Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Then the Stewardess said......"

Permit MrMartha a bit of an indulgent memory.

If you are of a certain age, as MrMartha is, and were lucky enough to travel by air in the 'golden era' - before about 1973, you often rue the current state of flying.

MrMartha can recall perfectly the first flight he ever embarked upon. 1968, Baltimore (Friendship Intl Airport) to San Francisco. United Mainliner service, nonstop, on a Douglas Stretch DC8 Fanjet. Seeing the craft though the gate window, it had the incongruous appearance of a streamlined Albatross -- think Banana sitting on a boomerang.

It was an expensive privilege to take to the air then, and much preparation preceded the journey -- new outfits, the right hat for MrMartha's mother, which tie to wear....and how it would feel to be 30,000 feet in the air.

The best part were the Stewardesses (when that was the appropriate term, and it was still considered a 'glamour job'). With five in the family flying, we had the rear lounge -- three seats facing two seats with a stationary card size table in the middle. Located just across from the galley, it was fascinating for the very attentive 8 year old that MrMartha was, to not just be on the plane, but see how the crew actually worked.

MrMartha has always been a bit of a sucker for a uniform....and United had just introduced a new Stewardess Uniform. Bright, Mod A-Line dresses. The Stewardess' wings were worn at the front of an impossibly silly little cap. The whole effect, just too amazing. Designed by Hollywood costumer JeanLouis, who at the same time was also famously dressing Eva Gabor on Green Acres, and Mrs Howell on Gilligan's Island.

Even more astounding, after we were in the air, each Stewardess would disappear into the lavatory and reappear in a completely different uniform dress to be worn inflight, and then change back again before landing. And MrMartha has to say, it seems like there must have been a dozen Stews on the flight, though it was probably more like 5 or 6.

The inflight outfit was a shift with vertical panels in red white and blue, and as one flight attendent dreamily related on a United flight many years later "That zipped up the front, we loved those uniforms. Everyone was mortified when they switched to the 'Wonderbread' uniforms" (awful polkadots on shiny polyester that looked just like the bread wrapper!)

So, next time you are frustrated and stuck on a delayed flight, or standing at the back of 300 others in a security line....disconnect for just a minute and think about the salad days....when you WANTED to fly!