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Of Grand Forks • East Grand Forks
February 13, 2014
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In 1928, Paul Fisk Collins jumped from a disabled plane over Pennsylvania and was saved by his parachute. On February 11, 1944, his son, Paul Liske Collins, jumped from a disabled plane near Fairbanks, Alaska, and his life was also saved by his parachute. Together, they were the first father-son team to join the Caterpillar Club, whose membership is entirely composed of people whose lives were saved by parachutes. Come along with Tidbits as we consider the Caterpillar Club! THE FATHER OF PARACHUTES • Leslie Irvin didn’t invent parachutes, but he did revolutionize them by packing them into backpacks. In 1922, he founded the Caterpillar Club, honoring those who had to place their lives in the hands of their parachutes. Because the parachutes were made out of silk, and the silk came from caterpillar cocoons, the Caterpillar Club was born. The club’s motto is, “Life depends on a silken thread.” • Charles Lindbergh’s life was saved by an Irvin parachute four times in two years. In 1925 he was involved in a mid-air collision and bailed out. Three months later he jumped when his plane would not come out of a spin. In 1926 he ran out of fuel and jumped. Seven weeks later he was caught in a snowstorm and bailed out.
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A CLUB IS BORN • On October 20, 1922, U.S. Air Corps test pilot Lt. Harold Harris walked out to a fighter plane at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio. The plane had been fitted with experimental ailerons the previous day and he was to test it. Harris stopped to clip on his parachute, but was annoyed to find that the straps were too tight. He traded it for a different one but found that the straps were too tight on that one as well. He decided to fly without one. After all, no one had yet had their life saved by one of the new-fangled contraptions. But suddenly Harris changed his mind and decided to wear one.
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5. T or F: The most skydive jumps made by one person in a 24-hour period was 640. 6. What year was aspirin invented by Felix Hoffmann—1867, 1877, 1887, 1897 or 1907? 7. On TV, what kind of car did “Starsky & Hutch” drive? 8. Name three of the five jazz musicians that have been on the cover of Time magazine.
1. This astronaut, the first American to orbit the Earth, is a member of the Caterpillar Club. Name him. 2. What material are most modern parachutes made of? 3. On average, how many successful skydive jumps are untertaken for every fatality—20,000, 40,000, 80,000 or 160,000? 4. What’s the capital of Vermont?
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• In a friendly dogfight with another test pilot, Harris was turning, diving, and zooming when his plane suddenly went out of control. He went into a dive and could not recover. When pieces of the wings started tearing away, Harris jumped. He felt for the ripcord on his parachute and pulled three times. Nothing happened. He discovered he’d been pulling his leg strap fitting. He yanked the ripcord when he was just 500 feet off the ground— far too low for a safe jump. The chute opened, and he drifted down, landing unhurt in a grape arbor. Lt. Harold Harris was the first person ever to have his life saved in an emergency situation by a manuallyoperated parachute. • Harris was able to refute many myths. Many people felt that a falling human would become unconscious. Others maintained arms and legs would be pinned by the wind or would flail helplessly. Parachute trials were limited because pilots believed if someone jumped out of a plane, the sudden loss of weight would send the plane into an uncontrollable spin. • When Harris landed unhurt, one of the people who helped him celebrate his good luck was Leslie Irvin, the man who had designed the parachute.
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4. In 2013, Portland’s Damian Lillard became only the fourth unanimous selection 1. Who was the first majoras NBA Rookie of the Year. leaguer to have 40 or more Name two of the first three steals and 30 or more home to do it. runs in his rookie season? 5. How many NHL players 2. How many times did Rickey have tallied at least 155 Henderson steal four or more points in a season? bases in a game during his 6. Which college football 25-year major-league career? team has played in the most 3. When was the last time before Orange Bowl games? 2013 that the New York 7. T or F: Hall of Fame shortKnicks won an NBA playoff stop Honus Wagner also was series? a major-league manager.
