| By Annette Barnette|
Premier Aviatrix to Appear Here
Amelia Earhart Captivates Audience With Vivid Story Of Her Famous Solo Flight
Glenville, WV – Headlines flashed across local newspapers including The Glenville Democrat and the college’s own newspaper, The Glenville Mercury, which boasted that it was the ‘official publication of Glenville State Teachers College.’
Amelia Earhart was one of the most famous women of her time. She visited what is today Glenville State College on January 11, 1936. Earhart gave a lecture in what is now the Presidents Auditorium in the Heflin Administration Building at 8:15 p.m. She was welcomed by more than seven hundred people, including Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. of Clarksburg, West Virginia.
Earhart gave a lecture on the subject of ‘Aviation Adventures,’ which just happened to be on the night of the one-year anniversary of her famous Honolulu-to-California air voyage. According to the school’s newspaper, Earhart spent much of her lecture describing the 3,000 mile solo ‘hop.’
Lloyd Metheny, president of the student council, introduced the aviatrix to the eager, overflowing auditorium. The auditorium, including the balcony, could seat a maximum of 750 people. According to Evelyn Elliott (formerly Evelyn Elder) of Washington, D.C., “People were standing because there was nowhere to sit.” Elliott, who graduated that year with a two-year normal certificate, said Earhart’s visit was “an event never to be forgotten.”
Many people who attended commented on Earhart’s clothing. Local papers vividly described her attire. “Miss Earhart wore an informal gown with a brown net skirt, bolero satin jacket with an egg-shell satin collar and bow to match.” She captivated the audience with her individual smile, and held attention with her interest in the subject matter. She would often interject with ‘unrestrained humor.’ She was noted as a ‘delightful speaker.’ Glenville Alum Jeniver Jones of Gassaway, West Virginia said, “She was a good speaker, very affluent. She was a very nice looking lady as well.”
Earhart said the question most asked was: ‘Why do you do such things?’ “My reply is simply this – my own desire to fly; I believe that each successful flight I make builds faith in aviation.” Earhart added, “I am interested in seeing air travel a modern means of transportation.” Earhart directed her remarks to the women in the audience and urged them to “get out of your own sphere and do for yourselves what men have done for themselves.” She also expressed her belief that women are rapidly changing their views regarding airplanes.
“Thirty percent of all passengers on commercial airlines today are women,” said Earhart. “Don’t worry about flying and don’t try flying until you have reasoned with yourself, until you have reckoned with the risks to be taken and have succeeded in overcoming those risks. To worry retards action and makes clear-cut decisions impossible,” Earhart advised the audience. She also declared, “Speed is the most important factor in overseas flights or long over-land voyages.” She did, however, caution against speeding in automobiles, asserting that, “one should get into the air when one wishes to travel safely at more than forty-five miles an hour.”
Janice Hall (formerly Janice Morgan) of Frametown, West Virginia was an eager student attending the historical event. Janice reminisces saying, “I remember there were quite a few people there. She (Earhart) was a petite, nice looking lady.” Hall added, “I was really impressed. What she was saying was very big at that time, especially for a woman.”
Earhart talked freely to those who met her in the auditorium after the lecture. She graciously consented to an interview with two Mercury staff members, Isadore Nachman and Woodrow Wolfe. The staff members met with Earhart in the president’s house, where she was the guest of Glenville State Teachers College President, Mr. E. G. Rohrbough. They asked her many question and they talked and joked with each other for some time. They concluded their interview with an autograph and a photograph with her. Earhart left Glenville at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, driving herself in her Franklin sedan.
Many still wonder what happened to Amelia Earhart. The GSC faculty and students at that time had mixed feelings about her disappearance. They felt close to her after her visit to the college, almost as if they had known her personally. Her visit to Glenville State College was one of her last public appearances before she disappeared approximately a year and a half later while flying across the Pacific Ocean.