On May 25, 1910 at Huffman Prairie, just outside Dayton, Orville Wright piloted two unique flights.

First, he took off on a six-minute flight with Wilbur as his passenger, the only time the Wright brothers ever flew together. They received permission from their father, Bishop Milton Wright, to make this flight. They had always promised their father that they would never fly together to avoid the chance of a double tragedy and to ensure one brother would remain to continue their experiments.

Next, Orville took his 82-year old father on a nearly seven-minute flight, the first and one of Milton Wright’s life. The

airplane rose to about 350 feet while the elderly Wright called to his son, “Higher, Orville… higher!”

And that’s how I felt today while being one of the first to ride the new carousel – the new gem of Dayton’s Carillon Park.

After lunch I rode with several Wright brothers enthusiasts to the site of the Wright family home on Hawthorn Street, just off Third Street in West Dayton. August 19th, 1871, Orville Wright was born in the front second floor bedroom. Three years later Katharine Wright was born on the same day, in the same room. We spent some time in the Wright brother’s bicycle shop on Williams Street, and then the aviation center across the plaza.

We stopped by Woodland Cemetery to pay our respects to the Wright family, and passed by Hawthorn Hill, the gorgeous mansion crowning a gigantic hill in Oakwood.

I retrieved Quintin from home so we could attend the Carillon Park/Dayton History annual meeting. I was slightly miserable from the heat and decided I would show Quintin the same things I visited earlier that afternoon. While at the cemetery, a couple from Oklahoma City approached and asked if I knew much about the Wright family.

It was nearing 5:00pm, and I knew I should be at the meeting. However, with a passion for history, I believe there is a duty as an ambassador to share Dayton’s history with others. By 5:20pm we were heading over to Carillon Park.

We stood in the back of the tent, catching the last 10 minutes or so of Brady Kress’ speech.

Brady Kress…

Dayton was so lucky to be blessed with the likes of Wilbur & Orville Wright, Charles Kettering, Col. Deeds, John Patterson, and countless others, but we are equally blessed with Brady Kress who is equal as a visionary to the Wrights, Kettering, Patterson, and Deeds combined! As local news media maestro, Jim Bucher, claimed, “Brady is Dayton’s own version of Walt Disney!”

Bucher is so right on target!

As Brady concluded the annual meeting, he encouraged everyone to check beneath the seats of their chairs. Thirty-three lucky people would find, taped to the bottom, a gold carousel coin honoring them with the first ride. I was a bit disappointed that I was not seated in one of the several open chairs and even considered making a mad dash for several.

As Quintin and I turned to head to the ribbon cutting ceremony, I saw Amy Kress, Brady’s wife, and her father coming towards us. Her father, Mr. Schwartz handed me the gold coin taped beneath his chair. He had already ridden the carousel during his granddaughter’s birthday party, and Amy said I would probably be thrilled to ride it. Of course, all week long Amy has endured my emails of childish glee – but she did start it several years ago when she first told me of the carousel’s unique design. Two of the special designs were to be Orville Wright’s Saint Bernard, Scipio, and Wilbur Wright’s dog, Flyer. I even loaned Brady one of my books that contained a photo of the original Flyer.

I know Mr. Schwartz was talking to me about something as we walked to the ribbon cutting, but honestly, I was not even close to earth as I held tightly to that gold coin. Being one of the lucky 33 ranked right up there with

  • getting to hold Mary Todd Lincoln’s gloves
  • holding the small portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln’s father, Robert Todd
  • thumbing through Bishop Wright’s family Bible and holding his spectacles (thanks to Melba Hunt)
  • holding Orville Wright’s white dinner jacket which he wore to a White House dinner in 1942 (again, thanks to Melba)
  • meeting Vice-President Gerald Ford in July 1974
  • singing “The National Anthem” as the first actual performance at The Schuster Center for the Hard Hat Concert
  • standing a few feet from John Glenn and Neil Armstrong during the closing ceremonies of the 2003 flight centennial

I am sure there have been other major highlights like these – and beyond the arrival of a new son, or the birth of one my brother’s children. Today was one of those exciting, magical moments for me.

After the ribbon cutting, Quintin and I joined the crowd of 450+ and strolled into the building. The exhibits were great, but to be truthful, I was aiming for the carousel. We can return any time to enjoy the wonderful new exhibits.

We entered the carousel pavilion, and I heard workers calling for folks with the golden coin. I barreled through the bodies with out causing casualty to anyone and presented my golden coin. Willy Wonka, here I come!

I got to Flyer before a kindly looking woman who was eyeing this ride. She just thought it was an ordinary dog displayed on the carousel. Poor thing got a quick history lesson right there, and then. When I told her my dog was named Flyer she backed off and found another ride. One friend asked, “What if Amanda Wright Lane [the great grandniece of the Wright brothers] had been the lady and had wanted to be the first to ride Flyer?” Well, there was a cute little bi-plane representing her uncles and it would have only been fitting for her squat her rights on it!

I am hoping to head to Carillon Park Sunday afternoon to take in the exhibits.

Dayton – thank you for supporting our community’s rich history, and thank you, even more, for entrusting it to Brady Kress.

“Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.”
Charles Kettering

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