The Liberty Gazette
October 27, 2015Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Ringing in the new year in 1892, the town of Atlanta, Texas welcomed Bessie Coleman, who would grow up to be a great pioneer of aviation, the first black pilot licensed in the United States. A woman of courage and perseverance, she learned to speak French so she could move to France for flight training since at that time in this country no one would accept her as a student, much less the prospect of her holding a license.
Mid-way through that same year, someone born a little earlier, but likewise a pioneer in aviation whose particular segment of society has also long suffered from bigotry, enslavement, and hatred, Jewish timber merchant David Schwarz designed the cigar-shaped airship made of aluminum, which he then sold to Count Zeppelin.
And while all that was going on, a young Theodore Dreiser was just beginning his writing career. The angry American-born Communist novelist whose bitterness toward his father made religion his target had taken his first job as a reporter with a Chicago newspaper.
Indeed, 1892 turned out to be an interesting year.
Despite the fact that Pilot Coleman and Airship Designer Schwarz made more valuable contributions to society than a man whose resentment ruled his life, I did find one quote of his worthy of mention.
Dreiser had moved to Hollywood, California marketing his stories for film, and had witnessed first-hand the life of the actor – generally speaking.
Now I will diverge a bit to say that Mike, although born in Hollywood, California (on October 26th – Happy Birthday Week, Honey!), thankfully put his talents to constructive use; and, although my dad did not grow up on the Left Coast, he did have considerable professional involvement in filmmaking, and in his later years enjoyed working as an "extra" in several feature films.
One of these films was "Tin Cup", in which Dad appeared in several scenes shot at the golf courses of three Kingwood country clubs. The movie starred Kevin Costner, and there’s a funny story to that which I might tell next week.
But back to Dreiser. Theodore uttered a different label for those who worked as background actors in Hollywood movies – the new term, he argued, should be "Atmospherians", because they were creating the atmosphere needed to pull off a believable storyline. They were not the big "stars" of the story, but were just as necessary to portray a public scene.
Ready for it? Here’s the connection to aviation (besides Bessie and David): Our Liberty Municipal Airport is not merely atmospheric; it is not to be ignorantly regarded as just an extra to the big "stars" of America’s infrastructure. The Liberty Municipal Airport is, in fact, a necessary and critical part of the national transportation system, relied upon since the 1950’s for providing the way for commerce, life-saving, and career training activities.
I bet you wondered where I was going with an old, dead Communist, didn’t you? That’s just it – old and dead are the ideas that only big airports serving commercial airlines make vital contributions. Thanks to Benny Rusk and Earl Atkins for having the vision, today our city hosts an important piece of our country’s transportation system; a runway that can take you via the atmosphere anywhere you want to go, and is anything but atmospherian.