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· Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge: Pearl and Delbert·
It’s September 7, 1927, in Hutchinson, Kansas. Downtown’s Fall Festival Frolic begins with a parade.
Pearl Albrecht, 15, hurried three doors east from her house on Ave A. west, to visit her friend, Delbert Wright, 14. Even though he had promised everything would be ready in time, she had to see for herself.
As Pearl walked into Delbert’s open-door garage, she said, “Hello Delbert. I hope you’re as excited as I am about tonight.”
Delbert looked up from his work bench, and said, “Your hair’s really short!”
“Don’t you like it?” asked Pearl.
“You look good with it short,” said Delbert, “but you looked good when it was longer too.”
“Does it look like Lucky Lindy’s haircut?” asked Pearl. “That’s the point, right?”
“Absolutely,” said Delbert. “You look like a boy. Once you put on your aviator jacket, pants, and boots, you’ll be ready to take off for Paris.”
Pearl eyed the wooden plane on the bench and asked, “How’s the Spirit of St. Louis? Will it be ready in time?”
“I think so,” answered Delbert.
“You think so?” said Pearl, as she frowned.
“Oh, it’s ready right now,” said Delbert, “I’m just tinkering on a couple of things.”
Thanks to Jewel, Pearl’s older sister who was a flapper, her fair hair was cut shorter than ever. Instead of it being bobbed, she was wearing the Charles Lindbergh, Jr. look. (Lindy was her hero, even heart-throb. He was 25, an adventurer, and unmarried; she was 15 and ready to explore the world.) Once Pearl strapped down her breasts and got dressed up in her aviator outfit for the festivities, onlookers might be seeking her autograph as she joined the parade down Main Street.
As Pearl and Delbert walked northward towards Fifth Avenue, the starting point of the parade, they chattered like best friends.
“We’ll be there in plenty of time,” said Pearl. “The parade doesn’t start until 7:30 p.m. which seems so late in the day. I’m used to parades beginning at 10 o’clock in the morning.”
“I’ve got a dime I’ve been saving for us,” said Delbert. “Would you let me buy you a hamburger at Gene’s wagon? We’re almost to First Avenue.”
“You’re so nice,” replied Pearl. “How about instead, you save it for a movie? I’ll pay my own way and we can go Friday or Saturday. I’m sure glad your family moved to Hutch, and that you’re so mechanical.”
As Delbert looked into Pearl’s blue eyes, contrasted by her pink cheeks, he said, “Me too. This summer has been the best one in my whole life. When school starts next week, I’ll sure miss seeing you so often.”
“Look out!” Pearl yelled, as Delbert was nearly side-swiped by a mule-rider.
“Thanks! I didn’t see that one coming,” said Delbert, who was inside the giant model of Lindbergh’s plane, using a periscope to look ahead. He also glanced out the side windows as he walked the aircraft forward.
Pearl moved closer to the prop, just under the monoplane’s wing, then reached a hand inside the open window, resting it on Delbert’s shoulder. “I can be another set of eyes for you, if you want.”
“That’s a good idea,” answered Delbert. “I didn’t consider that the street would be congested. It’s a wonder that Lindy doesn’t hit someone when he’s landing.”
“Look at that!” said Pearl, as she pointed towards a group of four costumed devils, one holding a pitchfork that must have had a battery attached.
“You jolt me with that thing one more time and I’ll take it from you and toss you around like a bale of hay,” threatened his side-kick.
“Go to Hades!” replied the friend as he laughed at his own joke.
The street was packed with pedestrians, not an automobile in sight. The atmosphere was already electric, merry-makers wearing elaborate carnival costumes, others limiting their dress-up to facial grease paint or cloth masks. Meanwhile, musicians on every corner warmed up their instruments, firecrackers spooked horses, and children yelled as they played tag. And the smells in the late summer air ranged from fresh horse manure to hot roasted peanuts.
“Like any other parade, some big shot gets all the attention as he rides in the first car,” said Pearl. “Of course it’s an adult, and he’s a man.”
“Look at those women,” said Delbert. “They’re dressed up as Martha Washington.”
“Oh, I like Charlie Chaplin,” said Pearl. “He’s pushing a baby carriage as he keeps looking over his shoulder.”
“See those clowns?” asked Delbert as he took in the view through his side-window. “They’re superb acrobats. I think they’re from the YMCA.”
The noise level increased as the Municipal Band played, cymbals and sleigh bells rang, more fireworks exploded, and cowboys and deputy sheriff’s shot blanks from realistic looking guns.
It was almost ten o’clock. Pearl and Delbert dreaded the evening ending; it had been so much fun. They walked more slowly, kicking at streamers and confetti on the sidewalk and gazing into the well-lit store-front display windows.
Delbert carried the Spirit of St. Louis like he was hugging a tree with both arms. At least his visibility was improved over being buried in the plane’s cockpit without a windshield. Occasionally the two friends would stop walking and Delbert would rest the rear end of the plane on the sidewalk. Then Pearl would light another Lucky Strike cigarette and deeply inhale.
An approaching older couple stopped. “Charles Lindbergh doesn’t smoke!” said the woman, as she addressed Pearl.
“How would you know?” responded Pearl as she broadened her shoulders and stood taller.
“I read the papers,” the lady answered.
“Fags are against the law for children, and you’re too young to smoke,” said the man.
“No, I’m too young to care!” said Pearl as she continued to stare at the adults, unwilling to apologize for exercising her free choice.
The couple appeared to search for words. When none materialized, they started walking away.
“Just leave me alone!” Pearl shouted after them. Abruptly, Pearl calmed down. She was no longer yelling. In a subdued voice, Pearl said, “I wish adults would mind their own business.”
Most of the music and dancing on the corners had ended. The streets were nearly ready to be opened up to automobile traffic by the cops on the corners. The frolic was over.
Unexpectedly, a man rounded the corner and plowed into Delbert and his plane like he was in a demolition derby. They hit the sidewalk . . . hard.
Another man, out of breath, holding a gun in one hand, was approaching the corner yelling, “Stop him, he’s a criminal!”
“Delbert! Are you hurt?” asked Pearl as she leaned over to check on him.
Without a word, the man who had knocked Delbert to the ground scrambled to his feet, and hurried across the street.
Meanwhile, Delbert was silent, his body motionless.
The man with the gun stopped. “Are you two boys all right?” he asked.
“I am,” replied Pearl, “but Delbert’s been hurt. He’s still not moving.”
Until next time, happy writing and reading.