My cousin, Darla Stanko passed away on February 26, 2023, at 63 just years old. As I think of Darla, I remember her laugh, which was just like her mother’s. It was sweet and a little shy, but when they laughed…you laughed, because their laugh was contagious. As kids, we would all go down in Grandma Byer’s basement to play, while the grownups visited upstairs. Grandma’s basement was a little creepy and worked well as a “haunted” house…if the kids liked that sort of thing. Some did and some didn’t. I preferred other games. I think Darla did too. She had asthma and scary stuff could trigger things.
As kids do, we all grew up…quicker than we would ever have dreamed possible. Before long, babies were coming along. I remember talking to Darla once. She told me that without a doubt, the best thing she ever did was JeanAnn, and of that I have no doubt. For a mom to look at the beautiful little baby they have just given birth to…there is no greater honor. Kids are a big part of our lives, and games are a part of kids. JeanAnn told me about the times she and her mom played cards. Their favorite game was Speed…which is a high drama card matching game for two players. It was perfect for them.
The other thing that JeanAnn and her mom loved to do was to spend time jumping on the trampoline in their yard. I can just picture it now, a summer evening in the back yard, just the two girls, jumping and giggling the hours away. Of course, there was also their dog, Nelly with them too. Now Nelly was a different sort of dog. She was very gentle with JeanAnn, but then she was JeanAnn’s guard dog. She was also gentle with Darla too…except for that one time. JeanAnn could make Nelly mad and then point at a new person, and Nelly would go get that person. That was all well and good…until JeanAnn did that to her mom. My guess is that JeanAnn had no idea what was about to take place. Darla saw it coming, and she jumped on the furniture to get away from the guard dog that was now hot on her trail. She almost knocked herself out jumping down. JeanAnn says, “It was great” and maybe it was…for her anyway. Darla…maybe not so much, but I’m sure she laughed about it later.
Now, for me, possibly the funniest story about Darla’s life was the “fateful” trip to Denver. Darla decided to take her daughter to Denver, and to take her mom, my Aunt Delores Johnson with them. She needed a “navigator” and while I can’t picture my Aunt Dee in that capacity, maybe Darla thought map reading was like breathing…anyone could do it. My thought is, “Have you met your mother?” Anyway, off they went, and to make a long story short, they ended up on a one street in rush hour traffic, going the wrong way!!” Oh yes, that’s the Aunt Dee I know, and I can totally picture that whole situation…once I can stop laughing!!
The Schienenzeppelin or rail zeppelin was an experimental railcar which resembled the Zeppelin airship. It was designed by the German aircraft engineer Franz Kruckenberg in 1929. The Schienenzeppelin was powered by a propeller located at the rear. The railcar accelerated to 143 mph setting the land speed record for a petroleum powered rail vehicle. Only one Schienenzeppelin was ever built due to safety concerns. It was never really put into service and was finally dismantled in 1939. The propeller, which powered the railcar, was also the source of concern for its safety. It was exposed, and so the concern was that someone might be hit by he propeller.
Anticipating the design of the Schienenzeppelin, the earlier Aerowagon, an experimental Russian high-speed railcar, was also equipped with an aircraft engine and a propeller. On 24 July 1921, a group of delegates to the First Congress of the Profintern, led by Fyodor Sergeyev, took the Aerowagon from Moscow to the Tula collieries to test it. Abakovsky was also on board. Although they successfully arrived in Tula on their maiden run, the return route to Moscow was not successful. The Aerowagon derailed at high speed near Serpukhov, killing six of the 22 people on board. A seventh man later died of his injuries.
The Schienenzeppelin railcar was built at the beginning of 1930 in the Hannover-Leinhausen works of the German Imperial Railway Company. The work was completed by Fall of that year. The vehicle was 84 feet 9 3/4 inches long and had just two axles, with a wheelbase of 64 feet 3 5/8 inches. The height was 9 feet 2 1/4 inches. It had two conjoined BMW IV 6-cylinder petroleum aircraft engines. The driveshaft was raised seven-degrees above the horizontal to give the vehicle some downwards thrust. The body of the Schienenzeppelin was streamlined, having some resemblance to the era’s popular Zeppelin airships, and it was built of aluminum in aircraft style to reduce weight. The railcar could carry up to 40 passengers. Its interior was designed in Bauhaus-style.
On May 10, 1931, the Schienenzeppelin exceeded a speed of 120 miles per hour for the first time. Afterwards, it toured Germany as an exhibit to the general public throughout Germany. There was still some concern due to the trains speed. On June 21, 1931, it set a new world railway speed record of 143 miles per hour on the Berlin–Hamburg line between Karstädt and Dergenthin, which was not surpassed by any other rail vehicle until 1954. The railcar still holds the land speed record for a petroleum powered rail vehicle. This high speed was attributable, in addition to other things, to its low weight, which was only 44800 pounds.
