This region is no stranger to zeppelins — and I don’t just mean the strains of Ramble On I heard coming from my neighbor’s new years eve party last night. Almost a hundred years ago, a pair of South Pasadena police officers sailed 800 feet above the city in a dirigible made by Roy Knabenshue. Knabenshue was the very first person to fly a dirigible in the US, and he made quite a few test flights above our city in the fall of 1913 to make sure the machine would safely be able to carry a larger passenger load.
His tests proved successful and soon anybody who was anybody just had to take a ride in the amazing flying machine. Paying $25 for 25 minutes, riders departed from a hangar on Marengo Avenue in Pasadena — just 300 feet from the South Pas border. Once aloft, passengers were treated to a spectacular view of the San Gabriel Valley. While it was promoted as a “daring adventure for brave gentlemen,” half of the passengers were women. Several male journalists at the time expressed surprise that the ladies weren’t more terrified. “There is an utter lack of terror or even apprehension,” one reporter wrote. “Not one of them has at any time during a trip expressed alarm.” Atta girls, South Pas Victorian ladies! Incidentally, a news report in the Record at the same time carried the headline, “Plucky Woman Dons Man’s Attire.” She was Marie Caspari, and she shocked South Pasadena society by showing up for an annual clean-up day wearing flannel trousers. “I suppose a great many persons will consider me immodest,” she said. “When I start to do cleaning, I always put on a pair of men’s trousers, and when wearing them I do not feel in the least embarrassed. Why should I?”
(I don’t know for sure, but I’ll bet she rode Knabenshue’s zeppelin at least twice.)
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