My original game plan called for “How to build a Zeppelin” to run today, the natural followup to “How to fly a Zeppelin.” Alas, a plethora of resources has led to a dearth of editing and composition time, and I therefore deem it meet to instead feature a first-person account of a journey at the pace of the clouds.
From Rio to Akron aboard the Graf Zeppelin, 1933, by Alicia Momsen Miller, is a memoir recounting the author’s childhood voyage from South America to Ohio, home of the Goodyear Company and the Zeppelin company’s most important international technology partner. Amusing me, the number one Google result for “Goodyear Akron 1933” is this page concerning the 1931-1933 career of the USS Akron, the third great U. S. Navy rigid airship. It met its’ end in April of 1933; Mrs. Miller’s flight took place in October, 1933.
In 1933, when I was eight, my parents were planning a vacation by ship to the U.S. I don’t know whether it was my father’s idea or that of the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corp., but my father and his family were offered a free trip on the Graf Zeppelin from Rio de Janeiro to Chicago. Our trip would be part of a triangular flight, Germany-Brazil-U.S.-Germany. With the Graf Zeppelin we would visit the Chicago World’s Fair, “A Century of Progress.” But my father had to convince my mother to travel by air…
They drove to the airfield the next day, and my mother told us later, “There was the huge airship, tied to the ground. It was a very windy day, and its outer covering was shivering. The fabric looked like you could poke a hole through it with your finger.” She was horrified, deciding never to trust her children in such a thing. But my father insisted they look at the accommodations in the gondola, and they ascended the short sturdy ladder.
“What a surprise!” my mother said, “The large living room with its big windows had a number of attractive chairs and tables, and down the hall were wonderful roomy double staterooms.” She felt the mattresses, and found them comfortable. The wide bunks were made up with linen sheets and warm fluffy blankets. “If anything happens, at least we’ll all be together,” she said.
In the instance, however, Mrs. Miller’s mother had nothing to worry about. Graf Zeppelin met with her end only in 1940, when the increasing demands of World War II led the German state to disassemble the surviving ships, grounded since the Hindenburg disaster.
I have previously linked to the fascinating Larry’s U.S. Navy Airship Picture Book (now back in print!), but I had a hard time coming up with other first person narratives. I found plenty of stuff about some rock band, though.