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CATERPILLAR CLUB (continued): • Irvin had been experimenting with parachutes and trying to convince people to use them. Irvin was the first man to voluntarily jump out of a working aircraft with a parachute. He did it to prove that manually operated parachutes could work, and he made his point when he landed with only a broken ankle, when most people thought he was jumping to his death. The Air Corps immediately ordered 300, and Irvin found himself in the parachute business. • When his lawyer filed papers, Irvin’s name was misspelled as ‘Irving.’ Irving Parachutes made Irvin a wealthy man by the time he reached the age of thirty. • After Harris jumped from his plane, men at McCook Field collected souvenirs of the incident: pieces of the crashed plane, the used parachute, and photos of Harris next to the wreck. They displayed the items proudly in their tiny museum. A newspaper reporter wrote an article and suggested that they start a club for people who owed their lives to a parachute, and the Caterpillar Club was born. • It was only a few weeks later when a second man qualified to join the Caterpillar Club. Lt. Tyndall jumped for his life when his aircraft’s wings tore off. Tyndall volunteered to keep the records of the Caterpillar Club. For the next 17 months Harris and Tyndall were the only members of the club. But in 1924, a stunt jumper dove out of an airplane with six chutes on, intending to open one right after the other in an airshow exhibition. The first five failed when they became entangled, and it was the sixth reserve emergency parachute — an Irvin chute — that saved his life. • The first British man to enter the Caterpillar Club was a man named Scholefield. Two years later he was killed when his plane went down while he unfortunately was not wearing a chute.
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CATERPILLAR CLUB (continued): • S.L.G. Pope bailed out when the rudder gave out. He was only 800 feet (244 m) off the ground when he jumped. He yanked on the ripcord again and again with no result— then discovered he’d been pulling the string holding a pencil to the knee pad that he scribbled flight data on. He was only 300 feet (91 m) off the ground when he found the ripcord. The chute opened barely in time to save him. Pope was the first Royal Air Force pilot whose life was saved by a parachute. His friends sent a telegram: “Congratulations. Forwarding clean pair of pants.” • When World War II hit, the demand for parachutes skyrocketed and Irvin’s factory went from a pre-war output of 100 parachutes per week to nearly 1,500. Applications for membership in the Caterpillar Club shot up, and at the parachute factory a huge bulletin board held pictures and letters from pilots who owed their lives to Irving Parachutes. By the end of 1943 there were over 27,000 members, with a hundred or more applications arriving daily. One pilot wrote: “I am going to name my son (when I have one) Irvin as it was due to one Irvin in particular that I am alive enough to woo, marry, and get me a son.” • Irvin himself witnessed the effectiveness of his parachutes when the crew of an American bomber bailed out near his factory while he was watching. He drove to where they were floating down, and five minutes later the two lucky pilots were in his office being signed up for the club and toasting their luck with the inventor’s whisky. • Leslie Irvin agreed to give a gold pin to every person whose life was saved by one of his parachutes. At the end of World War II the number of members with Irvin pins had grown to over 34,000 though the total of people saved by Irvin parachutes is estimated to be 100,000.
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Of Grand Forks • East Grand Forks
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• The story starts in 1893 when Frank Ellis was born in Nottingham, England. While in his teens he became fascinated with what were then called ‘aerial machines.’ As a youth, he worked for a bicycle company in England, and then went on to master motorcycle engines. • Shortly after his family moved to Canada in 1913, he found an abandoned Curtiss biplane. He and a buddy rebuilt it from scratch, dubbing it the West Wind. They spent the entire summer of 1914 flying it and performing progressively more dangerous stunts, until a sudden gust of wind picked it up from its parking spot and flipped it over, ruining it beyond repair.
• Although the first parachute jump in Canada was made by an American in Vancouver in 1912, the first successful parachute jump in Canada which was made by a Canadian happened in 1919.
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• When World War I ended, there were plenty of spare Curtiss planes available. Ellis embarked on a new career as a barnstormer, performing dangerous stunts for small sums of money in front of awe-struck spectators, many of whom had never seen a plane before. He worked as an airplane mechanic and took people for rides in his plane for $1 per minute, catering to the tourist crowds at Crystal Beach, Ontario. • It just so happened that on July 4, 1919, Leslie Irvin (who pioneered the parachute) jumped from a Jenny plane at a height of 2,000 feet and floated downward, landing unhurt in Lake Erie near Crystal Beach. He was testing a new model of parachute, a design that was packed into a backpack. He left his soggy parachute behind, saying he would return to retrieve it once it was dry.
