Monday, November 23, 2009

The Day Airline President Donald Nyrop Tended Bar on a Boeing Stratocruiser

Donald Nyrop enjoys telling the following story on himself. I was reminded of it when I read that effective December 1, 2009, Delta,
the biggest airline in the world and adoptive parent of Northwest Airlines; will no longer accept cash on its domestic flights. Instead, flight attendants will be equipped with credit card scanners. Yup - you will have to pay for your drinks and (pardon the expression) food with your credit card. Just when we are all experimenting with the concept of leaving the credit card at home in an attempt to pare down that unseemly balance.
I won't dwell further on the implications of credit card swiping aloft. Suffice it to say, "Don't Leave Home Without It!"
So . . . back to the day in the 1950s when busy Northwest Airlines President Donald Nyrop had pre-boarded a NWA flight in Washington D.C. for his return to his office in St. Paul, and discovered there would be a delay. It seems one of the flight attendants had become ill and Nyrop's flight would have to wait for another flight to arrive with a substitute. Mr. Nyrop asked the senior stewardess what would be required of the substitute. When he learned that they needed someone to man the Boeing Stratocruiser's lower level cocktail lounge as bartender, he declared, "I can do that! Lets get this flight off the ground."
Mr. Nyrop received a quick course in airplane bartending. The miniature bottles are kept here, water and mix are here, ice is here, and here's where you put the money. In those days, and I have an old beverage list to prove it, Haig & Haig and Johnny Walker Black Label were $1.00; as were Walker's Deluxe, I.W. Harper, Canadian Club, Seagram's VO and Gordon's gin. Martinis and manhattans were 75 cents, and B&B or Drambuie were $1.50. Go ahead - cry!
It seems Mr. Nyrop did a super job. And the passengers loved it, the word having spread through the main cabin that "the president of the airline is serving drinks downstairs." There was a steady stream of curious passengers up and down those spiral stairs.
Back in his office a couple of weeks later, Mr. Nyrop received a memo from the accounting department that his "bank," from working the flight, was $1.00 short, and he would need to make restitution. Nyrop was mortified. He invited his Chief Accountant and the bewildered clerk who had sent the memo out to lunch, where he paid back the $1.00 he was short.


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