Amelia Earhart’s Birthday

Amelia Earhart (born: July 24, 1897 presumed dead: July 2, 1937) was an American aviator who was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.  She was born in Atchison, Kansas, her parents were Samuel “Edwin” and Amelia “Amy” Earhart and she had a younger sister, Grace.  Amelia and her sister were a couple tomboys exploring their neighborhood, climbing trees and catching toads.

Amelia’s father was a claims officer for the Rock Island Railroad and in 1907 he was transferred to Des Moines, Iowa.  Amelia and her sister stayed in Kansas with their maternal grandparents and two years later they were reunited with their parents in Des Moines.  By this time Amelia’s father had become an alcoholic and eventually he was forced to retire from his railroad job.  The family then moved to Minnesota, but Amelia’s father also lost that job.  Amelia’s mother finally left and took her daughters to Chicago where Amelia graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1916.  Throughout her unhappy childhood, Amelia continued to dream about her future career and she greatly admired strong women who were able to have successful careers in predominantly male businesses such as: medicine, law and even mechanical engineering.

After high school she enrolled in a college in Pennsylvania but in 1917 she took a trip to see her sister in Toronto.  At that time World War I was being fought in Europe; Amelia decided to stay in Canada and began working as a volunteer at the local hospital taking care of the wounded soldiers.  When the deadly Spanish Flu epidemic reached Toronto in 1918, Amelia was still working at the hospital and after being exposed to the dreaded illness, she was soon hospitalized with pneumonia and a severe sinus infection.  She recuperated with her sister, now living in Massachusetts and spent her time regaining her strength staying in bed reading poetry and studying mechanics but her severe sinusitis was to significantly affect Amelia later in her life when she began flying airplanes.

By 1919, Amelia was preparing to continue with her college education and had enrolled at Columbia University to study medicine but she eventually quit after a year and moved to be with her parents who had reconciled and were now living in California.  While at a Long Beach airfield, she took a ride on an airplane and from that moment on she was determined to learn how to fly.  She took several different jobs to earn the money for the flying lessons, cut her hair short and began wearing a leather jacket just like the other aviators.  Over the next few years, Amelia gained experience through transcontinental flights; gradually her piloting skills improved and she started setting world records.  Experienced professional pilots that flew with her started to acknowledge that she was one of the best female pilots in the world.

Then, after Charles Lindbergh’s famous solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, there was increased interest as to who would be the first women to achieve a solo flight.  In 1928, Amelia became the first female to fly solo round trip on a transcontinental flight across North America.  She instantly became a famous international celebrity and with her striking resemblance to Lindberg, she became known as “Lady Lindy”.  She published a book, started a series of lecture tours to promote the book and began endorsing and even actively participating in the advertising of various products, such as Lucky Strike cigarettes, a line of women’s clothing sold through the Macy’s department store and she even endorsed a line of travel luggage.  Through an agreement with her book publisher, George Putnam, their marketing campaign successfully established Amelia as a world famous aviator, even earning the nickname “Queen of the Air”.  Through these “celebrity” endorsements, Amelia was able to finance and continue her aviation career.

In 1929, along with Charles Lindberg, she help to establish and promote a commercial and passenger airline service known as Transcontinental Air Transport which became the first regional shuttle between New York and Washington, D.C., this airline later became known as TWA.  At this time, Amelia became involved with an organization of female pilots that provided support for women in aviation; she became the group’s first president and suggested the name of “The Ninety-Nines” which was the number of the charter members.  In 1930, Amelia became an official of the National Aeronautic Association and she started to promote an establishment separate women records.

Amelia married George Putnam, her book publisher, on February 7, 1931.  She referred to her marriage as a true partnership and believed in equal responsibilities and instead of being referred to as Mrs. Putnam, she kept her own name of Earhart.  George and Amelia had no children of their own, but he had two sons from a previous marriage.

On May 20, 1932, at the age of 34, Amelia left from Newfoundland with the intention of flying to Paris to duplicate Lindberg’s solo flight.  After almost 15 hours with a rough flight of strong winds, icy conditions and mechanical problems, she touched down in Northern Ireland, today there is a small museum at the site.  Amelia received many awards after becoming the first women to fly a solo nonstop transatlantic flight.  The Distinguished Flying Cross from the United States Congress, and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society presented to her by President Herbert Hoover.  Between the years of 1930 to 1935, Amelia set seven women’s speed and distance aviation records.

By 1934, Amelia and her husband were now living in California.  George had sold his interest in the New York based publishing company and he took a job as head of the editorial board at Paramount Pictures.  They lived in a small house in Toluca Lake located in the San Fernando Valley near the studio.  Amelia in partnership with Paul Mantz, a former airplane racing and movie stunt pilot, opened up a Flying School at the Burbank Airport.

