Production Notes: Driving Daughters.
In the Canterbury Tales, the pilgrims tell one another stories to pass the time. To remember my Chaucer class, each tale contained entertainment and life lessons, or as my professor said it, “Sentence and Solace”. In homes from Grand Rapids to Jakarta and on to Beijing, parents tell their children stories to entertain them, help them fall asleep and give them lessons on the sneak. In "Driving Daughters", Dad cleverly enlists his daughter’s aid in inventing a story by giving her a set of three by five cards, typed with facts that fall somewhere between truth and lore. This is no bedtime story. It’s a valediction. Mandy doesn’t call her crafty old man Daddy-O-Seven for nothing.
If you’ve ever played Cards Against Humanity, this game played between Dad and Mandy might earn your willing suspension of belief. Dad in “Driving Daughters” might be having a hard time letting go of his daughter, and maybe he attempts to inoculate her against being too trusting. It’s a little ham-handed unless one considers this. Dad truly wants to empathize with Frank Weatherby, and he had taught his daughter to conduct thought experiments in the form of stories invented with him. He needed his daughter’s mind to cope with Frank Weatherby’s loss. I have described "Driving Daughters" as Proof for the liberal arts inclined. Dad should consider dating, possibly seeing if he can meet a good story partner.
Mandy is spirited enough to let Dad know in gentle and firm ways that he should, Chaucer again, make a virtue out of necessity. Only letting go is wise. I’ve had the honor of knowing four generations of women: grandmother, mother, mate and daughter. In watching the generation fledged this year come up, I have gained, late as always, more understanding of the first three. I am astounded and amazed at these “fledglings”. To borrow from Thomas Lynch’s excellent poem, “Skating with Heather Grace”, I keep a smile and a check book ready.
The cards are also the playwright’s deliberate attempt to avoid any obligation to historical fact. Mandy and Dad invent a story for the nonce. The framed story that the two create together falls squarely into the realm of lore rather than scholarship. In the end, only two facts matter. First, Frank Weatherby lost his daughter and all his hopes for her future that he shared with his wife were abruptly flouted. In a moment, numerous arcs interrupted, brought to sacred earth. Second, according to an account in a Montcalm County paper, Weatherby drove his daughter home from Bath for the final time. Many of the lost were conveyed to the undertaker by ambulances marshaled by the Lansing Red Cross, and the Montcalm paper is the only mention I have found of his journey with his beloved daughter. Any parent the world over won’t quibble; the father deserves his final drive with his daughter even if it existed only in his and our imaginations. We do a great service to share their journey home through a Michigan landscape awakening for spring, tainted by pathos.
The cards were not written before the writing of the play. Be that as it may, here are twenty. Kindly use the cards to tell the story to family and friends so that this disaster receives proper attention and is never repeated. If fault is found in the historical accuracy of these cards, then say so and consider myself in your debt. Too much scholarship cannot be spent on this American tragedy.
Steamship Studios at Lake Muskegon
Card 1: Ionia, Michigan is a town with a gaslight shopping district midway between Bath Township, where Hazel taught, and Amble, where Hazel Weatherby lived with her family. It is likely Ionia, Michigan had one good soda fountain. Ionia appears to be midway between Bath and Amble, as the crow flies.
Card 2: Legend relates that Hazel Weatherby had protected two boys in her arms and expired as the first responders extracted her from the rubble. The two boys perished in the blast.
Card 3: Hazel Weatherby attended college at what became Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. It was then called Central Michigan Normal School. She graduated with a grammar life certificate in June 1926.
Card 4: Hazel Weatherby was found seated, having made no effort to escape the blast, according to the school newspaper, Central Normal Life.
Card 5: It is highly likely that Hazel Weatherby's service was held at the church nearest the Amble Cemetery, the Amble United Methodist Church. It is located on the Michigan highway connecting Amble to the town of Lakeview and Edmore.
Card 6: Hazel Weatherby graduated from Lakeview High School in 1924. History indicates that she graduated early.
Card 7: It is around ninety miles from Amble Michigan to Bath Township.
Card 8: This verse is closely connected to the legend of Hazel Weatherby: " It matters little, mother, where I am, or what the tasks my fingers find to do; new friends, new scenes, new thoughts though I may know, my heart turns, always, mother mine, to you."
Card 9: Hazel Iva Weatherby was laid to rest after a Sunday service May 22, 1927. Considering the bombing occurred on Wednesday, May 18th, 1927, the body of Weatherby had to be transported expeditiously from Bath to Howard City.
Card 10: Reverend Lewis E. Price preached the funeral service on May 22, 1927.
Card 11: Arrangement for the funeral of Hazel Iva Weatherby were under the direction of Undertaker Bert E. Meier.
Card 12: Hazel Weatherby was the first family member to be entered in the family plot in Amble Cemetery. Frank Weatherby followed her hardly more than a decade later in 1938. He was at least 59 years of age.
Card 13: Lilacs were in bloom on May 18, 1927. Monty J. Ellsworth had been planting melons when the explosion was triggered by an alarm clock at 8:45 AM in the morning.
Card 14: Hazel Weatherby was born September 20, 1906. She had yet to reach her twenty-second birthday when the bombing claimed her life on May 18, 1927.
Card 15: Hazel Weatherby had signed a contract to return to teach at the Bath Consolidated School for the 1927-1928 school year. The bombing occurred on the second to last day of school.
Card 16: It is 45 miles from Amble to Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.
Card 17: Superintendent Emory E. Huyck was buried in Carson City, Michigan with Full Masonic Honors; the Lakeview Paper recounts the Masonic Ceremony.
Card 18: Andrew Philip Kehoe served as a member of the Bath Board of Education; His home was within visual distance to the Bath Consolidated School. Thus, he almost certainly had a role in the recruitment, hiring and contract renewal of Hazel I. Weatherby. His membership as a Mason is likely yet unknown at this writing.
Card 19: Most of the facts of Hazel Weatherby's life, most of which require scholarship to verify, are drawn from an account written by Monty J. Ellsworth, a neighbor of Andrew Kehoe. Her life is scarcely documented as well as it must in time be documented.
Card 20: Hazel Weatherby was the second child of Frank and Clara Weatherby. She had four siblings, Marguerite, Ruth, John and Frieda.