Lindbergh Crate Museum
Many owners use roadside attractions as an extension of their personality, such as a compulsive urge to collect, a passion to be remembered, or a sense that history would be ill-served without their opinion. Larry Ross is no exception to this general rule, although his goal is more broad and less self-glorifying than the typical collector-of-sparkplugs or builder-of-castles.
Larry Ross is the owner of and guiding visionary behind the Lindbergh Crate Museum, a collection of Lindberghabilia displayed inside the packing crate in which Lindbergh's plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, was shipped back to America after Lindbergh completed the first human, solo transatlantic flight in 1927.
Any crate that can hold an airplane has to be big -- and the Lindbergh Crate, over 290 square feet, is as big as some mobile homes. With the addition of porches, a roof, doors, and windows over the years, the exterior looks like a small house. Ross refers to it, simply, as "the box."
The Lindbergh Crate Museum is open by advance appointment only because: 1) it's in Larry Ross's back yard, and 2) it really wouldn't be as interesting without Larry downloading his ideas, dreams, and can-do attitude in your ear. Those who quietly want to look at Lindbergh history are out of luck here; even though history is, ostensibly, the point of the Lindbergh Crate, it really isn't the point at all. Larry Ross uses the past as a launching pad to rocket you into a glorious future (YOUR glorious future) that will come to pass if only you see the positive lessons in Lindbergh's transatlantic flight and the way that those lessons are physically manifest in the big packing crate that sits in Larry Ross's back yard.
"Lindbergh had a vision, had a plan, had a team, and he stayed focused," Larry says, smiling, greeting us with a hearty handshake before the dust from our car has even settled in his driveway. "That's why I'm in the museum business. There's nothing like a vision, a plan, and a dedicated group of helpers as a formula for getting something done." He directs our attention to the outer wall of a barn hung with plaques bearing inspirational couplets:
Lindy made his dream come true, with some planning so can you. Choose the place you want to fly, always always always try.
Ross's personal mantra is, "Hang your own carrot," taught to him by his mother. "You have to be able to motivate yourself," he explains.
All of this could get tired very quickly were it not for Ross's happy enthusiasm and quirky sense of humor. Not everyone can see the potential (never mind the inspiration) in a broken-down shack in the New Hampshire woods, which is what the Lindbergh Crate was in 1990 when Ross -- a confessed fan of roadside attractions -- bought it for $3,000 and had it trucked to his Maine back yard.
Ross then put his theories of positive thinking to work and began calling people, lining up donations to the cause: a cement slab for a foundation, a new roof, a granite memorial to mark the spot. He got it all, as well as memorabilia to fill the crate: photos, artifacts, models, personal testimonials from people who knew Lindbergh or who were somehow connected to the Crate. "People give me things; I don't buy anything," he says, always speaking with a big grin. "The crate has been a conduit for so many good things to happen."
It helps, it must be pointed out, that Ross doesn't operate the crate for any monetary gain, and directs most of its good vibes toward schoolchildren in surrounding communities. His annual "Crate Day" is a big local event, exposing kids to Ross's goal-oriented optimism while wowing them with metaphorical visual aids.
The Crate has become just the starting point for visitors' journey to a more successful life: Ross's back yard now includes a cannon that fires toilet paper rolls; a miniature Navy ship (the "USS Canaan") that is launched into a pond; a fire bell from Ross's old home town, rung to commemorate inspirational, non-famous "real people;" a large, plywood snowman whose purpose remained a mystery to us; and, of course, a miniature construction crane on whose rotating boom swirls a giant, motivational carrot. The yard also has a lot of open space to observe what Ross calls "the best back yard air show in the United States," flyovers and helicopter landings staged by local military personnel.
Ross admits the Crate has evolved into "a theme park," but that is understandable. No message as grand as Ross's could be boxed into one building, even one as noble as the Crate.