I Would Not Go Back to Save JFK in My Time Machine, but I Would Do Some Sightseeing!
Are you aware that nobody really knows what Abraham Lincoln’s voice sounds like? There exist no recordings of the 16th President of the United States talking. He died at the age of 54, in 1865, and the phonograph was not patented by Thomas Edison until 1877. So the deep, gravelly voice we often hear by actors playing Lincoln in TV shows and movies, although seemingly very dignified and presidential, may not be an accurate portrayal. I, for one, would like to journey back in time to that day in November 1863, to Gettysburg, and hear the now infamous speech starting with “Four Score and Seven years ago…” and hear what the man really sounded like. The Gettysburg Address was only just over two minutes in length, but it inspired a nation.
And yet…I hesitate. Something tells me that if a journey through time suddenly became possible, a simple costume change would not cut it for me back there. Something tells me that a war weary population might sense somehow that I simply didn't belong there, at that place and time. Sometimes you don't need to do or say anything, people just know.
One place I’d definitely want to visit is Marshall Beach in San Francisco, California. Around 1935. From there I would get a terrific view of the building of the most iconic bridge in North America – the Golden Gate. At the time of its opening, in 1937, the Golden Gate bridge was 4200 feet in length and was the longest suspension bridge in the world (it held that honour until 1964). At the time, the Navy wanted to paint it black with yellow stripes (I know – what??), to make it more easily seen by ships. The colour it's actually painted is not in fact red, but an 'orange vermilion'. Perhaps if I arrived a couple of years later, I could walk the bridge - as 200,000 people did on one day in May 1937, before it opened to car traffic. That would be spectacular and the more I think about it, the more I think I would need a few days in this fine city. Maybe I would cable car it over to Mason Street to check into the Fairmont San Francisco. By 1937, the hotel would have already been operating for close to 30 years. It was the first Fairmont and although damaged during the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906, it did survive.
I'd also like to visit Kitty Hawk, Sound Carolina to see the Wright brothers make the first sustained flight of an airplane. This took place on December 14th, 1903. In reality, only five people were there that day to witness it. Perhaps I could alter history and become the sixth?