One day at a time...

soaking up each and every one of them!

Cathy GF

Cathy GF
The Bay and The Lake, California, USA
December 29
Living the adventure of change


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SEPTEMBER 29, 2011 11:58PM

PAN AM or TWA: "eenie meenie miney moe"

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Second largest US Airline in the world...and...let's just say...past tense. 
Pan Am also the oldest airline in the world and the oldest airplanes/jets.    Back in the day...
While some would say, TWA = Try Walking Across!!!  I say, that was just competitive jealousy!
The above lime green TWA uniforms (circa 1969) also came in bright orange and navy blue.  Having worn navy blue plaid most of my parochial life, I chose lime and orange.  Funny thing was, I really thought those TWA skirts were mini skirts, at the time and quite frankly, a bit shocking (after a few years at an all girl's Catholic college above the Hudson River.
Fast forward to last Sunday night and the premier of "Pan Am", a new televison series depicting the life of a new breed of women, the stewardesses of Pan Am and the lives that took them "up, up and away" to lands near and far. 
Having flown for TWA back in the late 60's/early 70's, I was a bit taken aback that the network producers or TV writers and promoters of a new TV series, had chosen to feature Pan Am over TWA.  But so be it.  I would watch it anyway, just to see how they presented the once glamorous, flighty lives of the men and women who frequented the skies and each other's beds.  Or so the writers and producers would have us believe...
I, too, once had to make a decision: Whether to fly for Pan Am or TWA.
I was so sure it would be Pan Am, as they had "the name" and the prestige of being the largest airline in the world, at the time.  It simply was, the "it airline" to be with in any capacity.  Or so I thought.
To the back story:  Betwixt and Between
During the winter semester of '69, I was matriculating at a large university (fish out of water) after spending the majority of my eductional years in small, private (religious) schools.  As there was no room in the dorm at my chosen college in Pennsylvania, yet another all girl's college where my best girl friends from high school went, I was shot down by my mom on attending.  No way she was letting me live "off campus" so far away, therefore, I begrudgingly went to a more local college and lived at home.
One Sunday morning in early Spring '69, my father was sitting in the living room, per usual, in his comfy chair reading the New York Times. I was not myself that semester and he knew I was unhappy about my college situation. He called me into the living room and fully opened up a two page spread of dual ads; one page was a Pan Am ad and the other, TWA. I stared at the two pages of airline recruiting pitches, reading both ads with my dad.  He was talking about how impressed he was with flight attendants and that it might be a great experience for me.  
It had never occurred to me to ever work on airplanes, so this was a bit of a shock and I couldn't imagine doing it.  The ad called for two years of college minimum and a second language, as each airline was in need of language qualified flight attendants for their increased international routes. Normally, flight attendants had to reach a certain seniority to bid for the international flights, however, at this particular time, both airlines were in need of many new recruits to fill the growing number of international cities being added to their respective schedules.  It was a real opportunity and it would be a short window of hiring for immediate training to become an international flight attendant for the top two airlines in the US and abroad.
First thing Monday morning, I called both Pan Am and TWA and scheduled my interviews.  Within a week, I was heading to their New York offices to meet the prospective employers.   It was early April when I applied to each.
First, I interviewed with Pan Am, believing this would be my first choice, "if" I was even accepted.  They were very formal, serious and scrutized me, top to bottom,  thoroughly.  I met with three difffernt people during the process and took a lengthy Spanish exam, after which, I was brought into an office, sat down and told, quite unenthusiastically, that I had been accepted with one condition.  They wanted me to take more Spanish to bring my fluency up to some higher standard necessary for me to to be hired full time.  I was really let down but still hopeful.  I could do that.
A few days later, I interviewed with TWA.  This was a totally different experience.  At once, they were very welcoming, friendly and made my process much more effortless and comfortable.  There too, I was interviewed for hours, height and weight measured as well as all pertinent body measurements (yes, they really did this before discrimination laws kicked in).  That made me a bit uncomfortable, but I knew they had strict rules about appearance and everything being "in proportion" as image was a key role in becoming a flight attendant at the time.
Another thing that surprised me was that you also could not color, tint or highlight your hair.  All natural hair color was a requirement.  I was OK with that but always thought it was strange that they allowed the wearing of wigs that could be highlighted, as wigs were all the rage in the early 70's. In addition, they checked your teeth, which also had to be in good alignment...much like the Doublemint Twins.  Or so it seemed.  But, OK, it was part of being a quasi-glamouous (glorified) waitress in the sky!  
After a very warm, freindly interview with the TWA recruiter, a very handsome and welcoming fellow, it was clear that they were interested in hiring me.  My Spanish was plenty good for TWA and they offered me the job the same day.  I would leave for training in 3 short weeks! I was flushed and suddenly nervous.  Was this really happening?  The reality sunk in when they handed me my itinerary, an airplane ticket to Kansas City, Missouri, where my 6 weeks of initial flight attendant training would begin, followed by an additional 4 weeks in New York City, to complete my international flight attendant training.  Quite a mouthful and quite daunting to a young lady unaccustomed to being far from the nest.
I loved the training weeks and met and made some wonderful friends in Kansas City.  A little training romance ensued for the duration but was soon forgotten once my wings were pinned to my crisp, new uniform.  The long awaited graduation and curiosity of where my frist flight would take me, produced the inner stirrings of a passion for travel, the likes of which I would have never seen, had it not been for my father's penchant for reading the New York Times, cover to cover, months earlier. 
I was off and flying!  Flight Attendent I.D. #25434 was headed to Athens, Greece!  I could hardly contain myself when I heard the scheduler on the other end of the line.  Athens, being the most senior bid of all the international routes, I was incredibly lucky to have gotten this flight; the result of being brand new and on reserve...the proverbial "luck of the draw."  A nine hour flight from JFK, leaving late at night, we arrived in Athens in the bright new morning of my first flight.  To top that off, I was allowed to sit in the cockpit for the landing over transparent blue waters, white beaches and modern buildings, the likes of which I'd never seen.  It was like a fairy tale beginning to a charmed occupation with no end in sight.
I had surely landed the best job in the world, taking me all over the globe to European cities I only read about in text books and to an eye opening beginning of the many adventures which had just begun.   
Madrid, London, Milan, Rome, Paris, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Zurich, Geneva, Athens...could it get much better?  Even Chicago and Denver for one week of emergency reassignment, was a rollercoaster of unanticipated thrills, prayers and near tragic events.  The stories could fill the shelves of my mind and memories galore.
I invite you to take a trip back down memory lane with me to a post written in 2008:  "Coffee, Tea or Me."
More adventures of a flight attendant await you there...and perhaps, many more to come.
So, fasten your seat belts, sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.
My alma mater, 
Was the right choice for me.
 UP AND AWAY ! ! ! 
Note:  These are actual photos of mine.  Yes, it's me.  Blonde one. 

