Tuesday, August 20, 2019

August 20, 1938 -- Douglas Corrigan, the "Wrong Way" Flyer, Mobbed by Chicagoans

August 20, 1938 – Police estimate that a half-million people line the ten-mile route from the Chicago Airport, today’s Midway International Airport, at Sixty-Third and Cicero Avenue to the Chicago City Hall, every one of them straining to get a glimpse of Douglas Corrigan, the young aviator who, weeks earlier, had completed a solo flight from New York to Dublin, Ireland. “I like it,” Corrigan says modestly. “But I don’t understand it.  I’ve been getting the same thing everywhere. It’s surely strange.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 21, 1938].  The crowd begins to gather at the airport two hours before Corrigan’s expected touch-down at 11:00 a.m.  The pilot arrives exactly on time as 50,000 spectators line Cicero Avenue outside the airport.  He is met in front of an American Airlines hangar by Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly, who welcomes him, saying, ”Son, we’re really glad to see you. I’m Mayor Kelly.  You’re the kind of folks we like to see.”   Corrigan responds, “Two months ago I didn’t expect ever to be in a situation like this.  I’m in your hands and whatever you say goes.”  With that the entourage is off to City Hall, where the aviator answers a few questions from reporters after spending a few moments with the mayor in his private office.  Then it is off to the Blackstone Hotel for a luncheon, followed by a tour of the city’s parks and a stop at the Edward Hines Hospital in Maywood where Corrigan is cheered by veterans.  A dinner in his honor is held at the Chicago Athletic Association where Corrigan is asked about the most money he has ever made in a year.  “Oh, about a thousand dollars,” he answers.  “Do you have any ambition to make any more,” another questioner asks.  “What’s the use,” answers Corrigan, who is rumored to have received offers from major movie sutdios as well as from airline companies.  “The government’ll take it all away anyhow, and, so far as I can see, it deesn’t put the taxes it collects to any good purpose.  I don’t want any more money.”  Corrigan caught the attention of an American public, starved for some good news in the throes of a world-wide depression.  In a plane he had virtually constructed himself, and with a fuel tank that he knew was leaking gasoline when he took off, he made the trip from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York to Baldonnel Aerodrome in County Dublin after a 28-hour, 13-minute flight with provisions consisting of two chocolate bars, two boxes of fig bars, and a quart of water.   The plane had no radio, and the compass he used was 20-years-old.

August 20, 1936 – Before a crowd of more than 10,000 people, Mayor Edward Kelly and other city officials dedicate the new Ashland Avenue bridge over the north branch of the Chicago River at Elston and Clybourn Avenues.  The bridge is worth the $1,713,000 it costs to build it because it is the final link in the widening and extension of Ashland Avenue from Ninety-Fifth street to Devon avenue, a project that began in 1922.  A parade of cars begins at Sixty-Ninth Street and moves along Ashland to Milwaukee Avenue where it is joined by a series of floats that depict the development of the city’s traffic from horse cars to streetcars and buses.  Kelly says, “All of the city will benefit by this great improvement.  It required much planning and is a concrete expression of the ‘I WILL’ spirit of Chicago.  It is a credit to the community, a mark of achievement.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 21, 1936]

August 20, 1899 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on a controversy surrounding United States government buildings at the upcoming Paris exposition.  The man in charge of settling the kerfuffle is Chicagoan Ferdinand W. Peck, who must somehow come to a decision regarding the huge issue of whether the letter “V” or “U” will be used on American buildings at the exposition.  Those who argue against substituting the “V” in words that normally would use “U” say that the substitution “is an unwarranted bowing of the knee to the French, an effort unduly to honor words already borrowed from them and a pledge that the United State by and by will make their entire language its own.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 20, 1899] Peck is the one man most responsible for seeing the great Auditorium Theater built a decade earlier, and that building on Congress Street and Michigan Avenue uses “V” in place of “U” in its nameplate.  One of the architects of the Auditorium, Louis Sullivan, says, “The letter “V’ has always been considered more artistic than the letter “U” … the letter is ugly, totally too heavy in the lower portion, and made of no artistic lines.  The “V” is copied from the old Roman and may be found in practically every inscription designed by an artist or an architect.”  In Rome the Latin language of antiquity had no “U,” so one could speculate that the use of the “V” in neo-classical design enhances the effect of the design style.  One could also ask a stone carver which letter he or she would prefer to carve and be fairly accurate in predicting the response. 

August 20, 1980 – Things become heated at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse on Dearborn Street as Judge Marvin Aspen sends 14 sweaty jurors downstairs to the offices of the General Services Administration to complain about conditions in the “sweltering courtroom.”  “Maybe they’ll listen to you,” the judge says.  “They certainly ought to, because you’re paying their salary.”  The Chicago Tribune reports that the assistant building engineer, Michael O’Connell, tells the jurors, “Don’t expect it any lower than 80,” as he explains President Carter’s energy guidelines, which call for the cooling of public buildings to no less than 80 degrees.  The real problem, though, seems to be with the engineering of the building.  According to the Tribune, “In recent years, some Dirksen Building courtrooms have been so hot or so cold that a number of judges have said they cannot conduct business and have threatened to cite the GSA for contempt of court for obstruction of justice.”  [Chicago Tribune, August 20, 1980]    

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