Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Northwest Airlines Vintage Postcards - 1930s and 1950s

Going through some post cards given to me by Lona Falenczykowski today and decided to share a couple with you. I was especially enamored of the message on the back of the 1930s DC-3 card, which read:
"At take-off time, the luxurious Northwest Airliner has been dusted, polished and freshened up . . . weather data meticulously checked . . . both monster motors tuned to perfection.  We're off . . . in safety and comfort!

This post card from the 1950s was far less flowery in its prose on the back, and stated, in a straight-forward manner, the following:
"Minneapolis-Saint Paul Metropolitan Airport, Wold-Chamberlain Field
This airport, one of the largest air terminals in the United States, is now an international port with service to Alaska and to the Far East. The U.S. Naval Reserve aviation base is located at this field."
Then, at the bottom of the back side the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce got in it's licks with this sentence:
"City of Lakes and Parks"
I remember from my flying days in the 1950s, that Minneapolis liked to claim to be the site of the airport - and St. Paul always resisted their claim. Bob White, a columnist for the St. Paul Dispatch or Pioneer Press, wrote a column about it one day because the stewardess announced that the airplane Bob was on was landing in "Minneapolis."  He invited NWA stewardesses for a tour of St. Paul, to show them that it existed, and then to lunch.  After lunch he sent them to the restaurant kitchen to do dishes, since he said he couldn't pay for all of their meals.  I was there that day - it was fun, and a PR bonanza for NWA as well, as Bob, of course, wrote a feature article with photos about that caper.  I didn't keep a copy of that newspaper (probably because I lived in Minneapolis. (!?!)  Does anyone out there have one?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Herbert J. Johnson, NWA Capt. ret., Has Flown West

Three generations at NWA: l-r: Merry Jo, Scott, Herb, Erik

Herb Johnson was a NWA pilot for 32 years until 1981, when retirement was mandatory at age 60.  His wife, Merry Jo, was a NWA stewardess from 1949-51.  'Jo' (short for Merry Jo)  flew on every NWA B-377 Stratocruiser, 701-710. They were married March 30, 1951 and founded a "flying dynesty," as memorialized in the chapter "Stratocruiser Stewardess," page 70, in my book Fujiyama Trays & Oshibori Towels. 
Before the dynasty began, however, 'Jo' became the first NWA stewardess to continue flying after marriage. And it was "legal." Art Bergman, who was then head of Crew Scheduling, asked 'Jo' to keep on flying as they were short staffed.  'Jo' agreed, as long as she could fly with her husband, Herb.
 Herb and Jo in Billings, Mt.

Both son Scott and grandson Erik are pilots for NWA/Mesaba/Delta and daughter Linda is a customer service agent for NWA/Delta at MSP.  
It was my pleasure to visit the Johnsons in Cannon Falls, MN, where Herb grew up.  He gave me a wonderful tour of the farm that he (and now son Scott) have worked during their flying years. 
Arrangements have been made.  See the Star Tribune for details.

Anne Kerr has written and published Fujiyama Trays & Oshibori Towels, winner of the 2009 Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame Writer’s Award, chronicling her experiences as a Northwest Orient Airlines stewardess in the 1950s. 48 photos. 128 pages.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Patricia Moran, Part 2

Imagine my surprise when I received the book, "Come Fly With Me" by Patricia Moran, with this yellowed newspaper clipping inside, from Nancy Lowman.  Nancy flew for North Central/Republic/NWA and read my plea for info about Patricia Moran's book in BITS AND PIECES.  Thank you so much Nancy!
I'm trying to track down Pat's sister, Mrs. Arthur Franzmeier to talk to her.  No luck yet.  It is interesting that Pat was married at the time she was lost, to Navy pilot Lt. James Wonsettler. Had NWA discovered this secret, she would have been grounded (fired) as stewardesses were not allowed to be married in those days.
I also received a copy of the book from Darlene Jevne, who flew with Pat many times out of MSP.  Darlene learned of my interest from BITS AND PIECES as well.  Thanks a million!
If anyone has information about Pat's sister and/or brother, please let us know. This amazing story keeps unfolding. And I'll keep reporting . . .

(Minneapolis Morning Tribune, dated June 5, 1963 - 2 days after the crash)
Sorry about the quality, but click on the article and a magnifying glass with a + on it will show.
Click again and it will be large enough to read comfortably..

