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50 Years Later, N. Hollywood Bears Traces of Vanished Aviator

July 02, 1987|AURORA MACKEY

"She would search the libraries for anything she could find on aerodynamics, although there wasn't much at the time. We were always thinking about what aviation would turn into," Southern said. "Another day, she'd bring poetry and we'd discuss that."

Shortly before World War II, the North Hollywood Jaycees dedicated a plaque to Earhart at Lankershim Boulevard and Camarillo Street. In 1954, when the plaque was relocated, the Jaycees proposed creating a more fitting tribute to the flier. The project took nearly seven years to complete.

After an announcement to the community was made, donations from Valley residents who still remembered the aviator--and hundreds of coins from school children born four decades after her last flight--poured in to pay for the $20,000 project.

It wasn't until 1968 that North Hollywood sculptor Ernest Shelton, a former Jaycee and part-time teacher at Valley College, began working on the memorial.

Working from many photographs provided by Earhart's one-time secretary, Shelton recalled later that he "tried to recreate the woman as the public remembers her. I made her taller than she actually was because her slender body gave the impression of height."

The seven-foot statue of Earhart, her hair cropped short and her body as lanky as photographs showed her to be, is made of fiberglass and steel with 23-karat gold overleaf. It stands at the corner of Tujunga Avenue and Magnolia Boulevard, adjacent to the North Hollywood branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, which is said to have been visited by Earhart. The library was built in 1929.

After a suggestion was made in 1980 by a North Hollywood patron that the library change its name from Sidney Lanier to Amelia Earhart, the library polled the community. Earhart won out over Lanier, a Southern poet, 2 to 1. On April 21, 1981, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included the North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the Jaycees, Lanier was out and Earhart was in.

Inside the one-story hacienda-style library are reminders of Earhart, including a glass case with photographs of her taken in Burbank, a letter from her sister and a sheer, flowered scarf she wore tucked inside her flight jacket.

Above the library's fireplace is a poem inlaid into the wood: "I am but a small winged bird, but I would conquer the world."

The words, ironically, were not written by Earhart, but Lanier.

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