Wright Brothers Took to the Air 108 Years Ago Today

Worl'ds First Hangar
By all accounts the day was gray and blustery. A coin toss had determined who would make the first flight of the day. Orville lay down on the flyer and then man and aircraft ascended about 10 feet into the air. The flight lasted 12 seconds and covered about 120 feet. The brothers each made two flights that day. Wilbur traveled the farthest and longest, staying airborne for 59 seconds and covering 852 feet. In the years that followed, some would argue that the Wrights did not make the first powered flight. But there is no doubt that they took to the air on that December morning.

The postcard above is from the North Carolina Postcards online collection. There’s no information about the men in the photo. Perhaps it’s the Wright Brothers. But it’s hard to tell.

This year’s commemoration of the Wrights’ flights will also pay tribute to the 100th anniversary of naval aviation. And, so, as a salute to naval pilots, we recall the Naval Pre-Flight Training Program that ran from 1942-1945 at UNC-Chapel Hill. The university was host to the second stage of a one-year training program for pilots. Beginning in May 1942 cadets arrived at the rate of about 300 every two weeks until a quota of 1,875 was reached. To accommodate the influx of servicemen, the University renovated ten dormitories, expanded Woollen Gymnasium, and built a new infirmary, recreation center (Navy Hall), and athletic field. The list of individuals who traveled through Chapel Hill as part of the Navy Pre-Flight School in Chapel Hill include president Gerald Ford and George Bush, baseball great Ted Williams, and legendary Alabama football coach Paul (Bear) Bryant. The Pre-Flight School closed in 1945. The North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive holds about 6,000 negatives of photographs documenting the Navy program.

Naval Pre-Flight Postcard

Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries…. huckleberries?

LYNN NEARY, HOST [of NPR’s “All Things Considered”]:

Also this week, we heard about a boarding school for overweight children in North Carolina. In that story, we mentioned that, because of the school’s policies, you won’t find any buttered cornbread, pork barbecue or huckleberry pie. But North Carolina native, Elizabeth Thompson(ph) of Durham wants to know, what huckleberry pie? She writes: I’ve never seen it offered in a restaurant or on the table at a church picnic. I don’t even know what a huckleberry looks like. While this may seem like a quibble, the mention of huckleberry pie perpetuates regional stereotypes, reinforcing images of quaint bumpkins living in Mayberry. We don’t eat huckleberry pie — really.

BLOCK: Well, for a second opinion, we turned to Bill Smith. He’s the chef at Crook’s Corner Restaurant in Chapel Hill.

BILL SMITH: Well, I have to agree. I mean, I don’t take the regional umbrage that they took, but I have to say that I don’t think that we have those here.

NEARY: We also checked back in with our own reporter, Karen Grigsby Bates, to find out why huckleberry, to which she offered this very personal answer: I used to pick them as a child when I spent part of many summers with my maternal grandparents in Charlotte. They had several huckleberry bushes in the backyard. They’re kind of like blueberries but smaller, and they make great pies and very good jam.

BLOCK: So one huckleberry mystery solved, but Bill Smith of Crook’s Corner Restaurant has another that’s long had him scratching his head.

SMITH: That stupid thing in “Moon River” about my huckleberry friend has always given me pause. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, so it goes with pie, I guess. They go and have pie together somewhere.


ANDY WILLIAMS: (Singing) My huckleberry friend. Moon River…

— From npr.com via poynter.org