While several modifications were attempted, ultimately the Schienenzeppelin was scrapped. Due to many problems with the Schienenzeppelin prototype, the Deutsche Reichsbahn-Gesellschaft decided to go their own way in developing a high-speed railcar, leading to the Fliegender Hamburger (Flying Hamburger) in 1933. This new design was much more suitable for regular service and served also as the basis for later railcar developments. However, many of the Kruckenberg ideas were based on the experiments with Schienenzeppelin and high-speed rail travel, found their way into later DRG railcar designs.
The failure, if it could be called that, of Schienenzeppelin has been attributed to everything from the dangers of using an open propeller in crowded railway stations to fierce competition between Kruckenberg’s company and the Deutsche Reichsbahn’s separate efforts to build high-speed railcars. Another disadvantage of the rail zeppelin was the inability to pull additional wagons to form a train, because of its construction. Furthermore, the vehicle could not use its propeller to climb steep gradients, as the flow would separate when full power was applied. Thus an additional means of propulsion was needed for such circumstances. Safety concerns have been associated with running high-speed railcars on old track network, with the inadvisability of reversing the vehicle, and with operating a propeller close to passengers.
As the youngest brother, sometimes it seems that my grand nephew, Isaac Spethman feels the need to be the wild, adventurous type. His big brothers always seem, to Isaac, to be ahead of him, which is, of course, normal because they are his older brothers. Nevertheless, to Isaac, saying that flag football isn’t as tough as regular football, feels like being called the baby. Isaac couldn’t wait to play football with the big boys. This was his first year of getting to do that, and he did great. He was so happy to be playing real football…finally!!
Isaac’s wild side goes beyond football, however. Isaac love the feel of riding a motorcycle with his dad, Steve Spethman. As far as Isaac is concerned, faster is better. Riding is something Isaac can share with his daddy…when his mom isn’t riding with his dad anyway. Isaac gets along well with all the guys. His brother, friends, and his dad and other relatives. He loves hanging out with the guys and playing airsoft wars. Of course, Isaac was raised around guns. He knows about guns…how to be safe with one, and how to shoot one…well. I suppose that skill would come in handy when playing a game called airsoft wars. Isaac and his brothers love all games that bring out their tough-guy side.
While Isaac is a tough-guy, all boy kind of kid, he also has a softer side, although I don’t think he would admit that to just everyone. When it comes to helping a little mermaid named Aleesia down the dock, gentleman that he is, Isaac takes his little sister’s hand to make sure that she always gets safely to wherever it is that she is headed. Aleesia is the baby of the family and the only girl, so her brothers take really good care of her, while letting her know that she is a little princess in their minds. Isaac, being the child closest to Aleesia in age, seems to understand what it’s like to be the little one, and he just instinctively takes his sister protectively by the hand. I’m sure it made Aleesia feel very safe. And really, what are big brothers for, after all. Today is Isaac’s eleventh birthday. I can’t believe that he is so grown up. Happy birthday Isaac!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
For years after the first planes began to fly, aviators knew that they would eventually go faster and faster. I’m not sure who first came up with the idea of flight at Mach speed, but it was a challenge that the test pilots quickly set their sights on. Test pilots are a notoriously reckless bunch. They know that the planes and speeds they test could get them killed, but they do it anyway, trying to beat the odds. The first Mach 1 flight (documented anyway, since several other pilots claimed to have done it) was Luftwaffe test pilot Lothar Sieber (April 7, 1922 – March 1, 1945) who broke the sound barrier inadvertently on 1 March 1945. At the time, he was piloting a Bachem Ba 349 “Natter” for the first manned vertical takeoff of a rocket in history. In just 55 seconds, he traveled a total of 8.7 miles. The aircraft crashed and he was killed. Serious thought would have to be give to stability at that speed, and the improvements were started immediately. Still, it would take time before anyone dared to try it again.
Now, the pilots set their sights on the next big dream…Mach 2. It was always a race to be the first to achieve it. Flying at Mach 2 was not going to be very far behind Mach 1. On November 20, 1953, Albert Scott Crossfield became the first person to fly at twice the speed of sound as he piloted the Skyrocket to a speed of 1,291 mph…Mach 2.005. The Skyrocket proved to be of a superior design, and after the record breaking flight, Crossfield was able to safely land the plane. He was not only successful in flying at Mach 2, but he was able to enjoy the victory celebration afterward, and in the world of Mach speed flying, that was a novelty for sure.
