Monday, September 30, 2013

A Time of Wonder

Cal Rodgers is sitting on the wing of the plane with his foot on the cross bar
October of 1911 was a time of wonder.  The streets in the rural town no longer had to pick up horse manure (well, some manure) as many families had access to a car.  Roads were improved, made wider, and all who had a car could whiz the fifteen miles to the county seat in a matter of an hour or so.

God bless Henry Ford. God bless Thomas Edison.  God bless Alexander Graham Bell.  God bless....all the many others who followed after them.

Theodorus was a young man and still out searching for knowledge and adventure.  A younger brother Leo was still at home, in high school.

Leo was sixteen years old at the time when an unfamiliar sound was heard.  While the entire school was eager to break out and follow the sound, Miss Cromwell—the very strict Miss Cromwell--told all to sit down.  All obeyed, except for Leo.  He needed to visit “the necessaries”.  With that, Leo raced down the six flights, passed the place for necessaries and followed the sound.

Long legs ran in the family and Leo made use of them, arriving at just about the same time as the source of the sound touched down.  A plane—no one in the county had ever seen one, touched one.  But here it was.

The pilot was Cal R. Rodgers.  It had been only eight years after the Wright brothers made history, and a plane sat in the middle of Arch Wells’ hay field, just north of Hunter Cemetery.  

Rodgers had been promised $50,000 from William Randolph Hearst for flying from New York to Los Angeles, navigating by following the Charles & Alton Railroad tracks.  Rodgers had received about ninety hours of instruction from the Wright brothers before setting out on the first trans-continental flight.
“Why the heck is he here?”  That question reverberated through the town.    No one knew.

Then the story came out.  Rodgers was part of a big advertising campaign for Vin Fiz, a new bottled fizzy drink.  Larger towns had already paid a fee for Rodgers to make a stop in the towns so the locals could see the landing and the plane.  The next few towns further down the track didn’t have the money, and the Vin Fiz needed gasoline. 

The town obliged, running with cans of gasoline.  The entire town evacuated to Arch Wells’ hay field, except of course the school kids, who missed an opportunity of a lifetime.  The shop keepers ran, leaving the doors wide open.  Even the bank tellers ran, leaving the cash drawers open.  Every one ran, seeing a part of history in a plain old hay field.

Laura Peck heard the buzz of the engine and saw the Vin Fiz fly over her house.  She dropped her dishtowel and took off running, hiking up her skirts as she ran.  She was a tall lanky woman with skinny long legs and sassy attitude who didn’t care who saw them. 

Laura scrambled over the woven wired fence, catching her dress on the two strands of barbed wire.  She didn’t give a damn, tore her dress up the back, and took off. Laura Peck was known for her spirit and devil-may-care-take-a-chance.

Maybe that was something Theodorus inherited?  That led him to Detroit?  We'll never know.  


The commotion and excitement was high on the hay field and everyone made sure to touch the flimsy plane.  Local photographers made huge profits that day.  It was a day to always remember.

Huge profits were had by many people.  When all had settled down and life returned to normal, it was discovered that the bank had been robbed, the grocery store as well.  A side of beef was missing from the butcher shop. 

Apparently, ransacking and thievery did not need to be invented.  Also, Rodgers missed the deadline by nineteen days, which meant Hearst did not give him the $50,000. 

Source: Tracing the Quote

One U.S. Patent employee, Charles H. Duell had recently announced that all that could be created had already been created.  The year had been 1899.  Since that date to 1911, Mr. Duell had been proved incorrect many times over.