Nelson Kerns, His Biplane Notes, and the Missouri State Fair

I like the idea of writing about and remembering Warren and Nelson Kerns, two unknown young men who lived real lives a long time ago.

 

Nelson awards

At right is a photo of two tags that would have been attached to projects entered in competition at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. These projects belonged to Nelson Kerns, my grandmother’s little brother, who was killed in an airplane accident when he was fifteen on July 24, 1930.  His brother, Warren, 16, also died in the crash. Read here to learn more.

I’ve written a few posts about the brothers. Those posts included letters written about a month before their deaths to their mother, Caroline (Phillips) Kerns, who was visiting her parents in California at the time of the accident. Here are those posts: click here, here, here, and finally, here.

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However, instead of dwelling solely on the boys’ deaths, it seems more productive to commemorate their short lives by posting about their activities beyond farm work.

And that’s why I’ve included the state fair entry tags. The top tag in the photo, I believe, accompanied a model or diorama of a working farm. The bottom tag accompanied some type of toy that Nelson built.

I don’t know whether these projects won any prizes. I’ve searched newspapers.com for a list of winning entries at the 1929 fair, but so far have been unable to find any information or even whether a list was published. It’s my guess that most records from that long ago have been lost or were never published in the first place. However, I did find listings for winning sewing items and livestock in an August 1930 issue, so I’ll have to make a call to the state fair office to find out for sure.

Below is another keepsake, some handwritten notes for the design of a biplane. Both brothers possessed a keen interest in flying. I have five more note sheets like this one, but this is the only one that’s signed. The brothers may have planned on building one of these airplanes since they were known to design projects together.

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I don’t know anything about flying other than how to book a ticket online and I’m not even very good at that, but flying was apparently a fascinating subject for the brothers, and they weren’t the only ones with this affinity.

Barnstorming was a popular form of entertainment at the time and was completely unregulated, according to  The History of Barnstorming on the All Things Aviation website.

The author writes, “A typical barnstormer (or a group of barnstormers) would travel across to a village, borrow a field from a farmer for the day and advertise their presence in the town by flying several low passes over it – roaring over the main street at full throttle. The appearance of the barnstormers was akin to a national holiday. Entire towns were shut down and people would flock to the fields purchasing tickets for the show and plane rides. Locals, most of them never having seen planes before, would be thrilled by the experience.”

 

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© 2003 by Roxy Triebel 

On that late summer day in 1930, it was likely a similar scene at the boys’ hometown of Hume, Mo., which was celebrating the anniversary of its founding fifty years earlier. The accident was an abrupt end to what had been a celebratory day.

News of the accident traveled fast and far. Many local and area newspapers covered the accident and the funeral services for the boys. Here are some of those: Jefferson City, Springfield, and Chillicothe in Missouri, and Iola, Kansas. Two of the headlines read “Accident Mars Celebration of State Town’s 50th Anniversary” and “Crash Mars Festivities – Two Home Town Boys Die on Hume, Mo. Fiftieth Anniversary.”

The news traveled much further, however, thanks to The Associated Press, which distributed the story and caused it to be picked up in Lincoln, Neb.; Miami, Okla.; Corsicana and Denton, Tex.; and Ogden, Utah. Even the Los Angeles Times ran a short paragraph about the crash on page one of the July 27, 1930 issue; however, it doesn’t mention the brothers’ names, but instead only the pilot’s. Here is the clip from the July 26, 1930 Ogden Standard-Examiner:

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Most of the other newspaper clips about the accident and funeral services are much more detailed, and the longest clips from the closest surrounding towns are very, very sad. I may post those, but I’m not sure. I prefer to focus instead on the lives of Warren and Nelson, to envision the boys as they lived.

I will, however, post the last three paragraphs from one longer newspaper story headlined “Many Attend Funeral of the Kerns Brothers.” This clip reveals how much the boys were admired locally. Here it is:

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T-shirts Work, Too: Ed Sheeran’s Divide Concert

 

 

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Photo Credit: Katherine Yung

 

I’ve seen Ed Sheeran twice in concert and neither time was he wearing a plaid flannel shirt. What’s going on, universe?! Two years ago, at his Multiply concert in St. Louis, he wore a red t-shirt sporting the logo of his opening act, Hanson. Read about that experience here. On June 29, at his Divide concert at Sprint Center in Kansas City, he wore a black t-shirt sporting the logo of Hoax, a British surf and skateboard maker. (Ed, you’re such a marketer.) The black was definitely a better choice, since it didn’t clash with his ginger coif, but I’m still a little annoyed that I haven’t seen Ed in his quintessential attire. Oh well, I’m being shallow, and Ed, the king of acoustic sounds, and lovely romantic ballads, would not be pleased with that.

