Winnie Winkle Flies Again!

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Chapter 1. Lawyer by day.

Louie Laporte turned the page of the Harvard Law Review and wiped a drop of sweat from his forehead. Then he picked up a fan from the desk and waved it as he continued reading. The history of seisin and disseisin made for rather dry reading although some of the people living and working in the Greenwood District north of his office had been born as chattels. But the details of contract law could be critical to his work as a lawyer, and he read that article carefully.

A bell jingled as the office door opened and three people walked in. Louis closed the magazine and looked up to see a tall colored man, an Indian woman, and a young girl.

“How can I help you?” he asked them.

“I need to make a will for myself and my wife,” the man replied.

“I can certainly help you take care of that. But I’m curious. There are good lawyers in Greenwood. Why not have one of them do it?”

“I know. But these are difficult times. People are still getting lynched. And one of Lucy’s cousins was killed last year up in Osage County. I want to make sure our wishes get taken care of good and proper if it comes to that. And Mister Williams said you are a good man and trustworthy.”

“Well thank you. I am honored. Please sit down and I’ll help you both.” Then he looked at the little girl who had glanced at the water cooler.

“Would you like a drink, sweetie?” The girl gave a cautious nod and he walked around, pulled out one of the paper cones, filled it about half full and handed it to the little girl.

Then he returned to his desk and faced the couple. “May I have your names please?”

“Yes,” the man replied. “I am Joseph Frederick Douglas. My wife is Lucy Whiteflower Douglas. And our daughter is Molly Cornflower Douglas.”

“Very good,” Louie stated. He then asked a series of questions, took notes, and turned to the typewriter on lower shelf to his side where he inserted three sheets of paper with two carbon pages in between and carefully typed out he will. Afterwards, he escorted them across the street to the bank where Joseph and Lucy signed the will and had it notarized. He gave them the second copy and explained, “I’ll keep one copy in my safe and take the original to the courthouse to get registered next week. I hope you all have a good weekend.” He glanced down at little Molly, gave her a wink, and left the family to return to his office.

Chapter 2. Dancer By Night

Louie locked his office and walked down the street to the barbershop a couple blocks away.

“Give me your best shave, Marvin!” he called and sat in one of the chairs. A few minutes later he checked the work in the mirror and carefully felt his face and under the chin.

“Excellent work as always!” He paid the barber and walked back to the little yellow Stutz parked in front of the office. He bent over and cranked up the engine, then climbed in the seat and drove off to his bungalow about a mile away.
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Once inside he carefully hung up his coat on a hat tree by the door and took off his collar and placed it on top of the chest of drawers in his bedroom. Then he returned to the kitchen where he made a quick sandwich with some ham and cheese. Next he went to the bathroom and started drawing a hot bath adding bath powder as it filled up. He took off his clothes and eased himself into the foamy water. He ducked his head completely under water then eased back up, smoothed his hair back and used a cloth and a bar of Ivory soap to clean off the stink of the day. He pulled the plunger to empty the tub and rinsed the remains of the soap from his body with a small bowl and fresh water from the tap. He used a large towel to dry off and a smaller one for his hair after he climbed out of the tub.

Then he turned to the small mirror over the sink, tilted his head and gave a smile, “Hello Winnie. Are you ready for some fun tonight?”

Louie took out a safety razor, mixed up some shaving cream and very carefully shaved off the hairs on his arms and underneath. Then he adjoined to the bedroom, opened the small dresser and took out some lacy panties and a white brassiere. After putting those on, he pulled on a pair of silk stockings and slipped a black dress over his shoulders, reaching behind to pull up the zipper. Then he reached into the top drawer and took out a short golden blonde wig with a curly flip. He placed that on his head, carefully adjusted it and pinned it to his own hair with a couple bobbie pins. He returned to the bathroom and smiled at the mirror again. “Looking good, Winnie! Just a little more work.”

Winnie opened a container of cold cream and gently spread a dab over her face. She let it rest a bit, then applied light powder to cover it, taking extra care with the nose and around the mouth. She brushed a little circle of rouge on each cheek and gently brushed some kohl powder above her eyes. She opened a tube of dark red lipstick, puckered her lips and delicately applied it. She pursed a sheet of tissue between her lips to set that, then discarded it and added a second coating. She stepped back, looked in the mirror and grinned.

“We’re going to turn some heads tonight, aren’t we?”

She pulled on her overcoat, locked the door, started up the Stutz and drove off to the Casa Loma Ballroom.

Winnie found a space in the large parking lot beside the ballroom and walked to the front door. A colored man in a red uniform stood in front.

“Good evening, Miss Winnie,” he said and smiled at her. “Your friends are already here. Enjoy your evening.” He opened the door and Winnie walked inside. She paid the cover charge, checked her coat at the cloakroom and walked into the main ballroom. As she glanced around she heard the band playing ‘Whispering’ as several couples did a foxtrot around the central dance floor. She spotted a table with three men and two women on the right side of the ballroom and saw them waving at her. She waved back, smiled and started in that direction.
When she got closer, the two women rose and the three of them joined in a group hug.

“Suzy, Lilly, it’s great to see you tonight! Who’s the band?” she asked.

“We’re in luck,” one of the men said. “Billy King’s group is up here from Oklahoma City for the weekend.”

“They’re great!” Suzy added. The three men stood up and carefully seated the ladies, then returned to the other side of the table. A waiter came over and took orders for drinks. The men ordered Doctor Pepper while the girls chose ginger ales. Winnie gazed around the table and gave an inner chuckle. The gentlemen were obviously shorter than the ladies. Their white shirts, bow ties and black coats were immaculate but their smooth faces gave a hint of their secrets. Across from her was George who was really Joanne, a nurse at the hospital. Walter was actually Nettie who worked in the lady’s department at Vandever’s Department Store. And Robert was Gladys, a legal secretary at the courthouse. While Suzy and Lilly were Robert, a doctor at the hospital, and Lucious, an accountant.

Their group had formed up the previous year after Louie passed his bar exam and moved to Tulsa. They met at church and soon started gathering at everything from rodeos and motor boating to dances like tonight. When they realized that many of those out for dancing were enjoying the pansy craze from back east, they decided to give it a try. Nettie helped them all get suitably accoutred. It was a great treat and with the stress of the war and the flu epidemic winding down and liquor a bit dicy to obtain, why not unwind a little bit more?

The band switched to a waltz and Walter offered Winnie his hand. They stepped out with the others following and quickly danced around the floor. A few dances later after a Texas Tommy had left them each a bit winded, they returned to their table and sipped their drinks.

Three men from across the hall came over and invited Winnie, Suzy and Lilly for a dance. George, Robert and Walter sought out new partners and the fun continued until about 11 pm when the group departed to beat the curfew and return to Tulsa.


Chapter 3. In Memoriam

It was Monday morning, May 31. Louis stood in front of his bathroom mirror, checking out the fit of his pilot’s dress uniform. The waist was a little tight, but it still fit. He thought back over the last three years. Three years ago his squadron had arrived in France and were still training to handle the new Spad XIII fighters they would be taking to the air. He wondered if he could get out to the aerodrome the next weekend and get up in his DeHavilland DH-4. Perhaps Joanne would enjoy a flight?

He closed his eyes and gave a silent prayer for Robert Converse, the first of his squadron to die in combat. Too many of his friends had lost to the Germans in the next few months before the war ended. But they had learned to stay alive in the air and protect the doughboys on the ground who were gradually driving the Bosche back from their trenches. He was very glad that was ended.

He drove the Stutz down near Main Street and walked to a shoe shine parlor to give his boots an extra sparkle. Then he headed to the reviewing stand further up the street where he could enjoy the parade with his fellow veterans. The first group by was a local high school band playing the Double Eagle March. They were followed by the Grand Army of the Republic with about 20 veterans of the Union Army. A few minutes later the United Confederate Veterans marched past with at least 30 in their butternut uniforms. They were succeeded by the Ku Klux Klan. He wondered what trouble they might be causing. Segregation and Jim Crow were the law here in Oklahoma. But some people didn’t seem satisfied with just enforcing those laws. Finally the National Guard Band came by performing Hands Across the Sea.

After the parade ended and the group broke up, Louie drove to a flower shop and bought a bunch of red poppies. He then drove out to the cemetery and walked through the rows of graves, looking for one of his deceased comrades. He only had two left when he finished his tour, so he tucked one through his collar and found the grave of a young girl who had died the year before and left her a flower and a silent prayer.

After driving home, he changed out of his uniform and into cooler clothes, mixed up a pitcher of lemonade and moved his Victrola out to a table in the back yard where he could relax, sip lemonade and listen to Paul Whiteman. Some time later he glimpsed the paper boy going by and went in front of his house to pick up the Tulsa Tribune. He sat down in the back yard to read the news and cringed when he read the cover story. Dick Rowland, a shoeshiner at the same parlor where he had his shoes done just that morning, had been arrested for assaulting a white girl who operated an elevator at the Drexel Building just across the street. He didn’t know what would come of this, but it wasn’t likely to be good.

A few hours later he saw flames rising from the Greenwood District. He wondered where Joseph, Lucy and Molly were and if they were safe. He gave another silent prayer.

Chapter 4. Louie Drives Up

Louis arose early on Tuesday morning after a fitful night. It reminded him too much of nights hearing the distant cannons and preparing for an early patrol. He juiced an orange and carried the drink out front to scan the sky. He was watching two airplanes flying to the north when he heard his phone ring.

“Hello,” he answered.

“Mister Louie, this is Joseph. We need some help. Our house is burning. I’m calling from the neighbor’s. Could you come get little Molly and keep her safe?”

“Certainly, Joseph. Where shall we meet?” They picked an intersection a few blocks east of the Greenwood and Louie headed for the Stutz. He drove north past Admiral Street and then followed the street to the west and looking for Joseph. Fires were everywhere ahead and shots continually sounded. He couldn’t track the airplanes while driving but he thought he might have heard the whistling sound of a bomb.
As he got closer, he saw a black man and a young girl running up the street. They were followed by several white men carrying guns. He sped up and spun into a side street just ahead of the couple. Joseph opened the door and lifted Molly into the seat. He then closed the door, stepped onto the running board and grabbed the door while Louis took off in the car with several men following. A few blocks and a couple turns later they had lost their pursuit and stopped along the street.

“What do you want to do?” Louie asked Joseph.

“Can you take Molly someplace safe?”

“I could take her to my house, but she can’t stay there.”

“I have a sister, Lettie Douglas. She lives in Langston. It’s a couple hours drive west of here. Could you drive her over there?”

“Certainly,” Louie stated. Then he saw a few men to the west running up the street.

“Please, Mister Louie. Keep her safe. I’ll find someplace to hide until I can see a doctor. You’d better get going.” Joseph gave Molly a kiss and took off running. The pursuing men shouted and ran faster. Louie sped up in the Stutz and soon lost them.

Chapter 5. Winnie Takes Off

Louie pulled up in front of his house and scanned the neighborhood. Despite all the excitement, he didn’t see anyone out looking around. So he opened the door and quickly ushered Molly inside. By now there were undoubtedly people on the lookout for a white man with a little colored girl and he didn’t want to leave any clues.

He led her to the kitchen table and helped her onto a chair. “Do you like oranges?” He asked and she nodded. So he took out an orange, cut it into slices and set it in front of her. “Help yourself, sweetie.”

He took out a bottle of milk, opened the cap and gave it a sniff. It smelled funny so he poured it down the drain. Instead he picked some ice from the cube in the ice box, put it in a glass and added water from the tap. “Have a drink. Molly. Do you like chocolate?” She gave him another nod. He opened the cabinet above the counter and took out a Hershey bar.

He sat down across the table from her, bent down a bit and looked straight at her.

“Molly, can you say yes?” He asked and she said “yes”.

“Very good. Now listen. You are going to be all right. I’m going to take you to stay with your aunt until your father can come get you. Do you understand?”

Another “yes”.

“But people are going to be looking for a white man with a little black girl so we’re going to have to play disguise, all right?”

“Very good!” He bent his head a little and gave her a big smile. She gave him a little smile in response.

“Now you stay here and after you finish the orange you can eat the Hershey bar, all right?”

“Yes”

“I’m going to get a special friend who will help us. Just wait here.”

He went to the bedroom and started digging out clothes. He took off his shirt and undershirt, went into the bathroom and used a wash rag to wipe off his body. He quickly dried it and returned to the bedroom. Then he continued changing. In a few minutes, Winnie Winkle emerged wearing a red blouse and some tan pants as well as the heavy boots.

“Who are you? Where is Mister Louie?” Molly asked.

Winnie sat down at the table. She leaned toward Molly and spoke. “This is Mister Louie. Most of the time I am Mister Louie, but sometimes I need to be Miss Winnie instead. And right now is one of those times, all right?”

“Yes”

“Wonderful! Now wrap up the rest of the candy bar and let’s go make you look like a big girl!”

They walked down to the bathroom and Winnie went to work. She washed Molly’s rather dusty face, then applied cold cream to both their faces. She patted powder over that and added just a touch of rouge for both of them. She applied lipstick to her lips and put it in a purse. “You’re not quite old enough for lipstick yet, Molly, but it won’t be long, will it?” Molly grinned and nodded.

“Have you ever been up in an airplane?”

“No”

“Well today is going to be special then!”

Winnie packed a few clothing items and a change of shoes into a small case and closed it. She took a cloth shopping bag and put a small sweater into it. Then she took Molly’s hand and led her to the kitchen. She added the leftover Hershey bar, another Hershey bar and an apple to the bag. Then she took a bag with her flying kit out of the closet and went to the phone on the wall.

She turned the ringer and waited for the operator. Then she asked to place a call to the hanger at the aerodrome. It rang for a long time, but eventually someone picked it up. “Hey Jim, this is Louie,” she said. “I need to go on a flight this morning. Can you get the DeHavilland ready for me?”

After getting a confirmation, she hung up, locked the front door and led Molly to the car. They loaded up and drove off to the north.

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When they got to the aerodrome, the DH-4 was parked in front of the hanger. Winnie drove into the hanger and parked next to the wall. When she got out, Jim smiled an laughed. “Well Miss Winnie. I wasn’t expecting you today!”

“I know Jim. But I needed to make a quick trip and keep this one a secret, understand?”

“Oh yes, Miss Winnie!”

They fitted Molly with a small helmet and goggles. Then Winnie put on her own flying jacket, helmet and goggles. They escorted the girl to the plane and helped her climb into the rear seat. They fastened the seat belt and placed the luggage in the compartment with her. Winnie leaned in.

“Molly, listen. It will be noisy and windy in the compartment, so don’t try to talk to me. I’ll peak around once in a while. If you need something, make a fist with your hand and I’ll try to find some place to land. Do you understand?”

“Yes”

“Great! You’re too short to see much, but if we pass something interesting I may roll the plane a little so you can see, all right?”
Molly nodded.

“Great! Let’s get going, Jim.”

Winnie climbed into the front seat, strapped in and waved. Jim cranked the propeller and after a couple tries the engine fired up. Winnie gave him the signal wave and Jim stepped out of the way. She sped up the engine slightly and the plane rolled forward. She used the rudder to guide the plane onto the runway, then gave it full throttle. The DH-4 picked up speed, rolled down the runway and she gave it full throttle. It speeded up more and shortly later she pulled back on the stick and the plane rose into the air. She circled over the runway, gave the wings a wiggle and headed to the west.

She rose to about 1000 feet and flew on. When they crossed the Arkansas River, she rolled the plane slightly and looked back. She could see Molly looking out at the river below. She waved one hand, then turned the plane west and a bit south till they found the highway to Langston and Guthrie. With that in sight, she climbed the plane to 5000 feet and flew on.

About an hour later they spotted the smaller town of Langston with Guthrie in the distance to the west. She reduced altitude to 1000 feet again, flew over Langston and looked for a suitable field to land in. When she landed in an empty pasture near the road, a gaggle of cars loaded with people drove up to see the visitor. Winnie climbed down and called out, “does anyone know Lettie Douglas?”

A woman answered, “that’s my cousin.”

“Great! This is her niece, Molly. We need to take her to stay with her aunt.”

Winnie paid a man to bring some more gas for the airplane. Then she helped Molly get into a car and catch a ride into the town. Lettie Douglas waved them down as they were driving into town and suggested they go to the church to tell people the news about what had happened in Tulsa. Several people rushed around town gathering people to meet there After about half an hour the preacher took the podium addressed the crowd and introduced Winnie. She told them what she knew from the newspaper and what she had seen that morning. She expressed her deep regrets at this horrible treatment of their friends and family and vowed to return to Tulsa to find Joseph and Lucy. The preacher gave a prayer for their safety and led a song of mourning for all those killed.

The people had also brought food for a cold luncheon. So, Winnie accepted a few bites and hugged more people than she could keep track of. Finally, she excused herself and accepted a ride back to her plane. The DH-4 took off again and headed east to Tulsa.

Epilogue Winnie Flies Again

Louie was sitting in his office when the phone rang on Friday.

“Mister Louis, this is Joseph.”

“Oh Joseph. I’m so glad you’re all right. How is Lucy?”

“She didn’t survive, Mister Louie.”

Louie heard a controlled crying. Joseph was obviously still upset.

“I’m very sorry. How can I help you? Molly is safe with Lettie. Would you like me to take you to them?”

“Please, Mister Louie.”

“Of course, Joseph.”

They chose a convenient place to meet up and Louie headed to the bedroom to change. It was time for Winnie Winkle to fly again!

Some notes
1. Winnie Winkle was one of the first working girl comic strips. It was published from 1920 -1996. For over 40 years the artwork and stories were done by Martin Branner. At its peak, it was syndicated in more than 140 newspapers and translated and published in Europe as Branner had a short-lived strip before that called Looie the Lawyer, so I decided to merge the two characters.

2. The “pansy craze” was real. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/in-the-early-20th-cent...

from the 1920s until 1933, people in the lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer (LGBTQ) community were performing on stages in cities around the world, and New York City’s Greenwich Village, Times Square and Harlem held some of the most world-renowned drag performances of the time. While dominant American society disapproved of LGBTQ people, they were very fond of their parties. “It’s pretty amazing just how widespread these balls were,” says Chad Heap, a professor at George Washington University and author of Slumming, about the era. “Almost every newspaper article about them has a list of 20 to 30 well known people of the day who were in attendance as spectators. It was just a widely integrated part of life in the 1920s and 30s.”

3. Billy King’s Road Show was one of the best territorial bands of the 20s. They toured across the Midwest and regularly won battles with other bands. The group featured Jimmy Rushing on vocals and Lester Young on saxophone. It broke up and reformed in 1925 as Walter Page and his Blue Devils. A few years later the group added Count Basie on piano. Walter Page went on to play bass in Count Basie’s orchestra.

4. The DeHavilland DH.4 was one of the few World War I aircraft to be manufactured in the U.S. during the war. It was a copy of a British design but used the American built Liberty engine. It was a two seat aircraft for observation and day bombing missions. The Army continued using it after the war and many were sold for civilian service as mail carriers, crop dusters and other uses.

5. Langston Oklahoma was one of several historically black communities that were settled in the west after the end of the Civil War. It was originally founded as Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University and is the only historically black college in Oklahoma. One of the notable alumni is Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman pilot and the first American woman to obtain an International Pilot’s license. Another was Marques Haynes, who went on to captain the Harlem Globetrotters.



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