A Brussels Thanksgiving


Hand lettered menu from The Palace Hotel in Brussels, Belgium, celebrating an American Thanksgiving,  1932


The dance company all autographed the occasion on the back side.

Note Mistinguett’s signature in the lower left quadrant. Many of these figures appear in River of January

Gail Chumbley is the author of the memoir, River of January, also available on Kindle

The Flyover, 1933


Chum’s logbook for September 13, 1933. Note the comment CC for cross country, then the added notation, stunt.

Piloting his Waco C, Chum performed above President Roosevelt’s spectacular National Recovery Act Parade in New York City–the flagship agency of the President’s New Deal.

(Click below for a street level view of the 1933 parade)



Read River of January, a memoir by Gail Chumbley. Also available on Kindle.

River of January: Friday Excerpt


New York, 1931

Early for Helen’s Gambarelli audition at the Roxy, the girl and her mother crowded among throngs of other hopefuls. Mothers pulled distracted daughters through the bedlam, while their girls tried to catch words with each other. All the dancers were dressed in rehearsal skirts, tights, and leotards—toe shoes slung over shoulders, or around necks. A pianist, oblivious to the chaos, loudly played echoing chords from the stage. Reaching for her mother’s hand, Helen, shouldered her way to a pair of empty seats to the right of the center aisle.
For the next three hours the two women witnessed extraordinary dancing. Yet while watching her competition perform their hearts out, Helen remained tranquil. She knew her craft—she knew she could compete. She had continued to train with her dance instructor, Mr. Evans regardless of her other obligations.
“Helen Thompson,” a small male assistant, with a receding hairline, read from a clipboard.
Helen rose, glancing at Bertha with a small smile. A little jittery when she stepped onto the stage, the girl’s dedication and discipline overrode her nerves. She posed, arms up, gracefully curved, head back, chin raised to the right, and she struck her regal beginning position. The pianist struck the opening bars, and her talent, training, and passion combined into graceful execution. Helen presented Stravinsky’s Firebird—the tableau in which the Firebird rejoices over the destruction of the evil Kashchei. Her mastery of fluid motion and grace assured Helen’s selection for a spot as a Gambarelli “Beauty,” and she began rehearsals with a new troupe of ballerinas almost immediately after auditions.

Gail Chumbley is the author of the memoir, River of January, also available on Kindle

Living Life Forward

Still my strongest Birthday memory.

Gail Chumbley

It was the night of February 9, 1964, a Sunday, when my older brother and I had to make a crucial decision.  We were both over stimulated, frantic, not one of our four feet remaining long on the floor. The house vibrated with our excitement and the weight of our impossible dilemma. For starters our birthday was the following day–the 10th, (though we’re not twins–he’s a year older). Still, that pre-birthday fuse had already ignited and by the 9th the two of us were banking off the walls.

The quandary we faced that Sunday night was whether to watch “Davy Crockett at the Alamo,” starring Fess Parker on Disney (The Alamo!), or the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. This was that first historic Beatles broadcast, live on American television, and we agonized between the two choices.

In 1964 there were no video players, no DVD players, no home computers, or dvr’s…

View original post 378 more words