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Midway Airport Historians

NWA Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser at Midway Airport, sometime in the 1950s

Midway Airport originally opened as Chicago Municipal Airport on May 8, 1926, and by the time I was flying 2/day NWA DC-4 trips into Midway it had become the "busiest airport in the world."  Oh the stories she can tell.
And does tell, thanks to the efforts of a few stalwart aviation historians dedicated to bringing these stories to the world. These "stalwarts" include Bob Russo (UAL ret.), Bob Soraparu (USAir, formerly Allegheny, ret.), Capt. Don Falenczykowski, SWA, and Midway Historians webmaster David Kent, pilot and author.  Many other (in their words) romantics, gear heads, flying nuts and aviation enthusiasts make up their numbers as they strive to preserve the history of Midway Airport. You must view their recently launched fascinating website that is loaded with photos, stories and information.
I am excited that I have been invited to attend their April 7 meeting in Chicago.  It will be great fun to meet these dedicated folks and to learn more about what they are about. I will have my camera cleaned, oiled and charged for the occasion, so that I may pass along some photos to you. 
In the meantime, clear your afternoon and click on the "fascinating website" link above.  You'll have a ball.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Remembering Patricia Moran, Part 1

A few weeks ago, Lona Falenczykowski lent me a book of poetry written by Patricia Moran in 1962, titled Come Fly With Me.  I wanted to purchase a copy of the book and to learn more about Pat Moran.  I asked Karen Schmit, editor of BITS & PIECES, and Bob DuBert, editor of NWA History Centre's REFLECTIONS, to publish an inquiry in their respective newsletters. Thanks to their loyal readers, I now have more information about Pat Moran and her book of poetry. Sadly, Darlene Jevne, Nancy Lowman and Harry Bedrossian all wrote to tell me that Pat was lost in a NWA crash off the coast of Alaska. I needed to do some research to obtain more details, which was a pretty frustrating exercise.
 Most reports were succinct, but leaving lots of questions.  I was able to determine, however, in an article published in Air & Space, September, 2010, (magazine of the Smithsonian Air & Space museum) that NWA 293 was a military charter, transporting members of the military and their families, as well as Department of Defense employees, from McChord Air Force Base, near Tacoma, WA to Elmendorf Air Force Base, near Anchorage, Alaska. The article says, "During the first half of the trip, radio communications indicated an uneventful flight.  About two and a half hours after departure, though, the pilots requested clearance to climb from 14,000 to 18,000 ft.  Controllers told them there was traffic at the requested altitude.  No one replied.  In that interval, something catastrophic occurred, but what? The answer lies under more than 8,000 ft. of water in the Gulf of Alaska."  Here's a link to the article, titled "Cause Unknown," that chronicles five of the most stubbornly unyielding mysteries in aircraft accident investigation.
Six NWA crew members lost their lives June 3, 1963, over 100 miles WSW of Annette Island, Alaska, on NWA 293. A limited amount of debris was recovered, but no passenger or crew bodies.
My thoughts are presently with the families and friends of Capt. Albert Olsen, first officer Donald Wenger, flight engineer Kenneth A. Larson, and F/As Donald Schaap, Joan Morris and Patricia Moran.
Pat Moran's book of poetry, "Come Fly With Me." was published in 1962, one year before her death.
As I was writing this post today, I received another email from Nancy Lowman, telling me that when she opened her copy of Pat's book, a newspaper article about the crash with Pat's photo, fluttered out. She offered to send it to me.  When I receive it, if the photo is in good enough shape, I'll publish Pat's photo in the blog.  Thank you so much, Nancy!  Stay tuned . . . 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Don't Miss HuffPost's wonderful article with vintage airline photos and commercials

HuffPost Travel's caption reads, "Stewardesses working for Southwest Airlines of Texas must be able to wear hot pants and kinky leather boots or they don't get the job. In accordance with the airline's motto, 'sex sells seats' interviewees are selected on the strength of their legs and their face. Drinks served during flights have names such as 'Passion Punch' and 'Love Potion'. Photo circa 1972. (Photo by Alan Band/Keystone/Getty Images)"
Lady Skywriter says, "Please check out all of the photos and commercials and comments at HuffPost Travel without delay. "Unless you had something else planned to do today," she said, knowingly.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Looking for Elsie - NWA Crew House/Midway Airport

Good Morning!
This morning's activities brought to mind the woman who owned and operated the NWA crew house at Midway Airport in Chicago in the 1950s.
Her first name was Elsie - does anyone remember her last name?
Elsie also managed the Marshall Fields Coffee Shop at Midway Airport, Fred Ellsworth, (NWA Captain, ret.) reminded me. I'd love to hear any stories about Elsie, whether as crew house manager or coffee shop manager.
I spent many a night at Elsie's. And one Thanksgiving day, Elsie took pity on me and shared her Thanksgiving dinner with me in her small kitchen.  I'll always remember her fondly for that.
Although I have many photos from my flying days, I have none of the NWA Crew House (Elsie's).  If you have any in your photo collections I would be ever grateful if you would share them with us.
Here's a photo of Midway Airport in the 1950s to joggle your memories  I may even have been working on that NWA B-377 in the foreground. :-)