But maybe he’s just branching out with his clothing choices. Kind of like he’s done musically with his Divide album released last March. When compared with his two previous albums, Divide contains a bewilderingly diverse array of musical styles, and exhibits a long leap from when he quietly made his mark with Plus and then followed that with Multiply, where he solidified his status on the world stage as arguably today’s most popular male solo artist.

Divide was such a diversion from his normal fare that I was confused at first. I mean, don’t tell anyone, especially Ed, but I didn’t really care for his song, “Castle on the Hill,” until I saw it performed in concert. The song sounded like something by U2. And even though I’m a big U2 fan, I like my Ed Sheeran to sound like Ed Sheeran.

However, seeing him stride purposefully onstage while strumming the introductory frenetic chords, approaching his loop pedal, then layering the various instrumental parts, sealed the deal for me and I thought to myself: Enjoy this moment. Take it all in. You’re at another Ed Sheeran concert and this is gonna be so great.

And it was. The opening number began after show-opener James Blunt left the stage at 8:30 p.m. It was an enthusiastic audience that contained more men and couples in attendance than I remember two years ago on Mother’s Day when it was clearly a girls-night-out crowd. As he began his second number, Ed even mentioned that he could tell he was now in the States because “everyone smiles here.”

That made Sprint Center erupt in an ear-splitting roar as it settled in for the concert it had waited two long years for. Two long years, people, including one when Ed disappeared from social media and high-publicity events. One long, cold year that would be marked on world history timelines as the dark age devoid of life’s most basic need: cute pictures of Ed’s cats. Sheerios (and mom-fans like me) were ready for this show.

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Photo: Ed Sheeran Updates on Twitter

The set list then included the following in this order:

  1. Castle on the Hill (perfect show-starter, love it now)
  2. Eraser (lots of rap, sweeping chorus)
  3. The A Team (the song, crumbling pastries and other sadness)
  4. Don’t (keep hands and feet in the car at all times)
  5. New Man (those lyrics!)
  6. Dive (soulful, bluesy, awesome)
  7. Bloodstream (drug reference, dang it)
  8. Happier (how-can-I-go-on-living reference),
  9. Galway Girl (Ireland reference)
  10. Feeling Good (yes, we are)
  11. I See Fire (from The Hobbit— I can play this on my guitar, kind of)
  12. Supermarket Flowers (ode to his grandmother, beautiful)
  13. Photograph (again, and of course)
  14. Perfect (someone proposed– Ed advised “Say yes!”)
  15. Thinking Out Loud (required on setlist for duration of career)
  16. Nancy Mulligan (Sheeran genealogy lesson)
  17. Sing! (okay, if we must)

Around 9:50, he said something along the lines of “Kansas City, you’ve been great!”  My daughter and I looked at each other, and then at our phones to catch the time. What?! It’s over already??

We couldn’t take him too seriously, of course, because we knew he still hadn’t performed one certain song. So, toying with our emotions, he strode off the stage, and the whole place yelled in a panic. And then in true Ed style, he sheepishly returned and finished the show with:

18. Shape of You (something like a billion streams and counting) and

19. You Need Me, I Don’t Need You (a reference to “the industry,” not his fans)

As usual, the stage contained one person: Ed. He performed below a mammoth video projection apparatus that resembled the shape of a carousel. It combined giant, crystal-clear live images of Ed interwoven with colorful animations and photography for each song in the concert. So even though our seats were in the upper reaches of the venue, we watched Ed perform in close-up. Totally cool.

It was even cooler when he noticed a child about ten rows back crying apparently over the noise level. He then located a set of headphones for the boy or girl and even ventured down into the audience and adjusted them for the child. The five-minute act of kindness earned a lot of “Awwws!” and Ed likely did it because he knew what was coming: an especially raucous, loud, and long version of “Bloodstream.” That Ed. What a guy.  As thoughtful as ever… even if he’s moved on from his flannel-wearing days. It’s okay, I’m over it. T-shirts work, too.

