“It’s been fun coming to Atchison,” Amelia Earhart Putman said during her final visit to her hometown on June 8, 1935.
Eighty years ago, the pioneering aviatrix was one of the honored guests who addressed the crowd that gathered during the Kansas Editors Convention on a Friday night in Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall located at 819 Commercial St.
Gov. Alf Landon introduced Atchison’s native daughter as “famous” to the audience. The pioneering aviatrix was more commonly known to the public and throughout history as Amelia Earhart.
“I thank you for treating me informally,” Earhart said. “I should have been hurt had you treated me any other way. As Gov. Landon said, ‘It’s been rather a meeting of ghosts.’ I can’t be sure whether I am that ghost or it is one of a child who was born in a house on North Second Street (Earhart’s birthplace is located at 223 N. Terrace) and who coasted down that hill I was remembering on the way down here.”
According to Atchison Globe reports of the day, Earhart continued, “It has been a pleasant homecoming for us both. Good night.”
Earhart’s last trip to Atchison was about two years prior the day she went missing on or about July 2, 1937 in flight over the Pacific Ocean after her take off from Lae, New Guinea en route to Howland Island, her next destination along her journey.
During her speech Earhart questioned her audience about their experiences and willingness to fly. She said she flew for personal satisfaction not for science although she wanted to. She shared her philosophy about worrying on the risks involved. Earhart said she put more emphasis on the importance of proper preparations and care of the flight-related instruments by experienced professionals. She added she weighed results with the potential hazards in the effort to overcome them. Earhart said she did not worry about circumstances. “Worry is a potent poison,” Earhart said, according to the Globe reports. “It retards reactions.”
Earhart explained her estimated risk factors as one in 10 when she crossed the Atlantic Ocean; 50-50 when she crossed the Pacific Ocean and there were no estimates on her then-recent trip to Mexico.
“I think we are very illogical about fear,” Earhart said. “Oxcarts are safer than cars, yet I saw none outside the hall this evening. Under the speed of 45 or 50 miles, ground travel is safer: over that speed, air travel is safer.
“When you travel by car at 50 miles an hour you should get up into the air for safety,” Earhart said to calm her audience members’ anxieties. “You would have to travel by air 12 million miles for an accident, which is practically safe.”
Earhart also joked that she did not believe she was all that famous because people often asked her if she was the woman who swam the English Channel. Others introduced her as the woman who swam the Pacific.
Prior to Earhart’s speech she and the Kansas editors were welcomed to Atchison with a flower parade in the afternoon that meandered from North Fourth Street to Kansas Avenue to North 13th Street then to Ninth Street to Main Street and east to Second Street, then north to Commercial Street and west to 12th Street. Throngs of spectators lined the streets to watch Earhart as she rode atop a float constructed by the Atchison Fire Department.
In days preceding Earhart’s arrival, the Globe encouraged all young children who would be in her presence along the parade route to throw roses toward her float. The Globe reported Earhart’s visit was the first opportunity to honor her on her achievements, and the article also encouraged parade-goers to throw confetti for the occasion.
Earhart was born July 24, 1897 in Atchison and reared here for part of her childhood. Earhart attended college preparatory in Atchison before attending public schools in the Kansas City area after she relocated there with her parents, the Globe reported.