Saturday, May 10, 2008

One ringy dingy . . . two ringy dingy . . .

With apologies to Lilly Tomlin, Miss Billingsley, aka Lady Skywriter circa 1958, is shown receiving a call from the flight deck, most likely an inquiry as to today's menu, and/or a beverage order.
She is pictured in the lead flight attendant seat on the stratocruiser, located just forward of the galley in the tail section of the aircraft.
Notorious for complicated beverage orders, a call from the cockpit went something like this: "Aaah, please bring up some coffees; one black, one with half a cream and one sugar, and one with two sugars and no cream." (Cream and sugar were boarded in single serving packets.) Oh, there would be an occasional request for hot chocolate, tea or even milk, but the favorite beverage was coffee and lots of it.
If I had had a camcorder 50 years ago and could take you along as the coffee order was delivered to the flight deck, this is what you would experience:
Bearing the coffee tray we would easily slip past adults lounging in the wide aisle talking to one another. Just aft of the main cabin door we'd pass the circular stairway to the lower deck lounge, a full service bar dubbed the Fujiyama Room, as sounds of clinking ice cubes and laughter wafted up to the main cabin. If we were on ship 709 on our journey toward the cockpit we'd be humming to "Autumn Leaves" being played on the Lowry organ just forward of the main cabin door by a celebrity musician from the Twin Cities. (This is true, every word of it - and we're only halfway there!)
As we move forward between two-abreast, wide, deep comfortable seats which, incidentally, could be converted to sleeping berths - eight uppers and 16 lowers, we catch a glimpse of the flight deck on the other side of the club style forward cabin. Note: every time I think of that forward cabin I think of the flight when that delightful 'munchkin' Danny Kaye irrevocably blew his image by staging a full blown temper tantrum over his dinner.

Now where were we? Oh, yes. In the club cabin a card game is in full swing on the starboard side. They would be using the famous NWA "talking" playing cards which doubled as a linguistics tool for Orient bound passengers. 53 useful English phrases for travellers were printed on the cards in Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

Leaving the club cabin and moving forward between coat room and lavatory, light from the flight deck reveals a slim velvet rope slung across the open door. Routinely inviting passengers to "C'mon up and say hello," flight crews enjoyed showing off their greenhouse, so dubbed for the dozens of windows with panoramic views spreading out before them.

Now. Compare that leisurely stratocruiser stroll to the last time you battled down the aisle on one of today's flights, getting your armpit hung up on a seatback and whacking the backside of your knee with your carry-on . . . and visit the cockpit? Are you kidding?


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