fly away

There's a scene at the end of the pilot episode of the new ABC show Pan Am with a little girl watching the stewardesses walking down the runway and boarding the plane. One turns back and catches the little girl's eye and makes her smile. I was that little girl. The thought of being an airline stewardess (and no, they were not called flight attendants back then) seemed exciting and romantic, a way to travel the world, have adventures, do and see exciting things.

My stylish grandmother flew on Pan Am from Tulsa to visit us in New York. Dressed to the nines, of course, because this was the early 1960s and people dressed up to go just about anywhere including airplanes. We would drive to the airport, JFK or La Guardia, to pick her up, and had plenty of time for people-watching while we waited. That exact scene probably happened to me at least once.

I even remember reading Coffee, Tea or Me?: The Uninhibited Adventures of Two Airline Stewardesses by Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones, borrowed from my mother's bookshelf and read in secret because it was pretty racy for a 12-year-old—they weren't kidding when they used uninhibited in the title :)

By the time I was old enough to seriously be thinking about careers, airline stewardess was pretty far down on the list. I realized that the job was basically a waitress in an airplane and the restrictions (weight, proper attire, etc.) were brutal. I didn't have the body or the personality.

Watching the show the other night brought back some of these memories. Any show that models itself on the Mad Men formula will be compared to it and come up short; it may take place in the same era but it doesn't quite have the sly humor that Mad Men does. I liked it anyway and will give it a chance while I'm waiting for Mad Men's return in January.

Pan Am, ABC, Sundays at 10pm


Anonymous said...

I read that book too when I was a kid! Although, I never had any ambition to be a stewardess (I still use that title) I remember when they had to be young, thin and pretty, oh and female. I'm watching Pan Am as well...it doesn't compare to Mad Men, but the period style is fun to see.

kath said...

I could have written this post, right down to sneaking the book from my mother's bookshelf! I also wanted to be a stewardess and gave it up for the same reason. It's funny how we're all so different, yet so much alike out here! I thought the show was interesting. I can't wait to see if they can keep up the interest!

Anonymous said...

O my! What you wrote could be my past. I dreamt of being an stewardess too. I grew discouraged in high school because I thought I was too fat & would never make it. (Boy, was I wrong.) Anyway, I think, like you ~ my inspiration probably came from Karen Valentine starring in 'Coffee, Tea or Me?' & of course, the book. I wonder how many other girls growing up in the 60's had the same dream? Thanks for sharing.