time. But as the cook, bartender and host, it was a lot of work serving the airline passengers and locals breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. I had a trailer parked in back of the restaurant, and in the afternoon, I would take a two-hour nap so that I would be fresh for the dinner crowd,” Jackline said.
Jackline left the restaurant business and, in 1966, went to work for Presbyterian Medical Services as a funding coordinator. While traipsing throughout Northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, he had many an adventure, including delivering a baby.
“I was staying in a village near Alamosa, Colo., when I received a knock on my door at 2 a.m. The man was frantic, saying that his wife was about to give birth. I told him to stay calm and that I would call some nurses who were close by. But the baby couldn’t wait, so I rolled up my sleeves and pulled the baby out of his mother’s womb,” Jackline said.
Jackline later decided to become a licensed real estate broker. His first wife, Martha King, to whom he was married for 48 years, died in 1998. The couple never had children. He has been married to Maria Garcia for the past 13 years.
Although he’s semi-retired, Jackline continues to fly, and loves to take friends and family on deep-sea fishing trips in Mexico.
He’s still in contact with his only surviving sibling, Ed, who is 92 and lives in Newport Beach, Calif. He’s looking forward to visiting his two nieces in Danville, Calif., which is northeast of Oakland, for Thanksgiving.
Today, on his 89th birthday, Jackline plans to spend a quiet evening with his wife and close friends, and give thanks that his love of flying brought him to Santa Fe.
Ana Pacheco’s weekly tribute to our community elders appears every Sunday. She can be reached at 474-2800.