In 1936, a “whale-like thing” in the sky—longer than two football fields—certainly left a lasting impression.
In a unique publication, Glenmeadow residents Crawford Lincoln, Cissie Kitchener, and Bunny Bewick recently shared their memories of the ill-fated Hindenburg flying directly over Longmeadow and Springfield. Their recollections of the zeppelin were in the August issue of The Hummingbird, a quarterly created by residents of Glenmeadow.
Crawford, Cissie, and Bunny were fourth graders when the giant German airship flew over cities in six states on October 9, 1936. The following spring the airship crashed and burned in Lakehurst, NJ, killing 13 passengers and 22 crewmen.
Their account of the western Massachusetts leg of the Hindenburg’s northeast U.S. tour was one of many exceptional stories, poems, and articles in the 14th edition of The Hummingbird, which began in 2017.
The August issue includes a snapshot of the life of Marion Grimes, a resident who was in the U.S. Marine Corps for 14 years and was a professional clown with the Clowns of America International organization. It also features profiles on two team members members—one of them, Glenmeadow’s lead housekeeper Jason Arnold, is also a music teacher and professional drummer whose band once opened for the famous rock duo Air Supply.
A couple of the more offbeat stories in the latest issue are narratives about unusual family heirlooms: a priceless 18th-century painting by Pieter Vanderlyn that has been in many generations of the family of former Glenmeadow resident Judy Ebeling, and a cut glass crystal baseball bat that is now on display at the American Cut Glass Museum in White Mills, PA. The bat had originally been given to John Edward Murphy, a Chicago White Sox right fielder—and the uncle of Glenmeadow resident Ann Togneri, the author of the piece. “Honest Eddie” Murphy played on the infamous team that threw the World Series in the 1919 “Black Sox Scandal.” He was not one of the guilty players, however, earning his nickname—and the glass bat as a gift for playing on the 1913 World Series Champion Philadelphia Athletics.
“Everyone here at Glenmeadow has a story,” said editor Mona Holtman, a Glenmeadow resident who leads the group that produces The Hummingbird. The quarterly began as a collection of “some notes from residents” that morphed into a resident-driven literary journal of sorts—a collection of memories, reflections, and other food for thought. “I don’t know what I’d categorize The Hummingbird as,” said Mona. “I do know that it gives our residents and friends a creative outlet, and everyone looks forward to the next issue, and we love doing it.”
Every issue of The Hummingbird serves as a sampling of the interesting community that makes up Glenmeadow, and at the same time, it helps build community by providing a special voice and a smorgasbord of literary offerings by and for residents, friends of residents, team members, and friends of Glenmeadow.
Mona’s team is made up of fellow Glenmeadow residents and they are always looking for new stories and contributors.
Cissie Kitchener, one of The Hummingbird’s contributors, said the publication “does such a marvelous job at sending out knowledge and history. At this age, we all have these interesting experiences to share.” In fact, her Hindenburg sighting was with fellow classmate Bunny Bewick at the Washington Street School in Springfield. Now, at Glenmeadow, the two women are next-door neighbors and great friends. “Who would have thought before that day in 1936 that we’d have these memories of a giant plane that looked like a silver whale?” she asked.
Bill Licht, a regular contributor to the publication, often writes about his experiences as a decorated veteran of World War II and the Korean War. “I really like reading about the parts of people’s lives that we never knew about,” he said. He pointed out that many of the contributors’ life experiences don’t necessarily come up in everyday conversations—until, of course, they appear in The Hummingbird. “Reading their stories in The Hummingbird is a great way of getting to know your neighbor better,” he said. “It’s great to be a part of this effort.”
Mona has always enjoyed writing and previously had authored a column for a community newspaper when she and her husband Sidney Holtman had retired to Boynton Beach, FL. In 2016, Mona and Sidney moved to Glenmeadow to be closer to family. Sid died in 2017.
“Throughout my life, I’ve always been reinventing myself, and I once again invented myself at Glenmeadow,” said Mona. She noticed that Glenmeadow has a monthly newsletter, the Glenmeadow Times, but it contains strictly information on events, as well as the calendars and dining menus. “We saw a need for something like The Hummingbird,” she recalls. “I never had a formal [higher] education. My education has been basically the grindstone of life, but I like to write.” So, she got together with some residents who saw the need for a storytelling periodical, and The Hummingbird was born.
“Each member of our Hummingbird team has their own unique talents and qualities,” she said. “I’ve been blessed with so many angels in my life. Now, I look forward to reading all the submissions—and hearing all the great comments about The Hummingbird. They all thrill me! There is a goldmine of stories out there.”
Read the August 2021 issue of The Hummingbird.