What Really Happened – July 14, 1937

[Author’s note: The following is not an excerpt from Velvet Rain, but a “side story,” if you will, from Kain Richards’ extraordinary life.]

From Kain Richards’ diary: February 5, 1948

Orville Wright died last week. Heart attack. I felt bad, but I don’t know why. It’s not like I knew him. Still, it got me thinking about something I hadn’t thought about for a long time. Funny how that happens.

I remember like it was yesterday. In those days, there wasn’t much good news, and you held on to whatever you could. The Dust Bowl was choking the life out of the prairies, and there was talk that over a million people had been forced to move on. Some said a million-two. A million-three. Who knew. Here in Newark things were bad, things were bad everywhere, but when the news came over the radio that morning, I didn’t even know I was smiling.

The truth was, I don’t think very many believed she could do it. I mean, it had been done before, but the papers had said that this was going to be the longest on record. The number is still lodged in my brain: twenty-nine thousand. If I remember right, the paper said it was like crossing the Atlantic about nine or ten times. Twenty-nine thousand miles.

I was twelve when I first saw a picture of her. She was standing in front of a plane—a
biplane, I think. It had a big propeller, and she stood right next to it. She was so thin. Almost as thin as the blades. She had this long dress and a cap, and this quirky little grin. I remember thinking how she looked more like Mrs. Grinnich, the librarian at my school, than a pilot. But mostly I remember that quirkly little grin. It was like she knew some secret that the rest of us didn’t. In a way, I can understand. Not that I grin much about mine, though.

If I close my eyes, I can still hear Len Carl’s perfect radio voice booming out of my father’s old Zenith: “AROUND THE WORLD! AROUND THE WORLD!”

It was July 14, 1937. After two weeks, the Electra had landed in California. Amelia Earhart had done it.

I couldn’t lose that stupid grin. I knew then that I wanted to meet her someday. But of course, that never happened. The war came, and the world changed again. I couldn’t help but wonder if Gramps had had a hand in that, too, damn him.

Purchase Velvet Rain