One of my family’s favorite commercials when I was young was the lady in a yellow house dress advertising Tarnex. She confided to her TV audience the trials of being a housewife. “You have to clean the house and cook the food, but the most miserable and time-consuming job of all is cleaning and polishing the silverware.” My parents, sisters, and I all quoted her lines by heart, especially funny to us since my mom had a yellow dress exactly like hers.

This lady would have appreciated Frances Gabe’s self-cleaning house. She was a forward-thinker who hated housecleaning too. Kelly and I read her story from Weird Oregon and watched a video interview with her from 2014 and her modified house in Newberg, Oregon.  It didn’t look very cozy, but it is fascinating to think about never having to clean again.

Day 8 of our trip, Friday, October 23, we spent mostly at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. It features Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose–made entirely of birch, balsa, and basswood and the largest plane in the world at the time. Built to serve in World War II as a cargo plane, it took too long to build and never made it to war. If you’re an air and space nut this is the museum for you! I am neither, but thought Kelly would enjoy it. I had no idea how much! Kelly got hooked on all the details about pilots, planes, engineering, training, and space travel.

The Spruce Goose in the background, the centerpiece of the large building
The Sopwith Camel, made even more famous by Charles Schultz’s cartoon character Snoopy

We learned how people’s dreams of flying and outer space travel became reality because of the ingenuity and courage of the men and women who designed, built, and flew them. We toured all three buildings—the air museum, movie theater, and space museum. It was very cold, so bundle up when you visit.

Does it say anything about how scientifically minded I am that my favorite part of the space museum was the space character selfie posters?

There is no try, only do.

When we left that afternoon it felt good to get toasty in the car on our way to the Bomber Complex in Milwaukie. In 1947 an aviation buff named Art Lacey thought he might attract more business to his gas station if he parked a WWII B-17 in the lot. He flew to the Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma and eventually got permission to buy a surplus plane for $13,750.

His first attempt to fly it home involved a mannequin co-pilot, crash landing into another B-17 (injuring them both), and actually being allowed to go home with a different plane! The government wrote off the first two as “wind damaged.” The second time around he got two live pilots to help him and after a few more adventures they landed the plane at the Troutdale airport. Since it was still more than twenty miles to Milwaukie, he applied for a special permit to bring it by truck; the request stalled in bureaucratic tape. Tired of waiting, Art took his extra large load to his gas station via four trucks at 2:00 am. He was fined $10 for illegal transport.

The Bomber Complex once. included the gas station (until 1991), a restaurant, and gift shop. Now the lot sports only a sign and coffee cart. A ring of apartments encircle the former War Garden, guarded by a Native American totem pole and a growing population of fluffy bunnies.

Two miles from the Complex in front of a strip mall, is an unexpected bit of patriotism—a sixty foot tall replica of The Statue of Liberty. Pretty impressive! I guess she had a hard time settling in—a piece of her crown broke off as they were setting her in place and caused an electrical fire. But she was quickly repaired and now stands straight and tall, a reminder of our country’s promise to welcome those seeking safety and freedom.

It was getting dark as we headed to our hotel. We were filled with gratitude for all the dreamers and inventors God has inspired through the years—whether they acknowledged Him as the Source of their genius or not. My curiosity prompted a little research. How many professing Christians were inventors or have made major scientific and medical discoveries? The list is staggering! Here are just a few I found interesting:

Nicole Oresme (1323-1382): Discovered the curvature of light through atmospheric refraction.

William Turner (1508-1568): “Father of English botany;” also an ornithologist. Arrested for preaching in favor of the Reformation.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626): Established today’s scientific method of inductive reasoning.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): Italian astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician.

Isaac Newton (1643-1727): Discovered gravity.

William Kirby (1759-185): Introduced the atomic theory.

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895): Discovered the principles of vaccination and pasteurization.

Joseph Lister (1827-1912): British surgeon and pioneer of antiseptic surgery.

Lord Kelvin (1824-1907): Proposed the mathematical analysis of electricity and formulated the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

George Washington Carver (1864-1943): American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor.

Igor Sikorsky (1889-1972): Aviation pioneer in helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.  

Wernher von Braun (1912-1977): Developer and champion of space exploration.

Joseph Murray (1919-2012): Pioneer of transplant surgeries.

Katherine Johnson (1918-2020): Space scientist, physicist, and mathematician whose calculations were critical to U.S. manned spaceflights (Featured in the movie Hidden Figures.).

Fred Brooks (1931-present day): Computer scientist and software engineer. Evangelical Christian active with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; helped with 1973 Billy Graham Crusade.

None of these men and women saw their faith as an impediment to dream, invent, study, or teach. Their faith in the God of creation fueled their desire to meet challenges head on, imagining the impossible and making it reality. I am thankful for these curious, intelligent, persistent people and the contributions they made to our lives today.

What Christian dreamer or inventor has inspired you? Click on the title to this post and leave a comment sharing your story.

See you here tomorrow for Day 9 when Kelly and I venture into the weirdest places of all, in the Portland area.