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Going up alone

Here’s a photograph from the March 2 1932 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a young woman about to become a solo pilot.

Loma Worth was a stage name sometimes used by Olivebelle Hamon (1909-1987). Ms. Hamon was a child violin prodigy; in 1922, she played her violin while walking up and down the 33 flights of the fire escape of the Wrigley Building in Chicago to raise funds for charity. She started flying lessons at the age of 10, and earned her federal pilot’s license after the death of Robert Short, a pilot whom she had planned to marry.

She used what was left of her inheritance (which she reportedly squandered) to buy an airplane, flying herself to vaudeville performances. Learning how to play twenty different instruments, she was billed as a “one-woman band”. She was married and divorced at least three times. (Wikipedia lists three husbands, but her Find A Grave entry has her with a different surname from any of these.)

Ms. Hamon led a controversial life, but not nearly as controversial as that of her father, Jake L. Hamon Sr. (1873-1920). Hamon, who had made a fortune in oil, and who was married with two children, met Clara Belle Smith when he was 40 and she was 16. He started an affair with her, and then paid his nephew $10,000 to marry her and then go away, leaving him free to carry on with her; when his wife heard about the situation, she went to Chicago, taking their children with her. Ms. Smith, now Clara Hamon, eventually shot him after an argument; in her murder trial, she pleaded self-defense and was acquitted.

Hamon became attorney-general of Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1901, but was voted out in 1903 amid accusations of corruption. He was accused of attempting to bribe a U.S. senator in 1910, and he was influential in helping Warren Harding become President of the United States in 1920. He apparently was being considered for a cabinet post in the Harding administration before he was shot.

The Oklahoman has an in-depth article on Hamon’s life and death. (Edit: they just reorganized their website, and the link is now gone. Which is too bad – it was an entertaining article.)

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