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So, sure. Pan Am had the name, the history and the legendary first airline to be the biggest and best. But when TWA came along, we sure gave Pan Am a run for their money. TWA, was far and away, the hipper, happier and trending airline of the 60's, 70's and 80's. Hated to see it go to American Air Lines and eventually disappear into the clouds. One of the best experiences of my life.
Oh I am sooo glad you had this wonderful experience exactly when you did. More real-life stories about this time would be awesome if you care to write them Cath :-)
Kellylark - Me, too, thanks to my dad! Who would have thought?! So close to finishing college and then I up and flew away! Kids are like that, sometimes!
Wow, I didn't know that you were one of those women in the sky! You did it at the highlight of the air industry too. All of those magical places at such a young age had to have been unreal. What a process--even checking your teeth and measurements. This was fun to read.
Cathy, this was so delightful to read. I also have a special place in my heart for TWA simply because it was Kansas City's airline and it was the one my Dad flew as a pilot until he retired in 1991 at 55. He retired early because he was tired of commuting at that point just to get his plane, and he could see the writing on the wall that they were going to have severe problems. I was so sad when TWA went out of business. It was the end of a wonderful era of luxurious flying. You didn't by any chance ever fly with my Dad? (Joseph J. Zollmann) They called him Jack. Great post!
Great story.

So mom would't let you live 'off campus' to attend a conservative, all girl's school?

And then you started jetting across the world?

Dr. Spudman - it was a very magical job, even with all the dirty work and irritable passengers. And the indescribable European cities I frequented those years of my youth. Spectacular.