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FRANK ELLIS (continued): • And there it sat when Frank Ellis found it. By then the parachute was perfectly dry; Irvin hadn’t come to fetch it yet; and Ellis thought, “What the heck?” If Irvin could do it, why couldn’t he? Well, for starters, he didn’t know how to pack a parachute. He did the best he could under the circumstances. “It looked like a bag of laundry more than anything else and weighed as much as a sack of cement,” Ellis later recalled.
PRESIDENTIAL QUOTES: “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
MOMENTS IN TIME • On Feb. 21, 1885, the Washington Monument, built in honor of America’s revolutionary hero and first president, is dedicated in Washington, D.C. The 555-foot-high marble obelisk was the tallest structure in the world when completed, and it remains today, by District of Columbia law, the tallest building in the nation’s capital. • On Feb. 20, 1902, the famous Western photographer Ansel Adams is born in San Francisco. Adams’ dramatic black and white images of Yosemite and the West are some of the most widely recognized and admired photographs of the 20th century. Adams was dedicated to the use of “straight” images free from darkroom trickery. • On Feb. 18, 1929, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces the winners of the first Academy Awards: The first award recipients’ names were printed on the back page of the academy’s newsletter. • On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, initiating a controversial World War II policy with lasting conse-
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quences for Japanese Americans. The document ordered the removal of resident enemy aliens from parts of the West vaguely identified as military areas and into detention camps. • On Feb. 23, 1954, a group of children from Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburgh receive the first injections of the new polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk. After mass inoculations began in 1954, everyone marveled at the high success rate -- some 60 percent to 70 percent • On Feb. 17, 1972, the 15,007,034th Volkswagen Beetle comes off the assembly line, breaking a world car production record held for more than four decades by the Ford Motor Company’s iconic Model T, which was in production from 1908 and 1927. The history of the VW Beetle dates back to 1930s Germany. • On Feb. 22, 1980, in one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog U.S. hockey team, made up of college players, defeats the four-time defending gold-medal winning Soviet team at the XIII Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, N.Y.
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• He drafted a pilot friend to help him in the endeavor. When they reached 1,800 feet they spotted a boat on the water near Crystal Beach, Ontario, and Ellis jumped so he could land near the boat and be rescued. The parachute deployed, but when he hit the water, the wet linen straps shrunk so quickly that he was nearly strangled before the astonished boat owner could pull him out of the water. Undaunted, he just had to try it again. The next jump the following day was successful as well. “If anyone had told me on July 4, 1919, that the next day I would be the first Canadian to parachute from an airplane over Canada, I would have thought he was completely mad.” • Irvin, aware of the problem caused by linen shrinking when wet, began to make his parachutes out of silk instead, thus leading to the instigation of “The Caterpillar Club.” Shortly after after Frank Ellis’ jump, parachutes were used in an emergency situation for the first time. • Frank Ellis retired from flying in the late 1920s and became a bus driver in Vancouver. However, he spent his entire life documenting the early days of Canadian aviation, writing three books on the topic. In 1972, Ellis was awarded the Medal of Service of the Order of Canada. Frank died in Vancouver on July 4, 1979, just one day prior to the 60th anniversary of his famous jump.
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• Smokejumpers are fire fighters who parachute into remote locations to put out wildfires. • Russia has more smokejumpers than any other country with several thousand, and Russia also claims the longest history of established smokejumping of any nation. Their smokejumping program got underway in 1936. In the U.S., smokejumping was established in 1939. Smokejumpers are also employed by Mongolia and Canada. Canada’s first smokejumping teams were assembled in the 1950s. • In the western U.S., smokejumper bases were established in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska. From these bases, they are dispatched to fires all over the country. • During World War II, some conscientious objectors were put to work as smokejumpers. • In 1945, a smokejumper unit was sent to the west coast of the United States to combat forest fires ignited by Japanese balloons carrying incendiary devices, an operation designated Operation Firefly. Fortunately, most of the incendiary balloons fizzled.
