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To read more about flying in the 1960's from the stewardess perspective:

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What Flying Was Like In The 1960s



Mr. Rebates

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I took my first commercial airline flight in the 1960's, while still in high school.   I've logged millions of miles since (according to my frequent flyer statements), and have really been struck by the dramatic changes in flying over the past 40 years or so.  Here, before I forget them, are some of my more vivid memories of my earliest airline experiences.

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  • Flying was expensive.  For example:  A round trip ticket between Cleveland and Washington D.C. was about $75.  This doesn't sound like a bad deal, until you adjust the fare for inflation:  That's over $400 in today's dollars!  By contrast, I recently paid less than $100 for a round trip between Cleveland and Washington on one of today's low-cost deregulated carriers.
  • There was no point in shopping around for the best deal, because all airfares were controlled by regulation.  If a roundtrip ticket between Cleveland and Washington was $75 on one airline, it was $75 on all the airlines. 
  • Because it was so expensive, flying was rare, and it was an "event."  The expectation was that you would wear nice clothing onto the flight.  Anyone who had strolled onto an airplane in the 1960's or early 1970's in a sweatsuit, or ragged jeans and a tee shirt, would have caused a major buzz among the passengers.
  • No security procedures of any consequence.  You walked up to the ticket counter, bought your ticket, showed no identification, walked out unsupervised onto the tarmac, and climbed up the stairs and onto the plane.  Meeting an arriving flight?  Just stroll on over to the gate and greet them as they walk off the plane. 
  • There were observation decks at many airports.  With little concern about security, some airports allowed you to stroll outside, take a seat, and watch the airplanes come and go.  On a warm summer night, it was actually rather pleasant.
  • No little television screens scattered throughout the airport to tell you where you where your flight was.  There was only one big board in the main lobby, like a bus station.  Forgot your gate?  You had to go find the big board to look it up.  
  • The vast majority of the passengers were businessmen.  White male businessmen.  Occasional families.  Very few minorities, and virtually no women travelling independently.
  • The stewardesses were pretty young women in very short skirts.  "We have the sexiest stewardesses" seemed to be a major advertising theme among the airlines.  Their tiny skirts were designed to ride way up when they reached into the overhead compartments, or when they bent over to serve drinks to the passengers seated near the windows.  This was intended no doubt for the entertainment of the largely male passengers.
  • Food and drinks were almost always served, no matter how short the flight.  Because there was no price competition, the airlines had to compete based on service.  It was amazing to watch the stewardesses hustle to serve everyone on a quick trip, while constantly tugging at their skirts to retain some modesty.  Kind of like watching an episode of Fear Factor today.
  • Smoking was permitted anywhere on the airplane.  Ashtrays were built into the armrests at every seat.  In the late 1960's I flew with two of my friends, and we all lit up cigars.  (Dare I mention that we were all 17 years old at the time?)  No one said anything, and I'm confident that anyone who did would have been shouted down by all the other passengers, especially the smokers.
  • No frequent flyer programs, although there were VIP clubs for some arbitrarily-selected customers.  (Some allege that the "arbitrarily-selected customers" tended to be predominantly white and male, and that frequent flyer programs were created in 1981 so that the membership could be more open and standards more objective.)
  • No laptops, no cell phones.  You had to make a beeline for the nearest pay phone to contact your office or family, often fighting off the other passengers who were struggling for access to the same phones.
  • They really had to instruct you on how to use the seat belts, because many cars didn't have them and no one was using the ones they had.
  • You could buy life insurance at the airport!  There were insurance dispensers:  You filled out a form, inserted your coins (no credit cards, magnetic stripes, or bill scanners in those days), then got an insurance policy, which you then dropped into a nearby mailbox and sent to your family in a convenient prepaid envelope.  If your flight crashed and you died, your family got some money.  I'm not sure why these disappeared, but probably because flying got safer and people got more comfortable with air travel.  But then again, there might be a more sinister explanation.  (Thanks to "Fazookus" for sending a comment and reminding me of this.)

 

WHY NOT "SMELL LIKE CHEESE"?

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CLICK ON THE COVER FOR MORE INFORMATION

Are headlines about global warming, terrorism, and other potential global disasters scaring your kids?  Get into the serious business of worrying in the story of Bobby and his episode with the alarmingly strange book.  The Next Person That Reads This Will Smell Like Cheese is a book about a book. As the title indicates, this children’s book causes everyone who reads it to smell like cheese.  As the book grows in popularity, this threatens to explode into a global crisis, since no one will want to go to work or school when they reek of Limburger.  But Bobby carefully investigates the book and its author, and saves the day.

Add this witty and funny book, about searching for truth, to a child’s library today.