|I was 24 years old.|
Sixty years later.
|Step by step, white hair and wrinkles as I earned every one of them.|
I have the opportunity to take a guest with me. That is not an easy task. We have to be cleared by security each time we go. My guests are always filled with enthusiasm and I appreciate them. I am grateful for the Weller Book Works and the airport management for supporting my signings and displaying the book. Thank you!
My friend MaryLou with whom I flew lives in Hawaii and having talked with her on the phone yesterday and remembering our time with American Airlines, I feel moved on to sharing her story which is in the book: More Than a Ticket.
STEWARDESS MARYLOU PARKES
MaryLou was on her way! In 1957 the American Airlines Stewardess College was built in Dallas/Fort Worth, Before this fine facility was built, the training college was in a hangar at Midway Airport in Chicago.
“Approximately fift-five years after the events of my years with American Airlines . . . memory extremely weak . . . only some awkward thoughts come to mind. I have no journals or records. Years are a blur to me. In 1955, I believe we had to be 21 to "fly." I was first accepted by Western Airlines to join their Stewardess program, then they went out of business.
A secretarial job opened a few miles from home with American Airlines' Engineering office which I took and LOVED IT...never wanted to leave. Lockheed was building an Electra (turbo prop) for American Airlines.
Bill Hall, MaryLou,
Jim Shires, Electra
Electra Photo ©Bob Garrard
Electra mockup, I modeled for
promotional of a new beauty.
I was ready to be an American Airlines' stewardess.
Naturally, my proportions were perfection, I had no worries. I was 5 feet 7 and ¼ and weighed 130. How blessed was I!
Glorious time at the stewardess college in Fort Worth, Texas!!!
Strutting around in bathing suits with so many beautiful girls around the pool with instructors’ eyes upon our every move, the entire time there. The instructors knew everyone’s name the moment we entered…fantastic women!!! Their eyes followed us along the cafeteria line and every other move we made. Emergency training the most critical. What was it, six weeks? Whew!
The moments in those weeks when a student disappeared from our view were especially a sad time. Their bags had already been packed for them and they were led to the awaiting taxi. We
had a wonderful dormitory, big classrooms, gorgeous grounds, and there was a beautiful huge main hall with a wide curving staircase, where we would meet our guests. Elvis Presley was dating one of the girls. We all hung over the balcony to see him and his friend come to pick up their dates!!! Silly us. So many procedures to ready the flight for passengers. We’d been well trained and even counting the bottles of liquor was no biggee. Today, I can’t imagine serving so much coffee and tea……………and carrying it up and down the aisles. All the training was leading up to our being able to “work” a flight along with a REGULAR CREW… our first experience in flight…..the anticipation of where we would be assigned and the type of equipment and timing was ever present. Unfortunately, I am a very independent person and I tried so hard to sorta fit in with a group, or with my roommates or whatever. I determined to wait with my roommate to go down to the field with her. She was a gracious Southern girl, but slow. I managed to go with her, only to learn that I MISSED MY FLIGHT!!!! Surely, I would be sent home, I thought! Luckily, they gave me another assignment. From that moment, I became myself again, independent, on-time, and successful, but often a loner. Graduation time was beautiful. We had received our uniforms, dark blue for winter, tan for summer, all measured to fit our body shape perfectly. Military pressed creases, even in the blouse underneath our suits. We also had sort of a duster to put on when we served food and a heavy, heavy beautiful dark blue wool coat for winter locations. Our shoes were spectators, tan and white, as I recall. From Fort Worth, I was able to go to Los Angeles for a day’s shopping. My dear sister Kay met me at the airport and we found the perfect shoes in an expensive Beverly Hills store, as I recall, then back I flew. Of course, the Army-style caps over very short hair topped us off. Our hair had to be above the collar - a must! Our class made up a fun song to the tune of the music of BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI from the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, a 1957 British World War II film. ''Today we’re going to march with you, Today we make our grand debut” ……..”…
SOARING, forever soaring……. (ta da da da da da da da de do)”
Singing as we marched through circling pathways to the
graduation grounds! I can almost hear it ringing in my ears right
The other big hubbub was about where we would be located!!!! I was thrilled to receive LOS ANGELES!!! My birthplace. As it turned out, if I had a few days off, I could be at home with mom and dad in North Hollywood – that was the best! If I had a quick turn-around, I had a nearby apartment with other A.A. Stews. A little tricky when I served on Standby and had to be at the Los Angeles Airport (a small little airfield) in an hour…..My uniform stayed ready to jump into when I drove from North Hollywood. Once I forgot my jacket and Daddy drove it down to me when I was almost already on the plane. There were no freeways then, it was city streets all the way! No jetways in those days…..we had to cover our heads with the American Airlines scarf and walk out across the windy tarmac to our flight.
Photos by ©Jon Proctor
I served as Stewardess in mostly DC-6s and DC-7s (Douglas Aircraft Company planes).
About 100 passengers tops. And it was an 8-hour flight from coast to coast. All night flights hoping to visit with a passenger and not sit and just look at the Exit sign and take coffee to the crew.
