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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


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Malta resident Ivan Prall recalls Earhart talk

By Barry Schrader.................................November 17, 2009

In connection with the release of the movie “Amelia,” there is a renewal of speculation as to what happened to the famous aviatrix in July 1937, when her plane disappeared in the mid-Pacific as she was attempting to be the first female pilot to circle the globe.
Ivan Prall of Malta has a fond memory of her, as he was lucky enough to attend Amelia Earhart’s talk at Northern Illinois State Teachers College – now NIU – on April 1, 1936, during a snow storm which kept many away from the presentation.
Prall explained that he and a fellow eighth-grader at the one-room Slade School on South Malta Road were given the privilege by their teacher, Miss Ruth Barr, who got them tickets (50 cents each) as a graduation present, since there were only two in the Class of 1936. The other student was June Capehart (later McNeely).

Amelia Earhart is shown in this famous photo with her Lockheed Electra plane before her attempt to circle the globe.
(Lockheed Martin archives photo)

Earhart’s appearance at Northern was sponsored by the Town Girls organization. Advance publicity in the Daily Chronicle discussed her whims and personal appearance. It stated “she hardly ever wears a hat and as a result her mop of tousled curly blonde hair is famous. She seldom uses cosmetics and abstains from smoking, tea and coffee. Her favorite drink is buttermilk.”
Earhart’s speaking tour, meant to raise money for her next record-breaking expedition, was made by car and not plane, since landing fields were not as numerous as her many stops around the country. She commented that she thought flying was safer than automobiles and claimed cars shouldn’t be driven over 40 or 45 mph. Later, in answer to a question, she admitted to sometimes exceeding that speed, however.
Her talk focused on her solo Pacific flight from Honolulu to San Francisco. She explained her “Philosophy of Worry,” which was her belief that “all worrying should be done at least two months before the flight gets underway. … If the goal is not worth the danger involved, give up the expedition before it is started,” she was quoted as saying in the Northern student newspaper.
Describing her Pacific flight, which was flown in a Wasp super-charged plane with nine cylinders and 550 horsepower engine, Earhart said the aircraft also carried 520 gallons of fuel and emergency supplies, which added up to a total weight of 8,000 pounds. She kept in touch by radio every half hour so they could begin a search if she missed just one scheduled transmission.
After her talk, Earhart met with a local acquaintance at her hotel. Earhart’s mother and Mrs. E.I. Boies of Sycamore were neighbors in Atcheson, Kan., at one time. Mrs. Boies brought her son David and friends Mrs. E.H. Wells and Miss Holly Mabel with her, according to an article in the Sycamore True Republican.
After an overnight stay in DeKalb, Earhart headed for her next speaking engagement in Jacksonville, but along the way was involved in a single-car accident when a partially inflated tire came loose from the rim, and her car spun out of control on the highway. She escaped injury, however, and after repairs were made at a garage in LaSalle, she kept her next appointment.
Prall not only attended the talk at the Altgeld Hall auditorium but got to ask her a question at the conclusion. He wanted to know, when flying in an open cockpit, did she ever get a bug in the eye. She answered that, in fact, she did and, on one occasion, had to make an emergency landing in a farm field to use an eye cup to clean her eye. She added that it must have been a strange sight for the farmer who came out to find out what a plane was doing in his field.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115