The Liberty Gazette
July 17, 2012Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Wings aloft over gently incoming tide, we soared southward, Pacific blue to our right, chiseled rock to our left. The lovely Bellingham weekend with my sister and her beau ended too soon, but as they returned to their routines and work we looked forward to vacationing over and along the west coast. Around Elliot Bay and downtown Seattle, beneath us a mountain valley dotted by lakes and streams emptying into the Columbia River, the mass of Mount St. Helens arose to the east, her cratered peak snuggled into puffy obscuration. Above the gorgeous shores of Washington and Oregon, around Portland we followed the Willamette River into Salem, stopping for a visit with Mike’s sister and mom, who are always excited to see their traveling brother/son. His pilot career has conditioned his mom to ask in every call, "Where are you now?"
Mike: Nourished by family time, an invitation to stay with friends along the coast of northern California beckoned. The small flying community at Fort Bragg endowed us with a most hospitable stay at the home of air racing pals, Red and Marilyn. Red retired from his highly successful automotive business. Marilyn volunteers for darn near everything, including historic preservation in neighboring Mendocino, which you might recognize as "Cabot Cove, Maine" from the popular television series Murder, She Wrote. According to the owners of the Victorian bed and breakfast inn portrayed as the home of lead character Jessica Fletcher (played by Angela Lansbury) nine of the 264 episodes of Murder aired from 1984 to 1996 were filmed in Mendocino. Sites throughout the town appeared in all episodes and many residents were cast as "extras". They say Ms. Lansbury commonly interacted with locals; and they’d seen Tom Bosley "sign his autograph on a Glad Bag box proudly presented by a shopper stepping out of the local grocery." Twelve years’ filming contributed to the local economy, including the 20 member Mendocino High School band, whose appearance in one segment earned enough to fund a field trip.
How could a west coast town pass as a charming northeastern village? Many of Mendocino’s early settlers were from the eastern seaboard and brought their architecture with them. Filming required less travel from Hollywood and it lent well to depicting the fictional town, changing only exterior signs on businesses. The sign at the entrance to the Hill House of Mendocino became "The Hill House of Cabot Cove" and remains today a symbol of the camaraderie of home folks and film crew. Over a dozen silent movies dating back to 1904, and many "talkies" have taken advantage of the quaint architecture and pristine coastline, among them East of Eden, The Russians are Coming, and The Summer of ’42.
Linda: Mike being from Hollywood, the west coast and film industry bring familiarity. For me, enjoyment was made possible by Monday morning’s post-race visit to Air Mods Northwest where Grumman guru Ken Blackman gave "The Elyminator" the once-over, showed us areas for speed improvement, and took our order for a new propeller, specially made. Unless we were going to do something about it there wasn’t much point in sulking over the seven one-hundredths of a mile an hour by which our new speed record was pushed to second place in the previous weekend’s race. Once the order was placed I relaxed, looking forward to vacation and another opportunity to reclaim record-holder status – maybe next weekend’s AirVenture Cup, the annual race to Oshkosh, Wisconsin.