Bertha eyed the large box with a wary, but inquisitive gaze. “We got this for you. Merry Christmas Mother,” we both hope you’ll like it,” Helen beamed with pride. “Chum?”
Bertha narrowed her eyes, watching as her son-in-law sliced down a cardboard corner with his pocket knife. Revealed inside, a beautiful new Emerson radio, curved corners, blonde wood, featuring inset vertical columns. Mother’s eyes now grew wide as she took in the gift—this radio was the top of the line, as Bertha well knew.
“Oh my heavens,” she exclaimed. “You two must have spent a pretty penny on this!”
Helen grinned happily, her mother seemed honestly pleased, while Chum, hurried to plug the device in, rapidly turning the dial looking for a Christmas broadcast.
Kneeling at a small end table, he twisted the tuner knob—the frequency tone whined and whistled from fuzzy to piercing. Finally, a clear authoritative voice rose, articulating in a clipped urgent cadence. Nineteen hundred and thirty seven has been an eventful year in American news. It was last spring, in May that the Hindenburg, a German dirigible tragically exploded over New Jersey. Celebrated aviatrix Amelia Earhart was lost in July, along with navigator, Fred Noonan in the uncharted expanses of the South Pacific . . .
“No Christmas music, honey?” Helen asked over the broadcaster’s voice.
“That’s really not a surprise,” Chum mumbled, lost in thought.
Bertha quipped, “No Christmas music on Christmas is a surprise?”
“No. No. Sorry. Amelia Earhart was someone I once knew at the field.
Impressed for once, Helen’s mother pushed for more details. “You knew Amelia Earhart?”
“Oh. Well, yeah I did. She was a friend of a friend.” Suddenly self conscious with all three women staring at him, Chum struggled for words. “You see, Earhart had no training in navigation at all. She could fly just fine, but had to hire navigators to get anywhere. The, eh, other girls—girl-pilots talked about it. They uh, believed it was that husband of hers, George Putnam who inflated her abilities . . . spent money to build up her reputation. Amelia got in over her head on that flight, and the poor kid was killed as a result.
“How do you know this?” This time Eileen piped up, clearly fascinated by his tale.
“Like I said, that Roosevelt Field crew of gals could be a clucky bunch. The other women talked a lot about how shamelessly that husband promoted her career.”
“I’d never heard that before,” Bertha exclaimed, appraising her son-in-law in a new light.
“Me either,” Helen added, not sure she was pleased with his “the other girls at the field” story or not.
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