“She was a spy.”
“She was captured by the Japanese.”
“She didn’t crash — a body double did.”
More and more theories followed, carried along a cool breeze, which helped blunt the thick summer air on a pretty bluff overlooking the muddy Missouri River (which looks sort of like the chocolate river in the original “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory”). Earhart grew up here in the heartland; a stone’s throw away from one of Lewis and Clark’s many campgrounds. Who knows — maybe the sense of discovery and adventure was just in the air around here.
Sometimes, I think about Earhart when I drive near Huntington Beach. At the Mahe restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway in Seal Beach, there used to be a pilot’s logbook at the host’s podium at the front of the restaurant. This was a few years back, when the place was called The Glider Inn, in tribute to the many pilots who flew at a nearby strip.
Earhart had signed the log, as had Charles Lindbergh, because they had both flown right there. But Earhart’s flight roots run even deeper in our neck of the woods. After she moved to California in 1920 (joining her parents), they went to an “aerial meet” at Daugherty Field in Long Beach. She wrote of the experience, “The interest aroused in me in Toronto led me to all the air circuses in the vicinity.”
Earlier in life, she had become interested in flying, especially after living in Canada as a teenager.
She asked her father to find out about a flight and the cost of flying lessons, and her dad booked a flight for her the next day at Rogers Field, an open space on Wilshire Boulevard near Fairfax. The cost was $10 for a 10-minute flight with Frank Hawks (Hawks later became a high-speed flight-record breaker).