 

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Photo: Impose Magazine

 

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Warren Kerns writes July 17, 1930: I suppose things are much different where you are.

 

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Warren Kerns

 

Here’s another letter I’ve transcribed from my grandmother’s brother, Warren Kerns. Warren was killed in an airplane accident with his brother, Nelson, 15, on July 24, 1930, one week after this letter was written. You can read about the accident here.

He wrote this letter to his mother, Caroline (called Callie) who was visiting her parents in California at the time. Some of the handwriting is indecipherable and there are some errors but I left them there because I wanted to transcribe them exactly.  To read the other letters I’ve posted, click here, here, and here.

The Charlie that Warren mentions in the letter was the husband of his older sister Rhoda, who was my maternal grandmother. The Nevada is a town about twenty miles away in Missouri.

This is the last of the surviving letters from the boys to their mother. These handwritten letters are priceless to me.  I think about how their hands passed over these pages and how the letters show their thoughts, activities… the things they wanted their mother to know. In the picture below, I wonder what Warren had first written but then erased beneath the words “Write soon.”

 

July 17, 1930

Dear Mama, 

How are you? I am fine. It sure has been hot here the last two weeks. I am home now. I came last Friday to help with the hay. We got through the day before yesterday. I helped Charlie thrash last week. It sure was hot. Nearly all of the corn is laid by. Everything needs a rain. The early corn will not stand it much longer. The grass is almost dried up. I suppose things are much different where you are. How is Grandma.

I had a good time the forth. We went to Nevada in the after noon. I was in the lake about four hours. We got home after midnight. I know you had a good time. This is about all I have to say. Write soon.

With Love,

Warren

 

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The last letter Warren wrote to his mother before he died on July 24, 1930.   Above, I wonder what he had first written but then erased beneath the words “Write soon.”

 

I have a number of items from the two brothers that I will continue to share. Follow my blog to see old grade cards, Sunday school reports, Valentines, monoplane and biplane mechanical drawings, 4H awards, and more.  Click like if you enjoyed this post and would like to recommend it.

Also feel free to comment about any of your own family history, artifacts or ephemera. Thanks for reading.

Nelson Kerns writes July 9, 1930: Radio Springs, mowing hay, and 108 degrees

 

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Rhoda Kerns Goodenough, my maternal grandmother

Once again, I’ve transcribed a letter from my grandmother’s brother, Nelson Kerns, 15, who is pictured below. Nelson was killed in an airplane accident with his brother, Warren, 16, on July 24, 1930. You can read about the accident here.

 

He wrote this letter to his mother, Caroline (called Callie) who was visiting her parents in California at the time. Some of the handwriting is indecipherable and there are some errors in spelling and possibly with regard to the temperature. I think it’s safe to say it was very hot during the last month of their lives.

I transcribed the letters as best I could, letting the errors exist since they do reveal a little about Nelson’s life, personality, and the value of chickens, eggs, and cream.

 

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Nelson Kerns

 

July 9, 1930

Dear Mama,

I have been so busy I have hardly had time to write. How is Grandma getting along? We are almost worked to death. All of our corn is laid by but that over south. We celebrated at Radio Springs the 4th. We are haying now. Breakfast is ready now. Katherine Alexander got the school. Did you celebrate the 4th? Rhoda and Charlie did. Warren hasn’t worked one day at home since school is out. He is working for Charlie. I am going to wash clothes while Papa mows hay. The weather is very hot it was 108 above zero one day. I stayed in the lake about 4 hrs. and got a good sunburning. Well, I must go to work. Write soon.

With love,

Nelson

  • Cream 25 cents
  • Eggs 14 cents
  • Chickens 17 cents
  • We sold 90 chix and recieved ($22.00)

I have a number of items from the two brothers that I will continue to share. Follow my blog to see old grade cards, Sunday school reports, Valentines, monoplane and biplane mechanical drawings, 4H awards, and more. If you found this post enlightening about rural Missouri life in 1930, click the “Like” button and feel free to share. Here’s a photo of Nelson’s letter:

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