Finally by 1936, Amelia began preparing for her round-the-world flight; it would be the longest flight to date at 29,000 miles following the difficult equator route.  Amelia was currently on the faculty of Purdue University and a technical adviser of their Department of Aeronautics.  With financing from Purdue, a Lockheed Electra 10E aircraft was built to Amelia’s specifications at the Lockheed Aircraft Company located near the Burbank Airport.  For this complicated flight Amelia hired two navigators, Harry Manning and Fred Noonan.  The original plan was to have Noonan navigate from Hawaii to Howland Island, a very difficult portion of the flight, then Manning would continue with her to Australia and she would complete the remainder of the flight by herself.

In March 1937, Amelia flew with her crew from Oakland, CA to Honolulu, Hawaii.  During this portion of the flight, they had some engine problems and stopped to service the plane.  Three days later, they took off from the U.S. Navy Luke Field in Pearl Harbor and upon take-off the plane either blew a right tire or the right landing gear collapsed.  The flight was cancelled due to the severe damage to the plane and it was shipped back to the Lockheed facility in Burbank for repairs.

Then, in June 1937, after additional funding Amelia attempted the trip once again with only Noonan as her navigator.  This second flight was different from the first and they were traveling west to east, the reason for the change of direction was sue to global weather and wind changes.  The first portion of the flight was from Oakland to Miami.  From there they made numerous stops in South America, Africa, India and Asia.  By July 2, she had completed almost two-thirds of the flight, over 22,000 miles.  They had reached Lae, New Guinea and with only 7,000 remaining, Amelia and Noonan took off heading toward Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean which was only 2,556 miles away.

Tragically something happened and the plane vanished before it reached Howland Island.  Search teams from the Navy and the Coast Guard almost immediately started air and land searches, but they failed to locate the aircraft and were assumed lost at sea.  One theory speculates that the plane simply ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean.  Another theory is that the plane crashed into another smaller island, possibly Garner Island. There are also numerous conspiracy theories; one is that Amelia and Noonan were spies for the Franklin Roosevelt administration, captured by the Japanese, accused of espionage and killed.  Even today, the fate of Amelia Earhart remains as the subject of endless speculation.

John Glenn’s Birthday

John H. Glenn, Jr. (Born: July 18, 1921) is best known as the first American astronaut to orbit the earth.  Glenn was born in Cambridge, Ohio but moved to New Concord when he was two years old.  As a boy he was interested in science and flying airplanes.  He graduated from New Concord High School and attended the local Muskingum College.  In 1943, Glenn married his childhood sweetheart, Anna Castor.

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, when the United States entered into World War II, Glenn enlisted and became a Marine pilot.  Glenn flew 149 missions between World War II and the Korean War.  Later, he served as a test pilot for Naval and Marine aircraft and after setting a speed record in 1957 on a flight between Los Angeles to New York, Glenn earned a reputation as one of the country’s top test pilots.  This eventually led him to the astronaut corps program.

In 1959, NASA selected Glenn as one of the seven astronauts in the U.S. Mercury space program.  On February 20, 1962 Glenn rode the Friendship 7 spacecraft into space and became the first American to orbit the earth.  At the time the U.S. was lagging behind the Soviet Union in the “Space Race” and Glenn was welcomed back to earth as a hero.  Afterwards, he continued to serve as a NASA advisor until 1964 and the following year he retired from the Marine Corps, resigned from NASA and decided to run for political office.  Glenn was elected and served as a U.S. Senator for the state of Ohio for 24 years.

Over three decades after his first flight, Glenn returned to space on the Space Shuttle Discovery on October 29, 1998.  At the age of 77 he made history again as the oldest person to fly in space and he is the only astronaut to fly in both the NASA Mercury and the Space Shuttle programs.  This second flight offered valuable research from a perspective of space flight on the same person at two different points in their life, thirty-six years apart, providing information on the effects of spaceflight and weightlessness on the elderly.  Glenn returned to earth a hero for the second time and he is the only astronaut to have experienced both a splashdown and a touchdown.

John Glenn received a Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978; he was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.  Currently John Glenn and Scott Carpenter are the only remaining Mercury astronauts.

