The Twitter of the 1940s
August 12, 2011 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Airline pilots used to communicate with passengers by passing notes. No non-stop flights meant plenty of time for reading books, eating dinner and passing notes from the pilot around. These personal records of one man's mom who was a stewardess on the Chicago to NY route (which meant stops in Fort Wayne, Ohio and Pennsylvania), are particularly chilling.
posted by Kokopuff (13 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is pretty interesting. It also astounds me that a) a flight from Chicago to New York was so many stops and that b) the stewardesses actually *cooked dinner* for the passengers.
posted by antifuse at 1:22 PM on August 12, 2011


that's pretty darn cool and interesting.

i wonder if they'll use those on the PanAm show this fall.
posted by sio42 at 1:31 PM on August 12, 2011


... the stewardesses actually *cooked dinner* for the passengers.

Judging by the top picture it looks like that plane is not short-handed.
posted by hal9k at 1:34 PM on August 12, 2011


In Flight with American Airlines VE Day 1945 Report.
posted by ericb at 1:38 PM on August 12, 2011


I wonder if private notes between the pilots and the stewardesses, ever got mixed up with the ones going to the passengers.

That could make for an interesting flight.

And probably immediate dismissal, I guess.
posted by Skygazer at 1:42 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


It also astounds me that a) a flight from Chicago to New York was so many stops and that b) the stewardesses actually *cooked dinner* for the passenger

Different times. For one thing, the plane was much slower, and didn't have the range. When AA moved to DC-3s, they dropped the coast-to-coast time from New York to LA to 15 hours eastbound, 19 hours westbound.

There were also only 20-25 passengers. The cost? In today's dollars, close to $3000 one way. Here's more info on the DC-3 and was commercial flying was like in the 30s and 40s

Later planes -- taking advantage of the huge leaps in engine power that occurred during the war, went fast -- but even the legendary Lockheed Constellation would take close to 8 hours to get from LA to NY, and almost 12 hours to get from New York to London.

Nowadays? JFK-LHR in 6.4 hours, JFK-LAX in 5.4 hours -- and LAX-JFK in 4.5 hours. The planes have changed, but the winds are still there.
posted by eriko at 1:47 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I highly recommend North Star Over My Shoulder to anyone interested in reading more about the early days of flying passengers.
posted by exogenous at 1:50 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


hal9k -- that's the 1941 Stewardess School graduating class. IIRC, there were usually only 2 or 3 stewardesses on a flight. Then again, there were only a couple of dozen passengers.
posted by jlkr at 2:48 PM on August 12, 2011


And "cooking dinner" may have consisted of adding an olive to a martini- if my Grandpa is any barometer.
posted by T10B at 3:15 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


And "cooking dinner" may have consisted of adding an olive to a martini- if my Grandpa is any barometer.

Eugene Vidal, Gore's father, help found Eastern Airlines back in the thirties. His wife helped with the menu selection. Presumably thinking to combat airsickness the same way ocean liners did sea sickness, she suggested that bouillon would make sense.

Which perhaps it did.

Until they hit turbulence.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:10 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I highly recommend North Star Over My Shoulder to anyone interested in reading more about the early days of flying passengers.

Thank you, I just ordered it! Sounds very interesting.
posted by VikingSword at 5:39 PM on August 12, 2011


I was a member of the BOAC Junior Jet Club when I was quite young, and the great thing about being an unaccompanied minor on a hop across the Atlantic at that time (two stops on a Boeing 707 at Nassau and somewhere else I believe) was the fact that at some time during the flights a stewardess would come along to my seat and escort me up to the cockpit for a chat with the pilots and a quick oggle at the instruments. And then the pilots would sign my log book for me and I'd trot back to the passenger compartment. I had a nice metal badge and everything. Different times.
posted by Duug at 3:06 AM on August 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


While modern twin props are nothing to these beauties, the last one I flew (very definitely post 9/11) only had a curtain between the cabin and the pilots (which was often open), complementary booze, and sweeties handed out to suck on before landing. I suspect this is as close as you can get to that sort of experience these days.

Given that the plane I flew on wasn't a lot smaller than these, I almost wonder about the point of passing the notes rather than reading them out. There must have been more noise, so that the stewardess reading them at the front of the cabin wasn't feasible, so they were passed along.
posted by Coobeastie at 1:37 PM on August 13, 2011


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