CHAPTER XX — I Take Flight in Fancy
Following the extended lecture series in centers in the Los Angeles area I had one more engagement scheduled before my return to Kansas City; two talks to give for the center in San Diego, which I had previously attended as a visitor to hear Richard Lynch and Imelda Shanklin. The locale had many memories for me. I looked forward to the quiet charm of the city after the exciting lectures, interviews, sightseeing and social contacts of the past two weeks. It would give me a chance to unwind before returning to Unity headquarters.
But I wasn’t ready to unwind. In my mind I was still reviewing the events of those busy days. My imagination had been stimulated by Will Rogers’ airmail flight. Wouldn’t it be great if I could somehow manage to fly back to Kansas City!
Lindbergh’s famous flight had originated in San Diego. It was headquarters for the Ryan monoplane in which the flight was made. Planes were being flown to buyers all over the country I had been told. Might there be one being delivered back east somewhere on which I might get passage? I talked to the man at the transportation desk in the hotel where I was staying. We agreed that it was a far-out chance, “But I’ll inquire. You never can tell,” he said doubtfully.
Fancy Becomes Reality
Early, on the very morning I was to return to Kansas City, the travel agent phoned my room; a Ryan monoplane like Lindbergh’s was to be delivered to a customer in Washington, D.C. The pilot had been waiting for clear weather over the Sierras. If I could be ready in half an hour the pilot would take me as a passenger, “dropping me off” (praise forbid!) at Kansas City for $200, paid in advance. I cancelled my train reservation, had my steamer trunk, standard in those days, shipped by express, and made the flight.
It was a bright sunny day. I looked toward the mountains as I climbed into the plane; they stood out in sharp relief, not a cloud in the sky. “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost . . .” (Ps. 139:9) The plane shuddered a bit as it climbed—or were the shudders mine? Even at the higher altitude I breathed more easily as we got over the highest point and descended a little. Looking out the window—the shell that separated me from outer space seemed very frail—I could see a train, like the one I would have taken, snaking its way down the mountainside into the valley. There were cars, dwarfed by our height, moving—slowly I thought—along a highway. I could see a man and a burro, prospecting perhaps, heading up the foothills. I was a prince on a magic carpet. No flight of the many I’ve taken since, has ever evoked that same feeling of ascendancy!
We came down somewhere in Oklahoma—Tulsa I think—not from a malfunction, but so the pilot could contact a prospective buyer, and we would continue after a night’s rest. I wired the School of our proposed noontime arrival. Lowell, Mother Fillmore, and a crowd of the Unity workers, one of them with a motion picture camera, were at the airport to celebrate the event. Myrtle seemed the most excited of anybody!
Back to Earth Again
I rode back to the School with Lowell and Myrtle, with especial appreciation of their having come to the airport to welcome me home. Like his mother, Lowell’s imagination was excited by the venturesome nature of my flight; and even on the short drive—only ten minutes compared to the half-hour drive from the much larger and more distant International Terminal required by the giants of present-day air travel—he was planning for me to give a series of talks to the workers in the daily ten o’clock meetings.
One side of my nature responded to the excitement of field trips, the meetings with fellow ministers and their followers, to whom a meeting with someone from Unity headquarters seemed to be as exciting to them as meeting some of the greats and near-greats of the motion picture world was to me. I was to discover that the people of the world of make-believe were as much in need of what Unity had to offer—more indeed—than those who followed more mundane occupations.
It was good to be back home. No subsequent trip into the field would ever have quite the excitement and sense of adventure for me, climaxing in the innovative flight in that minuscule monoplane and the heartwarming welcome by Lowell and Myrtle. I looked forward eagerly to getting back into the routine of familiar activities, especially the many daily times of prayer.
I loved the tranquillity induced by the daily chapel sessions; the strains of music from the pipe organ as all of us workers assembled, the songs we sang, the meditations led by Lowell, Francis Gable, or perhaps a visiting leader, the speaking aloud of affirmations and the following quiet inward repetition—the Silence.
I needed those quiet times to renew my realization of the spiritual resources which must be my inward strength, “my very present help.”
An Eerie Corollary
There’s a corollary to this, concerning Frances Deaner, Will Rogers and his dramatic and tragic flight, so much more adventurous than mine. Chronologically it doesn’t belong here, but as you know memory is not bound by time but by association of ideas.
Frances had made me acquainted with Will. I had visited his studio “dressing room” which was really a complete Western style ranch house, landscaped in a sagebrush and cactus setting, indicative not of his requirements but of his status as Fox’s most profitable and certainly its best loved star.
Some seven years later I was on another lecture trip to California. The press featured news of a flight to the North Pole by Will Rogers and Wiley Post. I thought of Will’s pioneer airmail flight that had inspired my own pioneer flight to Kansas City. Then came news of the crash that resulted in their death. It must have been three or four days before I got to the Fox Studio to express my sympathy to Frances. She was in the tag end of press releases about his many-sided career, but seemed to welcome taking time out to tell me about an almost incredible experience about him.
He Wants You to Know
Not only was the studio shaken by Rogers’ death, but was also facing the demands of the annual community charities campaign. John Boles was in charge of solicitations for the fund, and commented to Frances that they were not only going to miss Will as a friend, but would very much miss his contribution, usually the largest of anyone’s on the lot.
In the midst of all this, Frances told me, the phone had rung with a call from her dressmaker, who said she must see Frances right away. “Why bother me with a detail about fittings when I’m so pressed by all this!” she thought; but the appeal was so urgent that she agreed to stop by after work.
The dressmaker, it seemed, was something of a psychic, and came at once to the point of the call. “Will Rogers has been here,” the woman declared. “He wants you to know that he made provision for the charities campaign before he started on the flight with Wiley; that you will find his contribution in a pigeonhole in the rolltop desk in his dressing room.”
Frances went back to the studio at once, and there, sure enough, found the authorization for his usual gift of $25,000!
© 1984, by Ronald and Beverly Potter
All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission.