Now that all our fireworks have been fired and our flags are once again carefully folded and boxed up for the next 4th of July, we can pause to ask ourselves: Do we really care about our history? It’s obvious that we should. It looks as though we don’t.
Last Sunday I went with my family to visit the Cradle of Aviation Museum, near Roosevelt Field (Lindbergh’s point of departure on his groundbreaking flight to the Old World). The museum has a brilliant aircraft collection that runs from modern planes like the F-14 and the A-10 to World War II planes like the P-47 and the great carrier plane, the F6F Hellcat. The common historical thread in all the aircraft is their manufactureres–the planes on display were built either by Republic or Grumman, the two famous Long Island-based aircraft companies.
The display at the Cradle of Aviation was a fascinating mix that includes–in addition to the aircraft–models, engine cutaways, open cockpits to peer into, bits of rocketry and an Apollo command module and two Grumman lunar modules.
And despite all the museum had to show, the vast galleries, the main room, and even the “Red Planet Café” were nearly empty. A museum that could hold thousands (and had certainly spent thousands) didn’t seem to take in more than two dozen people during the two and half hours I was there. Indeed we were almost outnumbered by the museum guides, who were touchingly eager to explain anything to us.
I have heard that this museum is in danger of closing. It’s not hard to see why. An Islanders hockey game at the Coliseum next door generates far more interest.
But we ought to look at our history while it’s still there for us to look at.