Real Living Winter 2023

Bringing Local History to Life It is a late Thursday evening in Lawrence Station; the date is October 30th, 1941. You and your family are likely nestled into bed getting ready for a busy Friday afternoon and BOOM! American Airlines Flight 1 “The New Yorker” has crashed in a wheat field just outside of town and is now ablaze. All 20 on board have lost their lives. What, you had no idea there was a horrific plane crash in your own backyard? Me either! But this crash is the subject of a new play called Lawrence Station: The Crash of American Airlines Flagship Erie written by Len Cuthbert, now a local and founder of Fridge Door Live Theatre Company. It is directed by Adam Corrigan Holowitz. I spoke with Len about how the play came to be, and he says it all began with a bike ride. “I was training for a ride, and on my way back to Melbourne I thought I could go right or I could go left to get home: right is the quick way but left -- I’m not really sure where I’m going and this might be longer than I expected. So, I went left. Turning down third line, I came through this little town called Lawrence Station. I remember seeing a sign that says this is a historical site but paid no attention and kept on riding. When I finally got home -- a lot later than planned -- I thought I would look up Lawrence Station and I find this story about a plane crash. I thought this must be the wrong Lawrence Station, so I kept looking and sure enough, this plane crash happened in this little town back in 1941. ‘Holy smokes,’ I thought, and because I have a background in flying and aircraft maintenance, this story was all the more intriguing. I discovered that the historical plaque was installed in 2018 and I started gathering information on the crash and I thought, I should write a play about this.” SCOTT LEWIS AUTO A name you can trust Winter is just getting started ! Don’t let your car leave you stuck in the cold. Call the name you have trusted for over 24 years!

THE TURKEY SHOPPE With the funding in place, it was time for Len to start his in- depth research, and he discovered that at the 2018 ceremony, Ken Howe, on whose family’s land the planned had crashed, was in attendance, so now he needed to find Ken. Len found a Ken Howe locally but wanted to be cautious in his approach. “I thought I’d do it the old-fashioned way,” says Len -- “I’ll write a letter. I mailed a letter off to Ken and couple of days later, I got Of course, writing a play requires either deep pockets or acquiring grants, Len points out. “I had applied for a grant through the Ontario Arts Council but I was declined. I went up to Ottawa, to the museum there and I discovered all kinds of Canadian aviation stories. I then reapplied for another smaller grant to write several short 10-minute plays about the Canadian aviation events and I was given the grant for that.”

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Page 6 Real Living • Winter 2023

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