Nate the Intrepid!
Our Brooklyn grammar school principal let all students out of school on June 13, 1927, to go see the parade welcoming Charles “Lucky” Lindbergh home from his historic, solo, trans-Atlantic flight. We were ordered to behave perfectly, always stay together, and under no circumstances were we to leave the sidewalk.
In order to understand, you need to know that Charles Lindbergh was a very big deal in 1927. When he returned home from the first-time-ever, trans-Atlantic solo airplane flight on his Spirit of St. Louis, everyone just went crazy! His flight had changed the course of history–although we didn’t know then. Of course there would be a massive ticker-tape parade in Manhattan, with millions of cheering—not to mention drunken and rowdy—fans lining the streets. And we 6th graders were determined to be part of the celebration that would welcome this All-American hero home. (Of course this was a few years before we would learn about his antisemitism–or even what antisemitism was.) This was the biggest historic event that had ever happened during my whole, albeit very short, life. And even though it would take place in Manhattan—on a school day, yet—I knew in my heart and soul that this boy from Brooklyn would be there.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to cut school because our usually very strict Principal had decided to let school out so that we could all go to the parade. Of course since we would be representing our parents, grandparents, the Jewish People, as well as our school, and Brooklyn, we were all commanded to be models of decorum at all times. We were to obey all school rules, the most important one being:
DO NOT BREAK RANKS!
STAY TOGETHER ON THE SIDEWALK!
Yeah, right. As if I, Nate the Intrepid, would stay with my schoolmates on the sidewalk and let a once-in-a-lifetime adventure with HISTORY pass me by! That was not going to happen! I was dizzy with excitement! I was brave, courageous and bold! I’d be right up front and center, ready to take action whenever the opportunity arose.
Once we got to the parade, however, I wasn’t so sure about my prowess. There seemed to be at least a million people of all sizes, shapes, conditions, and states of inebriation already there. Many had spent the night camped out on the sidewalk in order to ensure that they’d have front spots on the curb. The result was a thick, sweaty, odiferous and impenetrable human wall that made it impossible for us wimpy little 6th graders to even see the street, much less the parade. But though I was small, I was agile and determined. I immediately began to weave my way through the crowd until I arrived at the dark blue human barricade of big red-faced cops who held each other’s beefy hands to form a human chain that separated the enthusiastic spectators from the street. And while the addition of towering cops on horseback seemed daunting at first, I kept my eyes peeled for my imminent target: Charles Lindbergh’s open-air automobile.
The slow-moving bands and floats finally passed by. I could feel the crowd’s excitement reach a new high. right along with my pounding heart. And at the exact right moment, thanks to my astute powers of observation, quick response-time, youthful disregard for authority, and maybe the inebriated condition of the cops, I broke through that police line, bobbed and weaved through the horses and leapt right up on the running-board of Lindy’s car! I thought I could hear the crowd roaring its admiration for my achievement! “Natey! Natey!”—they seemed to be yelling. There I was right up there with him–my ear-to-ear grin daring anyone to knock me off.
Unfortunately, an enraged cop on horseback who had been right behind me was not impressed by my swagger. He snatched me up by my hair, and along with some very colorful language, he and his indignantly snorting horse, trotted to the curb, and unceremoniously dumped me on the sidewalk.
And that’s why, to this day, at 98 years-of age,
I’m missing a big chunk of hair from the top of my head.
I guess if there’s a moral to this story,
it would be to wear a hat if you’re going to break the rules!
And now you also know why I always wear a hat!
©Joanne D. Gilbert 2021. All Rights Reserved
Author, Educator, Personal Historian, Ghost Writer, and Public Speaker, Joanne D. Gilbert, is dedicated to saving personal histories–one story at a time–with individual clients or workshops. Her award-winning books, WOMEN OF VALOR: Polish Jewish Resisters to the Third Reich, and A VICTORY FOR MIRIAM: The Little Jewish Girl Who Defied the Nazis, received outstanding reviews, and are often used in middle school-university classrooms.
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