Patricia K - Did your dad fly international? I only flew in 69, 70 and 71 out of NY. Likely not. But so cool that your dad flew for TWA! One of my best friends flew for them for 30 years out of Chicago. He might have know her. Margie Burrows King. You never know!
My internet has been off most of the day and they finally fixed it 15 m ago.
I am so glad you did this. We used to give a ride to one of my fathers friend's daughters that worked for TCA (trans canada airlines). She had her dark green suit with her "Bobby" style hat and always told us that she could not work after the age of 27. Those were the rules. I thought she was just fantastic and I so envy you having been one.
thanks for the great story..
Nick - Right?! Some real irony there. My father traveled a great deal for business and saw what a prestigious job it was back then...that certainly changed. I never did go back to any Catholic school and eventually took more undergraduate courses at local colleges before settling down and having babies in my mid-twenties.
Linda - You inspired me to do this! I may consider retelling some of my nitty gritty stories of those days in more specificity. Some of the racier posts I did a long time ago, I deleted, due to the Google issues that linked me to "other" racy links. Yikes!
I love reading accounts like this Cathy. In my traveling day I mostly stuck to Pan Am. Dunno why really but that was the first flight I was booked on (New York to Buenos Aires) and I got hooked on their Air Miles. I stuck with them to the bitter end, taking their very last flight into Buenos Aires in December 91. I should blog about that.

But you've rekindled all the excitement I had when international travel was just part of the job. Thanks so much for posting this.
I love the way you wrote this, it's exciting to think that you just stepped out and started to fly. My best friends older sister was with United for over 30 years, it was in the early 70's and her life seemed so glamorous to us. She had the SF to Honolulu route for years, great way to be married with kids. Go to work and wind up on the beach.
More, more, more!

I wanted to be a stewardess, I mean, flight attendant, too. I'll bet you were just adorable in one of those crazy double knit polyester suits. Remember the silly jokes about flying united?
This really should be on the cover; it's an opening to a world few of us here know and it brings us back to a time most of us know but in such an incomplete way. You help make it more complete. This is fascinating. Rated.
For those who have asked, it IS me in the photos above (blonde chic)!

Abrawang - You are so welcome and thank you for your nice comment!

L'Heure Bleue - The job was the most glamorous job of my life and it came at a very good time. I soon after became a mother and left the job to be a stay home mom for about 4 years. Thanks!
Sky - I'm working on it for later date...have written much about it before but have so many stories to weave into a future post. Thanks!

Miguela - That is me in the above photos - blonde one! Thanks!

Jonathan - Thank you for the shot in the arm! Would love to write more stories of my adventures but don't want to bore my OS friends to death! There are some juicy ones and some scary emergency landings and other adventures in foreign ports. Thinkin' on it.
Thanks for the share!!

I haven't watched the show yet, not sure why, just haven't, now, I don't have to!! :D

I watched "Pan Am" and thought of you, Cathy. I wasn't too impressed with the first epidose. Your memories are far too interesting and closer to my recollection of the 'hostesses' of that era. Thanks for sharing this, you capture the excitement and flair of the time. I was 5 years old when my family flew from Istanbul to Amsterdam on KLM, and I still remember the blue uniformed beautiful young women who were so nice to me and my sisters.
Tink! You're welcome! The show does look cheesy and full of fluff for shock appeal. Nothin' like the real thing!

Fusun - I, too, flew to Istanbul! Will have to ad that to my list! You added a great detail: Airline "hostess" was the title used most when I flew with TWA. Sounds so much better than flight attendant! Thx!
Great job! Great memories, thanks for sharing them with all of us.
Sheila - Thanks much! Fun times!
You were and still are stunning beauty.
Miguela - Wow! What a nice compliment! Thanks very much!
I can not wait to read more, how very glamorous and exciting of a life you have lead!
Lunchlady - Thanks for coming by ! It was a very intriguing time and right of passage of sorts. All...sorts!
Sorry, I'm late here, Cathy. We haven't got the Pan Am show on down here ... not sure that we will either ... but I enjoyed reading again of your wonderful adventures! Lucky you ... the experience of a lifetime for sure!
Little Kate - Thank for coming by!
How cool! I flew so much as a passenger during that time (daddy in the AF and all), I never considered being a stew...jumped into plenty though!

I have the show downloaded to watch when I have a spare 45 min., but think I'd much rather spend my time reading your accounts of TWA.
Buffy - Thanks! So many stories to tell but fear they might bore everyone to death!
Cathy I am fascinated by your history as a flight attendant! (I'm catching up on my OS reading having been so busy in the past few months). I love the new show Pan Am but was given a harsh jolt back to the present when I flew Jet Blue to L.A. last week and the flight attendants were bent down cleaning when I exited the plane. Things were definitely more glamorous back then!
Karen - Hi! Thanks for reading! Yes, the times of the glamorous flight attendant have vaporized! We flew to and from Hawaii recently and were discouraged at the condition of the airplane cleanliness and the lack of spark among the crew. It could get worse!
Very Nice Blog, I am very happy to visit yours blog. Keep up the good work. I wait to read more posts.
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