The skeleton update
As some of you may remember, I recently wrote a column titled "Uh-oh, the skeletons are out of the closet," wherein several brave readers told family stories involving certain ancestral shenanigans.
Since then, others have come forward to reveal even more brow-raising tales about those interesting skeletons.
Local author Suzy Sivyer's Aunt Dorothy was an explorer, adventurer and tomboy. Sivyer details her aunt's exploits in her book "Ordinary Person — Extraordinary Experiences."
According to Sivyer, in 1927, at the age of 17, her Aunt Dorothy decided that she wanted to learn how to fly. Given that she was a young woman, this idea was quite unheard of at the time. In fact, it was considered outrageous (if not downright scandalous).
Undeterred, Dorothy met with the owner of a flight school who informed her that it would cost her $100 per lesson to learn how to fly. This was much more than she could afford, so the owner made her an offer. If she would jump off the wing of a biplane with a parachute at his air shows, he would give her $100 per jump. When asked how she got the initial courage for that first jump, she replied "If the chute didn't open on time, at least I knew I would die flying!"
The reality was that on the first jump, she froze and wouldn't let go of the struts. The pilot got tired of circling the airfield and finally pushed her off the wing by knocking her knuckles with a fire extinguisher!
Nonetheless, she eventually earned enough money to take flying lessons, and by 1931 had set two world records: 62 continuous outside barrel loops and 56 inverted snap rolls. Fox Movietone News filmed one of her rolls from the cockpit, but the footage was never released. Film editors at Fox felt that it would make people too dizzy.
Aunt Dorothy went on to have more stellar experiences. One day, a woman with a family emergency needed to get to another town quickly. Dorothy agreed to fly her there in an open-air cockpit biplane. Dorothy's sister, Helen, tagged along and she and the woman both sat in the front seat while Dorothy piloted from the rear.
Once in the air, the woman suddenly felt sick, which was especially disturbing, given the fact of the open cockpit and with Aunt Dorothy in the seat behind her.
The visual image of what might be coming was quite graphic and got Helen moving. She quickly saved the day by offering the lady
the use of her handbag — which surely had something to do with coining the term "barf bag."
According to Sivyer, her Aunt Dorothy was eventually inducted into the Boeing's Museum of Flight Hall of Fame. After her induction, she was invited to undergo some tests and put into an equilibrium spin chamber for an unprecedented amount of time. When she finally emerged, she was able to walk a perfect straight line — as though she had never been inside the spin chamber at all. At the time, she was 78 years old.
The next time we delve into the skeleton annals, another reader will regale us with a family story, one that is both tantalizing and mysterious.