On those LAX-NYC flights we usually always had movie stars
on board….the one I remember best was Dick Powell as he sat back in the lounge with me on an all-night flight. He was wonderful to visit with!
On one NYC-LAX flight, the usual fog rolled in over Los Angeles and we had to actually land in Burbank. As I lived close, I had some great young movie stars drop me off at home from their
rental car as they drove on to Los Angeles. Sorry, I can’t remember
the names, something like TAB HUNTER or ??? Hollywood tours
were always offered to us. We met Pat Boone and other show people. It was a great life.
In the East, when it was cold, the passengers entered and gave us
their coats as we welcomed them on board, which we had to tag with seat numbers and hang up for them, returning each one to the correct person just before
Here are some highlights that come to mind about flights and
layovers: Bidding Vacation Replacement, which meant I had four
flights to New York a month! Loved seeing the sights, 5 Star hotels, walks all over Broadway, and seeing the high rises! Empire State Building was the tallest!
Three-day layovers in Chicago where the Museum of Science
and Industry became my weekly stopover. On June 19, 1933,
Museum of Science and Industry opened its great doors for the first time. It was the first museum in North America to feature interactive exhibits.
Anytime we wanted a short leave; it was available to us: I was off to Mexico every other month. Had a special blood doctor in Mexico City, of whom I was fond; Enrique (my father’s name) Hurtado. But always ACAPULCO! I shared a flat with a girlfriend and her brother, the Brianos from San Luis Potosi. It was past the bull ring, and we could walk there on dirt paths from downtown Acapulco (on the beach). She worked at Las Brisas. We knew all the hotels, the morning and afternoon beaches, and every other place in town. I remember water skiing every day and jumping the ramp occasionally. I would ski until the very last second I needed to catch a taxi to the Acapulco Airport, practically flying in my bathing suit.
The run from LAX to Fort Worth was delightful as there were some fine young men who took us water skiing on Lake Arlington! The Rental Car companies treated Stewardesses very well and gave us cars. In fact, everyone treated us like royalty. In Dallas, a pink Cadillac limousine would take us shopping.
It was the crews in the LAX to Dallas runs that were the best: We went bowling! What a lot of fun with the whole crew and then huge steak dinners for just $1 or $2. The prices were out of this world and shopping was great at Neiman Marcus. I did all my Christmas shopping there; no sales tax. Sorry, California, but I don’t like TAX.
The best part of those LAX to Texas flights was flying over The Grand Canyon…..what a sight from the air. It was exciting for the passengers to hear the Captain voice points of interest.
In the summer in St. Louis the big outdoor park had Broadway productions – great musicals, and the powers, that be, put in extra chairs up front just for us Stewardesses. No charge, of course.
In the propeller planes we didn’t reach the heights they do now and it was not unthinkable to occasionally get tossed about and have sudden drops because of the updrafts and downdrafts due to weather with exciting cloud activity. In Coach Class one time, I had 19 babies and ROUGH WEATHER. After the meal service, all the babies got sick, then their mothers, and then me, running into the bathroom to throw up in an Air Sickness Bag. Those were a must on our flights. What an awful feeling and smells with no escape.
The short hops were not quite so exciting….San Diego, Douglas/Bisbee, but sitting in the cockpit in an early morning into Phoenix was the biggest thrill watching the sunrise!!! One flight
out of New York into Tucson with a planeload of snow birds. It was horrible. It was snowing in Tucson….probably the first time ever. What a lot of grumbling passengers.
I enjoyed going to Detroit and attending Church there. We usually always included a ferry trip over to a city in Canada, I believe. It was quite an experience.
One of the best parts of my benefits was having mother and dad travel a bit. Other than Mexico, American only flew in the U.S. So Mom and Dad did have great travels in Mexico City, attending the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico with dazzling costumes, that kept them in another world of music and dance. The Pyramids, Xochimilco, Taxco, Guadalajara, and Acapulco where we stayed at the beautiful Majestic Hotel overlooking the bay and had huge fruit plates for breakfast. Daddy had fun swimming in the pool and shopping for his grandchildren. I got terrible sunburns. We hit all the sights and then Mom and Dad took a grand train trip to the other coast, enjoyed many other little cities. Met some Mormon Missionaries even!!!
Another really memorable trip on American Airlines was to Boston and walked the historical city seeing the Opening Release of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS…..It seemed like we
were doing that. Then on down the Coast to New York, Washington D.C., White House, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, then crossing the Potomac to Washington and Jefferson’s
plantation. Arlington Cemetery with it’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was one of the most outstanding Memorials at the time. I think we all had one of the best experiences of our lives.
Then the Jets came, I met Argie . . . who flew as Stewardess on the Boeing 707 Inaugural Flight. A delightful girl and the only Mormon I met in the business.
I’d like to tell of my travels into Florida and the Caribbean thanks to American, but that’s another story! We're doing what we do best!
Does that sound familiar? We were the best! Happy to have happy, exciting memories with the carrier of our choice,” American Airlines.
Now you know the rest of the story!
(This presentation does not always format correctly when published)