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October 23, 2009

Amelia Earhart Flies Again

Amelia Earhart the American feminist icon, record breaking pilot, author, lecturer, beauty, celebrity died in July 1937 as a pilot while circumnavigating the world in a plane. Now after many books, movies and conspiracy theories about her death a major motion picture will premier October 23.  Featuring 2 time Academy Award actress Hilary Swank as the legendary Earhart and Richard Gere as her husband (George Putnam) it looks like a fascinating movie. There is lots of information on Amelia’s life and the movie called “Amelia” online. Two authors of well known books on Earhart  –Mary S Lovell and Susan Butler were consultants on the movie. There are several books on Earhart in the North Bay Public Library There are several Ontario connections with Amelia. 


In 1917 20-year-old Amelia took a brief vacation from school to visit her sister Muriel who was going to school in Toronto.  She was saddened by the condition of service men wounded in WWI and became a war nurse and stayed a year.  Amelia and her sister spent a lot of time on their interest in airplanes and Toronto is credited with getting Amelia started on a career in flight.  Toronto was the centre for the Royal Flying Corps and there were hundreds of pilots and planes at 2 airfields in Toronto.  She also got the Spanish Flu and suffered after affects throughout her life.   

Amelia Earhart as a nurse in Toronto when she was in her twenties.  Submitted photo

She returned to Toronto as a hero in 1932 to speak at the Eaton Auditorium and was interviewed and visited old friends. 

In the spring of 2008 the Amelia movie was shot over several months in Toronto which is Manhattan in the film.   

The Movie Plane in S.S. Marie 

The Canadian Bushplane Heritage Museum has the remarkable good luck of acquiring the Fokker Tri-engine plane used in the movie.  It is not a real plane but an excellent  full size mockup from the movie.  They are celebrating the event on October 28th.  There will be speakers and a re-enactment and people can sit in the cockpit where Hilary Swank sat in the movie.  October 23 is the day the movie will be released.  The plane will be displayed October 19-23.  Watch your local listings for details on the movie in your area

A Northern Ontario Connection 

The Nipissing Museum has a display of material about Amelia Earhart visiting Lake Nipissing on several occasions.  Bill Moloska, a Texas millionaire, owned oil wells and a plantation in Texas and built a lodge on Lake Nipissing in the 1920s.  He was a friend and supporter of Amelia and she visited him several times at his lodge 

Joe Steele, Curator of the Nipissing Township Museum, with Amelia Earhart photo with her technical advisor and trainer Paul Mantz on left  D. Mackey photo

The Nipissing Bowman family worked for Mr. Moloska at the lodge and he was caretaker in the offseason.  The Bowmans had a chance to go to Texas to work but declined.  Mr. Moloska gave the Bowmans a piano on one occasion.  The Bowman family had a photo of Amelia in their living room which they donated to the Nipissing Museum.  The photo shows Joe Steele, the Curator, with the  photo. The lodge became Tom-Rae Lodge and operates to the present day. 

Earhart died just short of her 40th birthday but lives on in numerous books, museums, scholarships, streets, schools and airports  named after her.  She was married to a well known publisher.  The movie is the biggest recognition even though it comes 72 years after her death.  At her peak she wrote books, was an editor at Cosmopolitan, had her own line of clothes, gave lectures, and became a model for young women to reach out and have the courage to take a chance and do something remarkable. 

North Bay Nugget July 3, 1937 erroneous report on Earhart crash. Photo shows her with her husband before taking off on her world trip.

This article does not touch on the many conspiracy theories about her death including one where she didn’t die but went under hidden protection for life for the U.S. government with crash used as an excuse for a huge presence in the area to look at Japanese activity prior to the war. Nothing proven of course.  Maybe the movie will help. 

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