As with any other milestone, records such as Mach 2 flying are just meant to be broken. Mach 3 was the new challenge, and the breaking of this record would come even quicker than the last one had. On September 27, 1956, Milburn G. Apt, flying in the Bell X-2. The plane, which had been nicknamed Starbuster was an X-plane research aircraft built to investigate flight characteristics in the Mach 2–3 range. Apt was a Unites States test pilot, and his specialty was high speeds. He was shooting for and attained the record breaking speed of Mach 3.196 on that fateful September day, but did not live to receive the praise for his accomplishments. The subsequent loss of control of the plane from inertia coupling led to the breakup of the aircraft and Captain Apt’s death.
Henry Ford has long been credited for building the first automobile, but what I find interesting and even a little bit funny, is the fact that in reality, that first vehicle, introduced on this day, June 4, 1896, was called a Quadricycle, and in reality was far more like the modern day 4 wheeler ATV than it was an automobile. When we think of an automobile, even the early models, we think of a vehicle with a top over it, or really an automobile body over it. Such was not the case with Ford’s first design. He was more interested in making a vehicle that ran…and ran fast…than in a way to protect the passengers from the elements. I suppose that since people were used to riding in wagons or carriages, having a cover over the Quadricycle wasn’t the most important thing on the wish list. Of course, when it came to capabilities, the Quadricycle was nothing like the modern day ATV, but then the original cars were not capable of going as fast or as far as the modern day automobiles either.
Henry Ford didn’t start out as an inventor, but was actually working as the chief engineer for the main plant of the Edison Illuminating Company when he began working on the Quadricycle. He was on call at all hours, because they had to ensure that Detroit had electrical service 24 hours a day. His flexible schedule gave Ford the freedom needed to experiment with his pet project, which was building a horseless carriage with a gasoline powered engine. Ford had seen an article on the subject gasoline powered motors in a November 1895 issue of American Machinist magazine, and his obsession with the gasoline engine was born. Then, the following March, another Detroit engineer named Charles King introduced his hand built wooden vehicle with a four cylinder engine, beating Ford out by about three months. His vehicle was able to travel up to five miles per hour, fueling Ford’s desire to build a lighter and faster gasoline powered vehicle.
As great as Ford was at building his Quadricycle, which would travel at speeds of about 20 miles per hour, it is doubtful that Ford could have ever been hailed as a great designer of garages. As he and his crew went to push the Quadricycle out of the back yard shed they had built it in, they discovered that it was too wide to fit through the door. Not willing to wait another minute, Ford grabbed an axe, and smashed the brick wall away to allow the Quadricycle to be pushed out. Then as a friend rode his bicycle down the street to warn the people of the vehicle that was to follow, Ford drive his Quadricycle for the first time. I find it odd that while Charles King actually built that first vehicle, he was never really credited with doing so, and Ford went on to build many of them, and as we all know, to become quite famous doing so.
Today was my grandson, Josh’s last regular track meet. He has enjoyed track so much, and he is very good at it. He has long legs and they are very strong. Josh had entered the 400 Meter Run, the 4 X 100 Meter Relay, and the 200 Meter Run. The day was beautiful, after a cool, rainy start. The meet was running very smoothly, and the time for Josh’s first race, the 400 Meter Run, quickly arrived. This was a race we all felt Josh would do well in, because he had always seemed to need a little distance to get up to speed.
Josh was to run in the outside lane…the one that toward the end, can be quickly caught up to by the inside lane. The gun sounded, and it was very clear to me that Josh got a great start in this race. There was no hesitation at the sound of the gun…just a smooth take off. I was excited by that in itself, because as we all know, the take off is very important.
Around the first turn, Josh was still in the lead…in fact he was quickly pulling away from the other runners. Then he got to that point…at about 100 meters, where he gets up to speed. At that point, he took off like a rocket. People around his mom, my daughter, Corrie started saying, “Look at that kid!!! Look at him!!” They were stunned. And we…were, totally hyper with excitement!!
Josh has been running in Middle School Track for two years now, and while he placed quite well in the races, he had not taken first place yet. We wanted it for him so badly. He really, really wanted it. We knew he had it in him. And this race just might be that race.
The race continued like that right up to the end. I could hardly breathe, I was just so excited. Here was my grandson, so far out ahead of the rest of the runners that they weren’t even in sight of him. Everyone was so excited!! The man standing next to my daughter, Corrie asked, “Which runner is yours?” Corrie proudly exclaimed, “The one in first!!” The man said, “Wow!!” She was so proud!! We all were!!
The pictures Josh’s brother, my grandson Chris took, said it all. There are no other runners in the picture. That is because Josh never lost the lead. He was the only runner in the pictures, because he had left all the others in the dust!! He was like a rocket, and they simply couldn’t compete with that. I’m so proud of my grandson, Josh’s first 1st place win…and in a tough, long race…the 400 Meter Run!! Josh ran the race in 1.07 seconds. Way to go Josh!! I’m so proud of you!!