It was 73 years ago today that Carole Lombard fulfilled her patriotic duty as an American citizen by leading the nation's first war bond rally in Indianapolis, the capital of her native state of Indiana. It also would be the final full day of her life. Now, that pivotal journey is being commemorated via the latest in technology.
Robert Matzen, author of the superb book "Fireball" -- the definitive account of the air accident that would claim Lombard's life and that of 21 others -- is using Twitter to provide a real-time account of her activities on Jan. 15, 1942, which fell on a Thursday as it does this year, and continuing into Friday. According to Matzen, he was driving in to work Wednesday morning when the concept came to him:
"This idea just came to me that since the dates fall on the correct days of the week, we could follow her through her itinerary real-time via Twitter. I would pick it up in the morning when people start getting in line at the Capitol at 6:30 Central and work through both days, ending sometime around Gable's liftoff in the charter. I want to treat it like I'm there on the ground following her, all present tense. I was just in Indy in March so I have the lay of the land."
So things should begin about 7:30 a.m. (Eastern) at his Twitter feed, @RobertMatzen.
This isn't the first time a historical event has been re-enacted on Twitter; far from it. A check of Google shows such things have taken place since at least 2010 -- in fact, there's a site, http://twhistory.org/, that's dedicated to the concept, with more than 350 re-enactments listed, everything from Lee's surrender at Appomattox (expect more re-enactments of this come April, its 150th anniversary) to John F. Kennedy's assassination.
"I hesitated to do this because I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself, but it's a rare opportunity," Matzen said. As part of his research for "Fireball," he obtained Gov. H.F. Schricker's itinerary prepared on Lombard's behalf, which will be a boon to his tweets. (She's shown below with the governor.)
Matzen publicized it at his blog (http://robertmatzen.com/2015/01/14/carole-lombard-as-it-happens/), and I'm pleased to do likewise. It promises to be fascinating -- and if you're not a Twitter user or are only occasionally one (I'm in the latter category), it's a good introduction to the format.
Matzen admits to a bit of skepticism over the potential success of the endeavor: "This is another potential problem: what fans of a movie star dead 73 years are Twitterbugs?" I like to think he'll be pleasantly surprised just how many there are, indicative of the affection fans feel for someone who left this mortal coil long before the vast majority of them were born.
About the only drawback to this event is that we can't alter history and create a happier ending.