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Monday, December 22, 2014

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Fairfield 375: Eyewitness to history as the Hindenburg passes over Fairfield on final voyage

Updated 10:57 am, Tuesday, May 6, 2014

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  • A stock photo of the German air ship, Hindenburg, which flew over Fairfield on May 6, 1937, en route to its fiery demise in New Jersey later that day. The zeppelin was seen by former Town Attorney Roy Ervin as a child. Photo: Contributed Photo / Fairfield Citizen
    A stock photo of the German air ship, Hindenburg, which flew over Fairfield on May 6, 1937, en route to its fiery demise in New Jersey later that day. The zeppelin was seen by former Town Attorney Roy Ervin as a child. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Fairfield, established in 1639, is one of Connecticut's oldest communities. From its settlement 375 years ago by English colonists on "four squares" of land that Native Americans called Uncoway to the vibrant town of nearly 60,000 residents that it is today, Fairfield's history is a chronicle of compelling events and colorful characters.

The Fairfield Citizen will highlight vignettes from that rich history throughout this 375th anniversary year on a regular basis.

Following is an excerpt from a reminiscence by Roy Ervin, a local lawyer and one-time town attorney:

I remember it like yesterday, May 6, 1937. I was 6 years old -- my childhood was spent on Lalley Boulevard, three blocks from Fairfield Beach. It was a beautiful spring day -- blue sky with puffy white clouds. I was in the street bat-hitting a tennis ball with our Irish setter who would bring it back to me.

Suddenly I heard a strange noise, a rumbling, low-pitched wailing noise. I looked up, and slowly and loudly starting to come directly overhead, was this huge dirigible, virtually just over tree-top high -- perhaps 400 to 500 feet. The size of the airship was mammoth. And in reality it was. Today's dirigibles you see at football games, etc., you'd think are the size of this airship but they are only about 170 feet long and 30 feet in diameter. The airship above me, however, was the Hindenburg on its very last journey. It was over 900 feet long and 90 feet in diameter with the strange motor sound from its Mercedes diesel engines.

I ran to my house to call my mother and she came out and we watched this giant airship slowly passed over us. We also saw what I thought was a huge spider emblazoned on its tail. As a 6 year old, I did not realize it was a giant swastika. The airship slowly continued on its path to New Jersey and, of course, later that day as it landed, it caught fire and crashed with 36 people dying.

Some years after, a neighbor friend who knew I saw the Hindenburg's last voyage, had secured a piece of the airship from a news photographer. It was about 4 by 6 inches in size which I placed in my bedside table. Years later, it disappeared and my mother informed me that she thought it was a useless cloth and when cleaning my room, she threw it out with the garbage. I can't blame her, but I wish I had it today as it would be quite a piece of memorabilia (and maybe even worth some real money).

To submit a personal story for "Fairfield Celebrates 375," visit the town's anniversary website: www.Fairfield375.com and click on the "Interact" link. Personal stories can be submitted electronically.