What was it like when I saw Lindy?" Sonny, what wasn't it like, you might just as well ask!
That's right, grampaw was there that day and I saw it all.
Wasn't like it is now...people appreciated special occasions in those days. Ho, my boy! What an age it was! What a time! The wars were behind us and anything you could guess was ahead. Brilliant minds had pitted themselves against the problems of advanced aviation and the gossip was abroad that the conquest of the moon was well within our grasp!
What heady stuff for a young lad of fifteen summers such as myself! That's right sonny, I was a boy once, Granmaw says I still am sometimes. In those days we all wanted to be like the great sky ship men and travel to far away lands... China... Bromfkidor... Java. Now our imaginations grew even broader as we dared to dream of the Moon...Mars...Neptune.
From the research labs at Mulweeno to the moneyed interests in New York the plan had spread and in a large field near Tallahassee, a launch facility grew.
The crossing would take 33 hours through the inky night. The man to make the historic journey would be a fresh faced boy from the Missouri mail service named Charles Augustus Lindburgh. Even then, he had hero written all over him.
The morning of May 20th 1927, the launch area was jammed with reporters, captains of industry, politicians and about a zillion rubberneckers. I was right down there with 'em! Got me a job selling hot dogs to the crowd. A dollar for the day on top of getting to be there!
The vehicle was unlike any skyship I'd ever laid eyes on, a glittering mass of metal which was capable of traveling at almost eight thousand miles per hour! Its pilot had named it "Spirit of St. Louis" in spite of protests from some of the backers of the journey. I guess they thought that the ship should have a more momentous name for a trip of such historic import.
Beside the machine was a huge reel of wire to which it was connected. Upon launch, it would unwind as she lifted and become the ship's long range radio antenna, a mile and a half of iron wire trailing behind the speeding juggernaut of the heavens.
The means to accomplish this amazing feat were engendered about twelve years before when the supremely imaginative Alexander Rodman Mollot first met the great Nikola Tesla. Together these two giants of science forged the first primitive version of the astounding engine which would make journeys through the frigid void between the worlds possible. I'm not sure how it works, hell, I'm not sure how a vacuum cleaner works, but work it did and that was all that I or anyone cared about that morning.
Lindy emerged from the truck which drove him up to the ship wearing a bulky costume something like a diving suit. Under his arm was a dome shaped helmet of gleaming brass with a window in the front.
What a moment, my boy, what a moment. Just thinking about it now makes me feel like that boy again!
The band was playing, the crowd was roaring as the morning sun rose higher reflecting a million twinkles from the polished sides of the fabulous Moonship just like a big ol' Christmas tree. She only resembled her lighter than air predecessors a little bit. The only gas inside her was the air which would sustain her pilot. Her art nouveau curves were no mere decoration but served to direct the high frequency currents around the amazing ship to propel it through the aether.
Lindy mounted the high platform next to the pilot's cabin and waved once more to the crowd before donning the helmet and entering the ship. The hatch closed behind him with an impressive clang and the crowd fell silent.
My boy, I was riveted on that moment of time. I didn't want to let it pass by, I wanted to wrap it up and put it in my pocket like a precious jewel.
A glow pervaded the skin of the gleaming sky ship and the air sang with the voice of a thousand angels as she lifted herself toward the heavens. Lightening leapt from the ship to the earth once...twice...three times and she disappeared through the clouds. The rapidly unreeling antenna sang a low note until it reached its limit with a resounding twang and trailed away skyward.
The band jumped into a raucous ragtime number as all present cheered until they could cheer no more.
Well, for more than a day and a night that place was the biggest country picnic that the world had ever seen while we all waited to hear word from Lindburgh.
Lindy wouldn't be able to broadcast until he landed because of the static that the ship's drive set up.
After thirty three hours, the radio man waved and shouted for the crowd's attention.
The radio signal was faint but clear. Lindy's words were heard by the radio man and repeated into a microphone which was in that moment the world's eager ear. The radio man said "He says 'I have touched our sister planet.'"
There rose a great cheer as the radio man continued, "He says 'America is great and its great to be an American!'" The crowd went wild and the band started playing "The Stars and Stripes Forever"! I myself nearly fainted from joy at the splendor of the moment.
Sure, there was a lot of scientific type stuff. He brought home lots of rocks and lots of photographs, but that didn't mean a hill of beans next to the towering fact that he had actually done it. Lindy had gone to the Moon!! An American had been to the moon and nothing would ever be the same again.
I guess I was able to take that day away in my pocket after all, huh. Years later, after I grew up and the world wasn't so magical anymore, I finally got to read those words spoken from the Moon that day. Not too many papers printed them favoring what they heard from that radio man instead for their brevity. but I learned 'em by heart...
"I have touched our sister planet. They wanted me to say something about how great America is and how swell it is that I'm an American and have done this thing. Well, fact is, I'm at the bottom of a long list of folks who done it. Folks who really made it happen. Yes, I'm the pilot, but mostly I'm the cargo.
"You know, its funny about that 'how great America is' stuff. From here I can barely see America, the whole world looks hardly any bigger than a quarter and its mostly clouds and water so far as I can tell.
"The ground here is black and dusty. When I kick the dust around it falls down immediately rather than form little clouds like on earth. That I am no longer on Earth is the most powerful feeling I have. This is a new world, there is no doubt about that. Today, I have made the first baby step of the hundred million giant steps which lie ahead for humanity. I am more humble than proud.
"The big yonder is out there and people will soon forget Charles Lindburgh but no one will ever forget this big new world."
He was only half right, 'cause no one will ever forget Lindy, you can trust your old grampaw about that and take it straight to the bank! Back