On a August day in 1911 at Simms Station outside Dayton, Ohio, a 15-year-old girl climbed up beside her uncle on the lower wing of a biplane and took a ride with him.
Last night Ivenette Wright Miller, now 82 but still of Dayton, watched the preview of the story of her two uncles, Orville and Wilbur Wright, in a two-hour television dramatization, "The Winds of Kitty Hawk." It will be seen Sunday - the 75th anniversary to the day of the historic moment that the Wright brothers flew their box-kite-like plane for 12 secons over 120 feet of North Carolina sand.
"I was out at Simms Station, where my uncles had their flying field," Miller recalled. "I was the third youngster to get a plane ride that day and climbed up on the wing beside Uncle Orville. After about 10 minutes in the air, we saw the trollery coming and he asked if I wanted to catch it.
"Since I was the last one to go up, he turned off the propellers and we glided down to catch the trolley."
Miller, a spry woman with a spry memory, never learned to fly herself. But she does have that ride with her uncle in an open biplane to remember.
And there were others with memories of the early days of flight last night when International Telephone and Telegraph, sponsor of the two-hour dramatization to be seen on NBC at 8 p.m. Sunday, was host to a preview sandwiched between cocktails and a buffet supper at the Sheraton-Park Hotel.
Among the guests were the "Early Birds," colorful, barnstroming pioneer pilots who received their flying licenses before 1916, and founder members of the "Daedalions," who were World War I pilots.
David Huffman, the young actor who starred in the movie "F.I.S.T.," is the Orville Wright of television-and much to the satisfaction of Miller, who thinks he makes a fine uncle.
Huffman, looking years younger without his Orville mustache, thinks the handsomely produced television show catches the excitement of the time.
"It's a celebration of flight with the human story of two brothers and a family," he said last night.
For the role, he read books on the Wrights and early flight and recalled the days that he made model planes.
"Even then, I never covered the balsa-wood wings with cloth. I loved the beauty of the structure. Just look at the Wright Brothers planes in the film and their beauty," the actor said.
Michael Moriarty, who plays Wilbur Wright, the older, withdrawn, flight-obsessed brother in "The Wings of Kitty Hawk," came over from Baltimore, where he is in play rehearsals, for the preview.
Moriarty, who was the Nazi in "Holocaust" and the Gentleman Caller in "The Glass Menagerie" with Katharine Hepburn, thinks he may have been a little too respectful of the pioneer airman that he portrays.
"I wanted to be nice to him, and perhaps I didn't make him human enough," he said.
Apparently the preview audience didn't feel that way. Each time the Wright brothers got their glider to fly a little higher and farther or made a turn, there were the claps of fans rooting for their heroes.
The Wright flyer seen during the television show is a full-scale (40-foot wingspan) replica of the plane built by Orville and Wilbur Wright.
Nancy and Tom Valentine, two 24-year-olds, built it, or most of it, in their spare bedroom without knowing that it would be wanted for the television special.
"The question to ask them," said one woman at the party last night, "is what they intended to do with it. It's a little big for a cocktail table."