Recolections -- Flight Over Marshall

Sunday, October 11, 2015

From the Marshall Writers Guild book, "Marshall Moments."

My acquaintance with Marshall and a very special Marshallite began when I came from our farm 20 miles to the south to attend Marshall High School. By virtue of alphabetical seating, I found myself seated next to a boy named Howard Rodgers Lile. Some years later, he became my husband and the father of our three children.

Howard's middle name, Rodgers, was not a family name, but was for Calbraith P. Rodgers, an aviator who flew over Marshall the day Howard was born, Oct. 11, 1911. Howard's mother, Blanche Edwards Lile, always said that the doctor and everybody left her in the midst of childbirth to go outside to watch the plane circling overhead and floating a banner advertising Vin Fiz, a popular soft drink of that era.

Cal Rodgers was in pursuit of the Hearst Prize, a sum of $50,000 offered by the publisher, William Randolph Hearst, to the first person to fly across the United States from coast to coast. Although he did not win the prize, he made aviation history and put Marshall, Mo. on the map.

His plane, named the Vin Fiz for his sponsor, may be seen in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. It has names, including Marshall, Missouri, written all over it. These are the places where Cal Rodgers stopped on his flight.

In later times, Jim Lloyd of Fishkill, N.Y., did a reenactment of Rodgers's flight. He stopped in Marshall and had lunch with Leonard VanDyke and his son, Bob. I was sorry to be away because I wanted to meet this man. However, E.P. Stein wrote a book, "Flight of the Vin Fiz," about Rodgers's early flights, and I bought copies of that book for my children.

Our family has adopted the name Rodgers and the history for which it stands. One of our daughters is named Sarah Rodgers and one of her daughters is named Catherine Rodgers. Cal Rodgers and his little plane, the Vin Fiz, will forever fly in the memory of this family.

Note: Lavinia Lower Lile died in 2009.