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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mary Poppins had nothing on my grandmother.

Etta Fuller Boehler, my grandmother, loved to tell a good story.  One of my favorites was the umbrella story.  My grandmother had two brothers that were about her age, William Fuller and John Fuller. Grandma told the story of how she was going to try to fly like Mary Poppins.  She and her brothers were out playing and they convinced her that if she climbed to the top of the windmill with an umbrella and jumped that she would fly/float down to the ground.

Picture courtesy of Rita Fuller Stephens

My grandmother was up to the challenge. She went and got the umbrella and started climbing to the top of the windmill.  When she got to the top she was too scared to jump but was also too scared to get herself back down. The boys went to get their mother to help.  When her mother saw what she was doing she was terrified and started talking really nice to her....trying to coax her back down without falling.  According to grandma it was things like "everything is okay Etta, you just come on back down"  "one step at a time Etta, you will be just fine" "come on down sweetie, you are doing fine".   Grandma said she didn't think she was in any trouble because of how sweet her mother was being to help her get down, but when she got to the bottom it was a different story.  Grandmas said she was promptly spanked and sent to bed for the rest of the day without any supper.

When grandma was telling me this story years later she was telling me that the brothers told her she could fly like Mary Poppins but I realized that the Mary Poppins books were not written until the 1930s so that analogy to the story was added later.  I wondered where they did come up with the idea and realized the newspapers were a great resource for stories of people trying to fly during those times.

According to wikipedia, stories of tower jumping were documented back to the earliest of times with men strapping birdlike wings, or other devices to themselves and attempting to fly, typically by jumping off a tower. Most of these attempts ended in serious injury or death. In 1853, Louis Letur of France developed a parachute glider that was an umbrella like parachute.
The Wright brothers made their first successful flights in 1903 so flying was very much in the news when my grandmother was growing up.

I will be anxious to see if any of my siblings or cousins heard this same story and if the version is the same.  I remember the story two ways...once as it is described above and also where she was about to jump and her mother stopped her just in time and then coaxed her down.