The John and Annie Glenn Historical Site in New Concord, Ohio

John Glenn Boyhood Home - exterior    John Glenn Boyhood Home - interior

While traveling on a road trip to Pennsylvania in 2009, we stopped in New Concord, Ohio to see John Glenn’s boyhood home.  The house where Glenn grew up was originally located on the “National Road” and when the road was widened, the home was moved to Friendship Drive and then moved again in 2001 to the current location on Main Street.  It has been restored and it is decorated in the style of the late 1930s.  The John and Annie Glenn Historical Site has a small museum of memorabilia for both Glenn’s space and political careers and in the visitor center they show several different videos regarding the life of both John and Annie Glenn.

Lewis Carroll’s Birthday

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Born: January 27, 1832 Died: January 14, 1989) was an English author better known under his pen name, Lewis Carroll.  His most famous book was “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and the sequel “Through the Looking Glass”.

In 1856, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) became friends the Liddell family.  This friendship became an important part of his life and he enjoyed taking the children (Harry, Lorina, Edith and Alice) on trips into the English countryside and he would tell stories to entertain the children.   It was on one of these trips in 1862, that Dodgson came up with a story about a little girl who falls down a rabbit hole into a wonderful fantasy world.  Later, little Alice Liddell begged Dodgson to write the story and so he presented her with a handwritten, illustrated book called “Alice Adventures Under Ground” in 1864.

Dodgson eventually took the book to Macmillan Publishers, who promptly rejected the original name of the book.  Under the pen name of Lewis Carroll, the book was finally published in 1865 as “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and the sequel, “Through the Looking Glass” was published in 1871.  It is believed that Dodgson used Alice Liddell as the inspiration for the books, even though Dodgson denied that he based the character on a real person there are in fact many references to her hidden in the pages of both books.  With the commercial success of the first Alice book Dodgson’s fame overwhelming grew as Lewis Carroll.  Queen Victoria enjoyed the first book so much that she wanted him to dedicate the next book he wrote to her, this never happened.  The Alice sequel sets a darker mood then the previous book and these changes reflect Dodgson’s life and the deep depression that he felt at the death of his father.

Dating back to 1923, the Walt Disney Company has had a long association with Carroll’s Alice books.  When the 21 year old Walt was working in Kansas City for the Laugh-O-Grams he produced a short film combining live action and animation called “Alice’s Wonderland”.  Eventually Walt moved to Hollywood and partnered with his brother to create the Disney Brothers Studio.  From 1924 to 1926 their new studio began producing a series of “Alice” short films.

These short films proved to be very successful and established Walt as a major film producer and the newly named Walt Disney Company began making feature length animation films.  In 1951, Disney released a new fully animated version of “Alice in Wonderland” that was based on both of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. Focusing on the whimsy and fantasy of the story, the film cleverly sets Carroll’s prose into wonderful songs and is artistically designed with Mary Blair’s wonderful and very colorful backgrounds.  Originally the film was a financial disappointment and received criticism from the British fans of Lewis Carroll but Walt’s version was intended for a large family audience and not literary critics.  Several years later, in 1974, “Alice” became Disney’s first re-released animation film into movie theatres and it proved to be very successful the second time around.  With the introduction of the home video market, in 1981 Disney once again chose “Alice” as their first animated film release.  (This wonderful Disney animated film is probably the version of the Lewis Carroll story that we remember from our childhood!)

In 2010, the Walt Disney Studio released another version of “Alice in Wonderland”.  Directed by Tim Burton, this computer-animated and live action film stars Johnny Depp as the infamous Mad Hatter.  Using Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” poem as the main focus and inspiration, Burton hoped to create a cohesive story instead of a series of disjointed events of Alice wandering from one strange fantasy character to another.  The live action exterior Victorian scenes were filmed in England and the “green screen” special effects scenes, which are 90% of the film, were filmed at the Culver Studio in California.  This new Disney version proved to be very successful becoming the twelfth highest-grossing film of all time as of 2012.

A. A. Milne’s Birthday

Alan Alexander Milne (Born: January 18, 1882 Died: January 31, 1956) is the English author who wrote the books featuring the famous characters Winnie-the- Pooh and Christopher Robin. He wrote “When We Were Very Young” in 1924, “Winnie-the-Pooh” in 1926, “Now We Are Six” in 1927 and “House at Pooh Corner” in 1928.   I purchased these classic children books for my son, Christopher, when he was a child for the obvious reason that he shared the name of character in the book. When my daughter was born her Great Aunt also bought her the books. I have always loved the stories and they make an excellent gift for a baby shower. It is never too early to build a child’s own library of books!

