Posted in: Club Newsletter, Featured, In The News, Reflections Articles

by Dick Hefton

With the July 12th eightieth anniversary of the disappearance of the world’s most celebrated aviatrix of the era demand for news features, revised biographies and TV documentaries abound recalling the unanswered mysteries surrounding the terminus of her attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Amelia Earhart in her twin-engine Lockheed Electra with only navigator-engineer Fred Noonan as crew, short on fuel and in limited radio contact navigated through small atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, mostly under Japanese authority. Their demise is energetically pursued both formally and informally, seeking to learn did they die in a crash; did life-end in isolation on a desert atoll; or were they captured and tortured by the Japanese, the answers possibly held secret by their own government?

What finality recently discovered evidence may produce is problematical but there is no question Amelia Earhart was arrested, found guilty and fined in Blackwell, OK on Saturday afternoon, February 20, 1937, some six months before her epical disappearance.

Flying over Oklahoma at 12,000 feet the day before en route to Burbank, CA from their home in New York, Earhart’s Lockheed Electra which she would use on her world circling plan experienced propeller malfunction. She was “glad to see Blackwell from the dusty” heights and chose a precautionary landing at the modern Blackwell Municipal airport, yet a typical sod field, where her mechanic-crewman Bo McKneely, could do needed repairs. On board too were veteran-navigator Capt. Harry Manning and her husband, her investor-promoter and movie producer, George Putnam.

That Friday in an appropriately named “Terra Plane” sedan favor of the Hudson dealer, the four visitors drove to Ponca City for lunch. On return, Amelia at the wheel was stopped by a Blackwell police officer; brought to the police station; booked! Speeding at 50MPH! Because the fliers were in a hurry to repair and get on their way the Judge Roy W. Cox held special Saturday court, where, in the interest of time Miss Earhart confessed, saying “I was going rather faster than I should, I guess, I didn’t know you had speed laws here,” she added, saying she was “in a borrowed car.”

“Where are you from?” asked a grim Judge Cox. “New York City,” replied the Perp.

“Where are you going?” “California.”

“In a borrowed car?” he inquired.

“NO, in an airplane!”

“So, you are a flier. Well, there may be no speed limit above Blackwell but here on the ground we have certain regulations.”

“I was glad to see Blackwell and I came in much faster (than I drove) yesterday because my plane lands about a hundred miles an hour. I guess it’s rather hard for me to control ground speed when I get into a car.”

In consideration she was a visitor and not familiar with the regulations, Cox assessed the minimum amount – “$1 and cost, adding up to $3.50.”

Putnam had made a remark or two during the proceeding, so Judge Cox asked “Do you assume responsibility for her, Sir?” “No,” explained her husband, “I’m just a relative and I disown her.” Thus, the truth came out! During lunch in Ponca City, Putnam slipped to a telephone and called Blackwell making arrangements to have her arrested for speeding as she entered city limits. Cox and the patrolman were the lone known conspirators in the ploy. But perhaps feeling a knife in her back as she stood before the judge, Amelia thought of her arrival at the Larkin Hotel on Friday she was greeted by Mayor O.A. Raffety presenting a 10 foot Key to the City and a hearty welcome from Ed Martin, secretary of the chamber of commerce.

Local leaders were perplexed. Crew-members outraged. A wild effort unfolded to restore favor with the demeaned national treasure. Those out of the loop, especially Dewey Mauk, manager of the airport, who had looked after the stranded aviators with every wish, “threw a hissy.” But once the prankster was exposed Earhart admonished; “I have a mind to take off without you,” turning to Mauk she asked, “How much is the bus fare to Burbank…for one?




    • Paul Moore
    • February 19, 2024

    General, you have shared another great story!

    • Patrick Rooney
    • February 19, 2024

    Agree! Great story! Pat

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