World War II saw the shooting down of more of our military planes that most of us want to think about. We saw the loss by planes being shot down, but also transport planes lost, and planes lost in training accidents. The loss was felt deeply. I realize that accidents are a fact of life and during wartime they are probably more likely to happen than other times, but some accidents just have a bigger impact on our emotions than others. Such was the case of the accident of July 28, 1945.
That morning, the skies over New York City were filled with heavy fog. A B-52 Mitchell Bomber with two pilots and one passenger aboard, en route from New Bedford, Massachusetts, to LaGuardia Airport in New York City, was diverted because the fog was so thick. As it came into the metropolitan area on that Saturday morning, air-traffic controllers instructed the plane to fly to Newark Airport instead.
The new flight plan took the plane over Manhattan. The pilots were warned that the Empire State Building, the tallest building in the city at that time, was not visible. In an effort to gain better visibility, the pilot of the bomber was flying relatively slowly and quite low. As the plane came in straight at the Chrysler Building in midtown, it swerved to avoid the collision, thereby setting it in a collision path with the Empire State Building, hitting the building near the 79th floor. The fuel tanks exploded, filling the building with flames down to the 75th floor, and out of the building at the impact site. One engine from the plane went straight through the building and landed in a penthouse apartment across the street. Other plane parts were embedded in and on top of nearby buildings. The other engine snapped an elevator cable while at least one woman was riding in the elevator car. The emergency auto brake saved the woman from crashing to the bottom, but the engine fell down the shaft and landed on top of it. Thankfully, the rescuers pulled the woman from the elevator, thereby saving her life.
July 28th was a Saturday that year, so there were fewer people in the building. The loss of life in the Empire State Building was only 11 people, but death came by way of horrific burns from the jet fuel, or being thrown from the building. The 11 people killed were all workers from the War Relief Services Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference…the office that the plane crashed into on that fateful day. The other three deaths were the two pilots and their passenger. The crash left an 18 by 20 foot hole in the side of the Empire State Building. The building itself, stood however, because, this plane was nowhere near the size of the planes that took down the World Trade Center in Manhattan on Sept 11, 2001, an event that probably seemed eerily similar to those who were alive and living in New York City on July 28, 1945. The crash caused one million dollars in damage at that time, which would equate to about 10.5 million these days. For many people this was an event, much like 9-11 that would never be forgotten, even though it was not a terrorist attack, but rather a tragic accident.
Kevin, my son-in-law has always loved working on cars. Shortly after their marriage…in fact, on their honeymoon a kid ran into Corrie and Kevin in a parking lot. They were devastated. They had a very nice car and Kevin really loved that car. The kid’s insurance paid to fix it, of course, but Kevin just couldn’t let someone else work on his car. That car was his baby…or at least his second baby. Corrie would tell you that she was his first baby, and that is just the way it is.
When my oldest grandson hit driving age, he wanted a great car…of course, what 16 year old boy doesn’t. Still, most kids don’t really have the money for a new car. So they started looking and found several…and in fact, Chris owned several before he was 16, but when he turned 16, he had his Camaro. It started out white…and pretty rough, but true to form, Kevin set himself to the task of helping his son have the great car he wanted.
Last year on Labor Day weekend, which just happened to include Kevin’s birthday, he was busy painting his son’s Camaro orange…even though he told Chris that the orange he wanted was too expensive and it would have to be yellow. I’m quite sure Chris dreaded that thought. Kevin is such a teaser. Nevertheless, Chris got his orange Camaro, and his dad did the work. It is beautiful.
Then, Chris wanted a bigger engine, and once again, Kevin took on the task of helping his son achieve his dreams. They have spent countless hours in the garage working on that car. It isn’t done yet and I have no doubt that they will be working on it today, once again on Kevin’s birthday, unless Chris is working that is.
My grandson, Josh will be 15 in a few days, so I know Kevin will finish up with one son, and start working on cars with his other son. It is a never ending story, and Kevin wouldn’t want it any other way…except maybe to add a little fishing with his boys to it. Today is Kevin’s birthday. Happy birthday Kevin!! Have a wonderful day…and try not to work too hard!! We love you!!
