February 5, 2012

1937 was quite a year


---- — Nostalgia plays a major part in what this column has been about since 1997. I was 60 when I was asked to begin writing "Small Talk," and it made a weekly appearance for most of that time.

Every now and then, I recapitulate, or at least look back to retrieve, some of my life's events. Topics have run the gamut from grandma's button boxes to why many women don't wear aprons anymore.

My River Room contains a stacked sectional bookcase with hinged glass doors on the front. It came from my dad's study and was made in Utica about 100 years ago. Kaye and I keep the shelves filled with items that have special meaning for us.

From time to time, we see a news item or documentary on the Hindenburg disaster. I am drawn to our old bookcase and to an odd-shaped piece of wood, 2½ inches tall, 3½ inches wide and 13„16 inches thick. On one side, written by my dad with pen and ink in his unique style, is the following: "Piece-from Hindenburg burned at Lakehurst NJ May 1937." My dad kept it on his desk in front of a stunning picture with the legend, "News photos bring the world into your home daily. One of the best was a shot of the burning Hindenburg." It shows the flaming 800-foot-long behemoth as it tried to moor to the mast at the Naval Air Station.

My father was a traveling evangelist, conducting services near Lakehurst, N.J. A member of the congregation approached him shortly after the disaster and explained that he was a member of the ground crew when the explosion and crash occurred on May 6, 1937, about a month and a week before I was born. He had loaded a few remnants of the huge airship into his trunk and offered one of them to my dad, who took it gladly. It was passed on to me, and I cherish it to this day.

Many years ago, I made contact with curators at the museum in Lakehurst. I told them I thought I had a piece of a wooden propeller. They disagreed and decided after some discussion that it was possibly a portion of a bar rail, if you can believe that. Since the late Russell E. Little was a preacher and teetotaler, I wonder if he would have kept it had he known precisely what it was.

Someday, I'd love to visit that museum to talk further with those who do the tours and study the Hindenburg disaster.

Other significant events occurred during the year of my birth: Cy Young was placed into the Baseball Hall of Fame; my favorite comic strip, "Prince Valiant," was born; Daffy Duck made his debut; Margaret Mitchell was given the Pulitzer for "Gone With the Wind." Kaye and I have visited several of the places where she lived and wrote. Also in 1937, my boxing hero, Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber, knocked out James J. Braddock in 18 rounds for the world heavyweight title; Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan disappeared over the vast Pacific Ocean, never to be found — one of the great mysteries of all time. Want more? Hormel Foods first put Spam on the market, and we ate a lot of it at our house. After all, a pound of hamburger cost a whopping 12 cents in those days.

J.R.R. Tolkien had his wonderful book "The Hobbit" published in 1937. I read it as a small child and again with the rest of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy within the past two years. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" first appeared on the silver screen. A longtime idol of mine, Bill Cosby, was born in Philadelphia about a month after I first saw daylight in Pearl River, N.Y., on June 15.

Was 1937 a good year? With wars and rumors of wars — not so much for many. Perhaps history will show that little Gordie Little's debut probably added to the turmoil.

Have a great day and please, drive carefully.

Gordie Little was for many years a well-known radio personality in the North Country and now hosts the "Our Little Corner" television program for Home Town Cable. Anyone with comments for him may send them to the newspaper or email him at