The character of Christopher Robin was named after the author’s son, Christopher Robin Milne, who had received a stuffed bear as a first birthday gift.  This stuffed bear purchased in Harrod’s Store in London inspired one of the book’s main characters and was originally given the formal name “Edward”.  Later the real Christopher changed the bear’s name to Winnie for a bear in the London Zoo.  The story goes that there was a real bear cub that was bought from a hunter by a Canadian lieutenant.  He named the bear “Winnie” after his hometown of Winnepeg, Manitoba.  The bear eventually became the regiment’s mascot and was brought to England during World War I.  When the regiment went to fight in France during the war the bear was officially given to the London Zoo and quickly became the zoo’s most loved attraction.

The real Christopher Robin had a collection of stuffed animals and these inspired the characters in the storybooks, such as: Tigger, Eeyore, Kanga and Roo.  The other characters named Owl and Rabbit were added later in the Disney animated movies.  These original stuffed animals of Christopher Milne are now on display at the New York City Public Library.

Ashdown Forest in Sussex, England was the inspiration of many of the locations in the Milne’s book.  The footbridge where “Poohsticks” was played by Christopher Milne actually exists and is a tourist attraction where people play the game with sticks gathered from the nearby forest.  E.H. Shepard’s wonderful illustrations were drawn from this real place and his sketches of the beautiful forest scenes are in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

In 1966, Walt Disney Studios released the first of a series of Winnie-the-Pooh animated featurettes, “Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree”, followed by “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day” in 1968 and “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Too!” in 1974.  These three featurettes were combined into one movie in1977 appropriately called “The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh”.  Disney continued to produce more animated movies and television shows featuring the characters of Winnie-the-Pooh but one of our favorites is the 2005 movie, “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie”.


There has been quite a bit of controversy considering the legal rights to Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.  Milne was very liberal in granting his rights to the book’s characters to more than one entity.  In the United States, Dutton Publishers acquired the exclusive rights to the books.  Stephen Slesinger also acquired exclusive rights and beginning in 1930 he created the distinctive colorful images of Pooh wearing a red shirt.  In 1961 the Milne estate, now known as the Pooh Properties Trust, licensed exclusive film rights to Disney.  Over the course of the following years Slesinger filed suit and a court battle began.  Eventually the district court found in favor of Slesinger as did the U.S. Court of Appeals.  In 2006 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case and sustained the Appeals Court ruling.

In 1991, Kenny Loggins released a wonderful album of children’s songs called, “Return to Pooh Corner” featuring a lovely song by the same name.  I bought this album when my daughter was born and played it for her almost every night at bedtime and she would go to sleep listening to the CD.  She loved the songs and still remembers them!

SPECIAL NOTE:  If you are looking for a special baby shower gift this album by Kenny Loggins would make a sweet present.  I would suggest combining the “Return to Pooh Corner” CD with the DVD of “The Many Adventures of Winnie- the- Pooh” and a beautiful four book set of the A.A. Milne books.  Put all the gifts into a basket along with a stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh bear – what an amazing gift that would be!!

Danny Kaye’s Birthday

Danny Kaye (Born: January 13, 1913 Died: March 3, 1987) was born David Daniel Kaminsky.  He was a great actor, singer, dancer and comedian.  In his professional career he was known for his physical comedy and silly songs.  He made 23 Hollywood movies from 1935 to 1969.  He had his own radio program from 1945 to 1946 and television variety show from 1963 to 1969.  Danny Kaye was a talented performer and has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in radio, film and music.

Danny Kaye was also known for his charity work for the United Nations and in 1954 he became the first ambassador of UNICEF.  As an example of his varied interests, from 1977 to 1981 he was part owner of the Seattle Mariners baseball team.   He continued to work in television with several guest starring roles and hosted TV specials in 1980 for Disneyland’s 25th Anniversary and in 1982 for the opening celebration of EPCOT.  In 1983 he was knighted by the Queen of Denmark for his portrayal of Hans Christian Andersen in the 1952 film.  In 1984 he was the Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade and also received the Kennedy Center Honor for his work in radio and film.

In February of 1983 Danny Kaye had a quadruple bypass heart surgery and died in March 1987 from a heart attack.  He is buried at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.  At his gravesite is a special bench carved with symbols to show his varied interests, such as a piano and musical notes, an airplane, a flower pot and a baseball, bat and glove inscribed with his name and dates of his birth and death.  It is a fitting tribute to his multi-talented man.

As a child of the 1960s, I grew up watching Danny Kaye movies and when my children got older we watched them together.  My three favorite movies are “Hans Christian Andersen” (1952), “The Court Jester” (1956) and “White Christmas” (1954).  The first two are wonderful movies to watch with the family and “White Christmas” is a holiday classic that we watch every holiday season.


I highly recommend these three movies as a wonderful example of Danny Kaye’s acting and musical talents.  As I mentioned before, these movies are great entertainment and would be great to watch with the family especially little children.