The Liberty Gazette
October 25, 2016Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Dad taught me when I was about four how to remember the name of the first Indianapolis 500 mile race winner, Ray Harroun. “His name sounds like a race car engine,” he said as he demonstrated in his throaty voice, “Ha-rroon!”
Ray won Indy the same year KLM Royal Dutch Airlines began. Town & Country was a popular New York periodical then. Paging through an old edition of Town & Country I see: an ad for Pears soap, a pleading to give to the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, and a blurb on the community calendar for a golf tournament to be held at the Idlewild Country Club.
But this issue, August 12, 1911, is mostly devoted to aviation, with a sharp focus on aviation “meets”. No name claims authorship to the editorial column, “Notes of the Week”, so I am inclined to think they are the pronouncements of editor H. J. Whigham.
Maybe, maybe not, these were Whigham’s searing words urging - no, demanding attention to the upcoming, historically important Chicago Air Meet that would make the U.S. a more serious contender in aviation innovation - the shameful days of aerial circus tricks which the author thought a waste must soon be over.
My musings on 1911: We had just signed our first reciprocal trade agreement with Canada. There’s a revolution going on in Mexico, and uprisings in China against the Manchu dynasty. Europe is posing for war, while John Sibelius conducts the premiere of his Symphony No. 4 in Helsinki - the one he said, “stands as a protest against present-day music. It has absolutely nothing of the circus about it.”
For some reason it seems people were anti-circus.
Chevrolet is incorporated, IBM founded, and the Mona Lisa stolen and recovered within a day. A postage stamp was two cents, and women around the world were still fighting for the right to vote.
Air meets were all the craze, and San Francisco hosted its first one to start the year right, followed by the first U.S. airplane bombing experiments (Italy had already flexed its muscle being the first to use an airplane as an offensive weapon, defeating the Turks and annexing Libya). The first photo taken from an airplane in the U.S. was snapped over San Diego at the start of 1911. The gifted civilian pilot Eugene Ely was first to land an airplane on a ship.
It was the year Ronald Reagan was born, and sadly, Eugene Ely died. John F. Kennedy would be born just six years later.
A little irony noted: That blurb for a golf tournament was on the calendar in this aviation-dedicated issue. The next generation would not play such a tournament at Idlewild Country Club, for 31 years later a new airport would be built on top of it.
With a show of respect to the displaced golf course, the new reliever for LaGuardia was christened Idlewild Airport, a name that lasted 21 years, until a significant event happened in America in 1963, resulting in Idlewild Airport being renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The Indy 500, KLM, Pears soap, Town & Country and JFK Airport are all going strong, the poor are still with us, and I don’t golf, but I do remember who won the first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.