Lawlor / Enough proclamations, time for a monument
The state of Connecticut doesn’t have a lot of money for things like monuments. Apparently, we do have plenty of money for things like proclamations — for instance, Aug. 14 is some sort of Manned Flight Day here in Connecticut. It was so named with a big flourish a few years ago by an official state proclamation after “Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft” editor wrote an editorial declaring that it was Bridgeport’s and Fairfield’s own Gustave Whitehead who was first in flight instead of those two bike mechanics from Ohio.
Andrew Kosch, of Fairfield, who built and flew a life-size replica of Whitehead’s No. 21 knows a thing or two about proclamations. He has seen a few about Whitehead, and the town of Fairfield even issued a proclamation declaring Aug. 21, 2013, “Andy Kosch Day.” What Andy wants now is a monument in town. A solid monument, not a proclamation. But that requires money and a space. He is working on both.
“I was talking with the guys who run the skate park (which is below where Whitehead supposedly flew in 1901) and they are willing to let me put up a monument if the town will approve it. That way people who don’t have a beach sticker can see the monument,” he said.
I think that’s extremely accommodating. We would be letting people from Ohio, and I assume we would also allow in cars from North Carolina whose license plates erroneously claim First in Flight. These people could come free of charge to see the monument. According to its website, the Wright Brothers National Memorial Park costs $10 for people 16 and over in a noncommercial vehicle. I don’t know the fees for a commercial vehicle or if you are under 16. I imagine they would encourage younger, more moldable minds to see the Wright Brothers monument and be awed by it.
Last week, I went with my nephews — both under 16, so still with very impressionable minds — to the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and we saw an entire wing dedicated to the Wright Brothers. They even had some fake front porches as part of a fake house with some painted clouds above to complete the fake sky. I was impressed. Who wouldn’t be? Actually, my 10- and 8-year-old nephews were not. They wanted to go on the flight simulator and then go get some astronaut ice cream. I did not have astronaut ice cream, as the simulators go upside down and my 8-year-old nephew thought it would be fun if he piloted us through nonstop barrel rolls for the full duration of the three-minute ride.
A few years ago, a town committee was formed here with Andy part of it, and the committee then gave some recommendations to the town on where to put the monument, but then it died for lack of funds. Now Andy is looking for private money and cooperation from the town on where to put Whitehead’s monument.
He mentioned other choices the committee came up with, such as the History Museum, Jennings Beach or Sherman Green. But with each Aug. 14, another year passes without a proper monument to the real First in Flight in our home state.
If you have some money or a place to put the monument, please drop by and see Andy. You are likely to find him most Saturdays at Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport working on the replica of Whitehead’s No 21.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His column appears every other Friday. He can be reached by email at Tlawlor@mcommunica