I wrote a skit about Jimmy Stewart saving his money to go up in an airplane with a barnstormer. My homeschool co-op class read through it this past week. Jimmy’s part read by the tallest, skinniest student sounded perfect as the boy read the part slowly, but very skillfully. His buddy in the skit contrasted ‘Jimmy” with his energetic, enthusiastic voice. “Billy Brock,” based on a real barnstormer, read through words like “extraordinaire” and ‘parachutist’ without hesitation on his first read. (Don’t tell me homeschooling doesn’t work. These three boys prove it!)
Barnstormers were ex-World War I pilots who bought leftover trainer planes after the war. They traveled around the United States putting on air shows and selling rides. First, they flew over a town and found a large field to land on. After asking the farmer’s permission to use the field, the pilots flew back over the town and dropped leaflets advertising their show and rides.
One barnstormer, Billy Brock, traveled with Lillian Boyer who walked on the plane’s wings while it flew. She jumped from the plane and floated down using a parachute. She even had a trick where she rode in car, grabbed a ladder hanging from the plane, and climbed up.
Barnstormers had to cease their money making activity when the government got into the act in 1927. Their strict regulations made it impossible for most barnstormers to continue.
Jimmy Stewart, went for one of these rides with a barnstormer and later got his own pilot’s license. During World War II, he wanted to do his part for his country and enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. By that time, he had already become a famous actor, and the government didn’t want him to risk his life in battle. So instead of sending him directly overseas, they put him to work training pilots.
Later, the need for pilots became so great that the U.S. sent Jimmy to England, and he advanced to a squadron leader leading bombing missions over Germany. Fortunately, God’s grace allowed him to come back to the United States. The experience almost ruined Jimmy’s acting career. After his part in the life and death situations of war, Jimmy began to look at acting as unimportant. His friends talked and persuaded until they succeeded in getting him to return to acting. Because of Jimmy’s friends, millions of Americans have been able to enjoy his movies to this day.
My students? Two of them love acting. The other is a little more hesitant. Unless that one backs out, they are going to do the skit for the whole co-op next week. Wish you could all see them do it. They are great kids!
P.S. Here’s a picture of Jimmy Stewart’s statue outside the Jimmy Stewart Museum and one of his boyhood home. I took these two summers ago when we visited Indiana, Pennsylvania.