Bob and I were having dinner at Shifters, the drive in fast food restaurant, where you might remember that the A & W Drive-In used to be, here in Casper. Shifters is decorated in a nostalgic gas station motif, and part of the decor was a display of old toy cars. It reminded me of my first car…or rather, the car I had to share with my sisters. There is just something wrong with having to share your car with your sisters. Nevertheless, that was the way it was, and since none of us had a driver’s license, we didn’t have much chance of getting our own car in the near future.
Lots of kids have cars these days that are battery operate, and require only the ability to steer to make the whole thing work, but our car was different than that. I suppose it was like a cross between a car and a bicycle, except that the pedals were fairly level to each other, for obvious reasons. Even with the pedals set so you could operate the car, you had to be careful, or you might whack your knees on the underside of the hood. I guess that is one of the hazards of being the engine. The car was just barely more modern than the one Fred Flintstone drove, and then only is it’s weight and the more modern use of the legs. I guess I should be thankful for that part, because that whole running down the road with no shoes on…not, exactly my cup of tea. My feet are too tender.
You wouldn’t have found one of us driving our car down the highway, like you have seen of the battery operated models of today, because that was just too far away for a little kid to peddle, but it could take an ambitious kid down the street to the corner, and then back…mostly because we knew that if we went further, we would face the wrath of Mom, and you simply didn’t want to go there, because if Mom’s spankings didn’t do the trick, Dad would fix your wagon when he got home. Needless to say, we didn’t stray outside our limits. And since we didn’t stray too far, we were allowed to have a really good time with our little car.
After looking at the cars mounted on the wall at Shifters, I felt maybe just a little twinge of jealousy. Our car was a dull gold color…very plain, and these had obviously received a little bit fancier paint job, and they were built for one…a little bit sportier. While, our car was a two seater, and you would be taking your sister along…if you knew what was good for you. I might have chosen the Barbie Doll type car, had it been available, but then, what good was going for a drive, if you had no one to talk to. No…I guess my first car was just what I would have chosen…looking back now, anyway.
My Uncle Elmer died in 1981. Most of his nieces and nephews never got a chance to know him very well. The other day, his son, Elmer was telling me some of the stories of his dad’s childhood, and the mischief he and his 2 brothers got into. This story reminds me a little bit of some of the MASH episodes. Having had no brothers myself, I didn’t really understand the inner workings of the minds of three brothers who were egging each other on. The story Elmer told, goes like this…
One day Uncle Elmer was plowing with an old tractor at his dad’s place. His dad went out to use the outhouse, which is what they used back then. That is when Uncle Elmer and his brother Les got an idea. Uncle Elmer drove the tractor right up by the outhouse. His brother Les hit the outhouse with a 2×4 as Uncle Elmer revved up the engine. Their dad came running out of the outhouse with his pants down around his ankles and the Montgomery Ward’s catalog in hand. Their dad wasn’t very happy with them, but he was relieved that the outhouse made it through whole ordeal in good shape.
Of course, not many of us knew Elmer’s grandfather, but he was quite the man in his own right. He pumped oil out in Midwest early in his adult life, but in the 1940’s he received a piece of property on Poison Spider Road in the Homestead Act. He continued to pump oil in Midwest while he and his wife and sons built the house on Poison Spider Road. The boys lived in an old crude oil tank that had been cut in half, like a Quonset hut. It had a dirt floor and a pot belly stove for heat. In the Fall, the boys learned early on, to throw something on the floor before getting out of bed. Apparently the rattlesnakes liked these cozy surroundings, and as the weather grew cooler. A throw rug thrown on the floor was a good way to alert you that danger was on the floor, and so your feet shouldn’t be.
Yes, what Uncle Elmer didn’t think of, his brother Les did. Their brother Tom was the baby and therefore wasn’t involved as much, but he had a mischievous side too. Elmer figures it is an inherited trait, and one that probably got Tom is as much trouble later on, such as when the boys were racing their Harley’s out by Evansville. I don’t know how many of you know about the Evansville area, but the police out there don’t take much to racing…if you know what I mean. I’m sure Uncle Elmer and his brothers found that out too.