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• In 1949, the worst disaster involving smokejumpers happened at a remote location called Mann Gulch north of Helena, Montana. When the fire changed direction and charged uphill, 13 firefighters were killed, and 12 of those were smokejumpers. This ushered in a new era of firefighting safety measures currently used by all wildland firefighters. Noted author Norman MacLean described the incident in a book called Young Men and Fire published in 1992. The 1952 film Red Skies of Montana was also based on the disaster.
pony up the cash, and at the end of the night there was no sale. At that point, a waiter (inadvertently?) dropped the bottle, destroying the unprofitable item. The bottle was insured, however, and the merchant did end up with $250,000. • The White House was not designed by an American. It was Irish architect James Hoban who won the competition to create the architectural plans for the home of the political leader of the United States. • Before he became president, George H.W. Bush was, for a time, the youngest aviator in the history of the U.S. Navy, getting his wings just three days before he turned 19. * * * Thought for the Day: “When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” -- Buckminster Fuller
• It was writer and cartoonist James Thurber who made the following sage observation: “Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.” • You might not be familiar with the National Chicken Council, but it’s making predictions about you nonetheless. If you ate wings while watching the Super Bowl, you contributed to the 1.25 billion wings that the council’s 2014 Wing Report projected to be consumed during that event. • Those who study such things say that if you happen to find lint in your belly button, it’s more likely to be blue than any other color. • The name of the state of Alabama comes from the Choctaw word “albah,” which means “plant-cutters.” • Accident or not? At an evening event in 1989, a bottle of wine once owned by Thomas Jefferson was up for sale. The asking price? $500,000. It seems nobody was willing to
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5. 3: Wayne 1. The Angels’ Gretzky (9), Mike Trout, in Mario Lemieux 2012. (4), Steve 2. Nineteen times Yzerman (1) 3. It was 2000 4. Ralph Sampson, 6. Oklahoma (18) David Robinson, 7. True (1-4 in 5 games, 1917) & Blake Griffin
SMOKEJUMPERS (continued): • Although the job is considered to be one of JOHN DEERE. (continued): theDEERE. most dangerous in the world, statistically •speaking, It was while living in Illinois that John smokejumping is about as safeno-as ticed the problems that farmers faced when ground-based wildland firefighting. attempting to till soil. Because the area had • In the U.S. there have been about 5,000 smokeformerly been woodland, the soil was rich jumpers between the program’s instigation in with hummus, which clumped and clung to 1939 and today. the blades of the plows farmers were accus• Women allowed the smokejumper tomed were to using. While into repairing a broken cirprogram for the firststumbled time in 1981. cular saw, Deere upon an idea. He employed his smith to fashion the steel • During the heat of the skills fire season between June blade into the shape of a plow. He affixed 1st and October 1st, about 470 smokejumpers two then They hitched device will bewooden on dutyspokes, in the U.S. arethe employed to a horse. It plowed the heavy Illinois soil primarily by the U.S. Forest Service and the like a charm. In fact, a farmer who happened Bureau of Land Management. to be observing the test run immediately put • Only are John already in anpeople order forwho his own Deereexperienced plow. professional firefighters are accepted into the • In short order, Deere gave up his blacksmith smokejumper trainingonprogram. usushop and focused making Training plows. The ally begins in May. Trainees must be able company grew steadily and added many em-to complete in 90 minutes or the less ployees.aIn3-mile the latehike 1840s, John relocated while carrying a 110-pound entire operation to Moline, pack. Illinois. Ashamed his own lack of education, John about sent his • A of typical smokejumper will carry 70 children to the state’s finest schools. One of pounds of gear during a jump. Bundles of suphis will proudest days occurred when son Charles plies be air-dropped, allowing them to set earned the equivalent of an MBA from Bell’s up camp in a safe area near the fire. Commercial College in Chicago. • One of their main firefighting tools is called a •pulaski, With his son Charles managing the Pulaski company, which was invented by Ed afJohn found time to pursue philanthropic inter he was nearly killed in a catastrophic fire in terests. co-founded both First Nation1910. It’s He a combination of antheaxe and a hoe, al Bank and the First Congregational Church. used for chopping out timber and scraping a fire He was elected the mayor of Moline in 1873, line. They wear fire-resistant clothing and carry where one of his first actions – the replacefirement resistant “shake-and-bake” shelters, similar of the city’s open drains with a sewer to pipe tentssystem made –out of mylar, which shield saved countless liveshelp by reducthem from heat if they get caught in a blaze. ing the spread of disease.
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• Smokejumping is generally considered to inbe • The original John Deere logo, registered the1876, singledepicted most cost-effective firefighting strata deer that was native to Afriegyca.currently employed. Thirty-six years later, in 1912, it was replaced with the image of a North American white-tailed deer. In the decades that followed, the now-familiar “outline” logo .COM took Of Grandof Forks East GDeere rand Forks over as the symbol the• John brand.
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