Got your attention? Well, that was the slogan when I was a Stewardess for United Air Lines. Living in Gulfport, Ms. and wanting to break loose at the ripe ole age of 20, I headed out for New Orleans to interview for a secretarial job. Without a plan to fly anywhere, from "no where" came this fella and grabbed me by the arm as I was walking to an interview. He said: "young lady would you do us a favor and step into this hotel and interview for a Stewardess position for United Air LInes?" Well, my immediate response was, "I've never even been on a plane." "No problem, he said." The rest is history. I was hired that day as a Stewardess for United Air Lines. I was on cloud 9, but not literally, yet! After one call to my mother, that cloud soon dissapaited. First thing she said was, "you have got to be kidding." "You are too "clutsy" for that job!" That did it..I was more determined to prove her wrong after that statement. So, with bag in hand, the very next day, she was seeing me off at the New Orleans Terminal on a jet to Chicago, Ill. Back in those days it was an honor to be chosen as a Stewardess. Little did I know at the time, there were so many girls who would have paid big bucks to be in my" heels." Obvilious to be the "chosen one," I did what was expected.
There would be four girls to a room. We each had a twin bed, with very limited space, to have our personal things. We were expected to make our beds, keep our area neat and organzied and maintain a very lady like demeanor. Which meant ,we had to dress up everyday for classes, dresses, stockings, makeup, and heels, everyday. There were no exceptions! We attended classes thru out the day with a total of 24 tests thru out the 8 weeks we were in training. Many of the girls were sent home, either because they failed a test or their attitude. The way they handled sending girls home was quiet nice. Since we all bonded so well, if you were sent home, during that time, a trainer would slip into a class room, tap the girl on the back, she would leave the room quietly and when you returned to your room, her personal things were gone and never saw her again. Weight was very important, because the image of a Stewardess in those days was very important. Guys wanted to date you just because you were a Stewardess. When we went for any of the meals, you could have anything to eat; steak, lobster, desserts. However, prior to getting your food and after you ate, you had to weigh on the scales. The requirements for a Stewardess back then were: you had to be above average in looks, your weight, your height, 20 yrs old going on 21yrs., never been married and not have children. Today that would eliminate so many girls, they would be hurting to fill the positions. But, we knew what the requirements were before we were hired and we totally accepted their criteria. I always say, the isles were wide and we were narrow. OMG, that certainly is not the way it is today. And, you would be hard pressed to find above average looking flight attendants. Today the isles are narrow and the flight attendants are wide. It was an exciting time in my life, after all, I had been somewhat sheltered. I didn't smoke, use bad language or drink. In fact, the toughest part of my training was knowing how to mix drinks. Well, not really, however, I certainly was not a pro.
The last part of training left a huge impression on all of us who made it thru ditching. Suppose you say to yourself, "what's so hard about taking tests for 8 weeks as a Stewardess? You would be very surprised to go thru what we experienced. Ditching was very impressive. The trainers were men and they threw you into big tanks of water with life vests and had you save what would be passengers. It was meant to be brutal and it was. They had simulators so real you actually thought you were crashing. How quickly and efficiently you reacted meant a life you saved or lost. We were threatened by these trainers that if you ever were in a situation where you were in charge of saving lives and you went into a negative panic, you best move to another country, they would come after you. We would be taken up in one of the older prop planes and the pilot would feather the engines, as if we were free falling. There were gals heaving during that run. Guess I have a tummy of steal, I just fainted. HA! No seriously, I took it as very serious and did my job if that would ever happen. Finally, it was Graduation day and my mom brought the guy I had been dating, but he had been in Viet Nam. I think mom was finally proud of me, after all, thru out my life (I'm not whining about it, its the way it was) she always focused on my brother. After all he was the straight '"A" student. My talent was determination to do the best at whatever I set my mind to and it was to be the best! And, most important, not to embarrass myself. We were raised in the South where, no matter how poor you were, manners were important. God forbid, for example, if you were at someone's home and they asked if you wanted somethng to eat, the "drummed in your head" response was, "no mam, I just ate." Really? Sure you did, as your tummy sang a song of hunger and you had to break into a cough to cover that harmonous sound.
Back to graduation day. The awkard moment for me was seeing the guy I had been dating show up with my mom. Mainly because I had sent his ring back to him while he was in Viet Nam. You see, in those days, Stewardesses could not be married or engaged.
The way United Air Lines determined your domicile was by age. I happened to be the youngest in my class, therefore, I got what was left over. Don't throw me in the briar patch. I got San Francisco. Well, all the gals were from Chicago and they wanted to stay home and show off that they were Stewardesses. Yum, for me. Immediately after the graduation, they flew me to San Fran. Mom and Wayne went back home.
I landed in San Fran not knowing anyone. They immediately found roomies for you and that, in itself became a force to deal with, due to what we were paid. I was making $8500 a year. You heard right! You see, you were appreciative that you had been selected as a Stewardess. You were to the public, a celebrity, really! With your uniform on as you walked thru the terminals brought whistels from guys and stares from gals. The Airlines fed you, provided you with uniforms, gave you paid vacations all over the world, and you were the "chosen one."
Reel back to roomies in San Fran. There were 8 of us in a 2/2 apartment. Yep. But, ironically no two Stewardesses were there at the same time. They were either sleeping with a boyfriend or on trips. There was a time when the floor became my bed and I just made it work. After all when you made only $8500 a year there wasn't much you could do on your own.
My flights would leave the jet way at 5am. I had to check in and have my nails checked, weigh in, etc by 4 a.m. The last bus to the airport ran at 2 a.m. I would walk 3 blocks in the dark,carrying my suit case and wearing 3" heels, to catch that bus.I always brought a suit case, due to the fact, you never knew if they would pull you off a flight to fill in for another Stewardess causing you to have a lay over, somewhere! Just an fyi, we didn't have suitcases with rollers.
Looking back, I met some interesting people and lots of celebrities; after all I was in San Fran, California during the Hait Ashbury Days of Janice Joplin, Jimmy Hendricks, etc. The Hells Angels would do their caravan down San Mateo Drive, (where I lived) . Today, I ask myself, why in the world didn't I take pictures of all the celebrities, who were on my plane, as regulars? Probably because it was so normal. They were just passengers. As a Stewardess, we weren't allowed to draw attention or ask for autographs. We were there to make their trip as safe as possible and keep them privately seated.
There were a few times my mom would call and tell me to quit. During one month when I was flying "A" (that was considered "lead" position), there were two planes that went down. One of them was a United flight out of San Fran. In fact, that plane took off when my plane was still on the run way. I don't recall what happened, however, there were few survivors. Sharks, I suppose. We were on our way to Washington, DC. There, we had a lay over. Next day we boarded and the jet way was being pulled but shockingly it appeared again. As "A" position it was my duty to find out the problem. I was told to get the passengers off the plane, immediately. No other instructions. We reported to the flight deck and there, we were informed that a passenger had placed a bomb in his suitcase and it was in the cargo of the plane. FBI showed up with dogs and found the luggage and the bomb. It seems as if this guys mom called United just in time and said her son wanted to kill himself and she was pretty certain he had a bomb in his suitcase. God bless that mom. She saved over 200 lives, including myself, that day. The airlines during that era was known for "lay offs", bombs, hy jacking.