There were times when I’d be blathering along on some historical subject, and in a sudden epiphany realize, “and it happened today!” One time, displaying a before-and-after photo of the USS Maine in a lecture on the Spanish-American War, it dawned on me that the date was February 15, 1898–that very day. “Oh, that’s today!” sprang from my mouth. Various reactions crossed the many faces of my students. Ranging from, “she really needs a life,” to “that might be mildly interesting, but it’s not.” My kids seemed to exude more sympathy than interest in my sudden, self-induced enthusiasm. “Geez, don’t all hop up all at once,” was my usual sardonic response. Then they would laugh.
December 7th got a nod, September 17th, Constitution Day, and my personal favorite, “The Seventh of March Speech.” That one you ought to look up. Finest speech made in the Senate to my way of thinking. I made a practice of asking a baritone-voiced student to read Daniel Webster’s words if March 7th fell on a school day. There’s May 8th, V-E Day, September 11th, March 5th, Boston Massacre–all acknowledged and more to boot.
Today I presented a book talk on River of January for a local service club. I shared the story of Chum’s epic, 1933 air race, (that he won) soaring through the night sky from Los Angeles to New York. Chattering happily I flipped to the slide pictured above. This is the actress Helen Hayes awarding Chum his first place trophy at the Capitol Theater on October 4, 1933. The Capitol was premiering Miss Hayes’ new film, Night Flight, and the race was somehow wound up with the movie. Well, that was 81 years ago today. So of course, I grew just as ridiculously excited as I used to in my history classes. “Oh. My. Gosh. That’s today!” And I will commend this group of adults for not judging me as harshly as my eye-rolling students. These fine people laughed–as happy as I felt with the coincidence.
So there it is. Chum won the “Darkness Derby” on October 3, 1933 and Miss Hayes handed over cash and a trophy the following evening in New York.
It was a Wednesday night, October 4th, that Chum’s life dramatically changed exiting that theater. He now had award money, and a trophy that proved his merit as an up-and-coming pilot holding his own in the Golden Era of Aviation.