The Pan Am Series – Part XX: Belated Happy Holidays
4 January 2014 4 Comments
Pan Am and the Holiday Season
NOTE: Because many Pan Amers would be working somewhere overseas during the holiday season, by necessity, they very well could be celebrating their holidays after the season. This story is posted with that idea in mind…
Now that the holiday season is over, it is a good time to reflect about Pan Am’s role during that time. The holiday season to many is a celebration of giving and taking care of fellow human beings. And that is what Pan Am was all about. During the bustle of the holiday season, Pan Am was there, taking care of its passengers around the world. For American expatriates this meant a lot, as it was the Pan Am Clippers that brought them home to their families. And who put them on the Clippers and flew them home? It was Pan Am’s flying and ground staff, who sacrificed their holidays so that others can enjoy theirs. But the sacrifice did not go unnoticed. Whether in Tehran, Berlin, Tokyo or home, Pan Am took care of its own, in its own unique way, recognizing their contributions to the good of its passengers around the world.
Below are some holiday season memories from Pan Amers of different callings.
From Jan Curran:
“I am a little sketchy on the names ..so I won’t put them in here……………. but this is both a happy and sad story…At the time I was a union officer ( IUFA) in Miami. Every year the Miami Herald published a Christmas wish list for readers to donate to. One of the stories was about an elderly lady who had not seen her family in 40 years. They lived in Detroit , she in Miami. I found it very touching and approached my base director to see what we at Pan Am could do for this lady. With the help of several generous and kind flight attendants we got her some warm winter clothes………coat, sweaters…and one flight attendant bought her a pair of boots in Buenos Aires! Then the company came through with two First Class seats for her and a niece to travel to Detroit to see her sister and family . We met her at her humble home with her pastor to give her the news…………it was one of the proudest moments of my life………..we were able to grant this woman her dying wish….thanks to Pan Am and a great group of caring flight attendants.
“We had a little “bon voyage” ceremony at the airport – she had never been on a plane! The Miami News covered it on the front page the next day. A few days later I got a call from her pastor saying she was ill and wanted to come back to Miami early……..we arranged for her return the next day. We truly had granted her her dying wish as she passed away on the flight home. Her niece told us she was the happiest she had seen her in years…….and content . We were all heartbroken but at the same time joyous. It was a Christmas I will never forget.”
From John Marshall:
“The year was 1977. I was a first officer on the 747 out of New York, with not too bad seniority. Nonetheless, I was stunned when I got my December bidline and discovered that I was not only flying over Christmas, but would spend Christmas day in Tehran, a layover that definitely was not high on my list of favorites.
“It was a flight 2 and 1 trip, out to Bangkok and back, and on Christmas we would leave Delhi at the usual 3 AM and head for Iran, arriving mid-morning.
“We had picked up three Los Angeles-based flight attendants in Bangkok (crew tracking worked in mysterious ways) and after arrival at Mehrabad Airport our tired and unhappy little bunch boarded the crew bus and headed for the Intercontinental. We were greeted in the lobby by a jaunty Pan Am rep who informed us that the company had a suite reserved for us to help celebrate the Christian Christmas, and if we wished, we could go up any time. We all looked at each other, and tired as we were, we felt that if the Company had gone to that effort, it would be impolite to refuse.
“We walked into the suite and were stunned to find a fully decorated Christmas tree, a table laden with wine, eggnog and plates full of snacks. A tape player in the corner softly crooned Christmas music. The L.A. girls had been together for several days and had purchased trinkets for the crew.
“We sang carols and exchanged the small gifts and dined on the tasty local snacks laid out for us. We were surprised to see the day passing into the afternoon, when our delightful Pan Am rep stopped in and informed us that a table had been reserved for the crew that evening at the Royal Peacock Restaurant, the fanciest at the hotel. Dinner would be on Pan Am. Fully into the spirit of the occasion, we all met for drinks and dinner, that lasted well into the night. We were a happy, bonded crew that retired to bed. Thankfully, we had a late pickup the next morning.
“I spent several Christmases out on the line, in places like Tokyo, Sydney, and Frankfurt, but this holiday in Tehran was definitely one of the most memorable.”
From Tania Anderson:
“One Christmas eve in the late ’80s, my friend Bodo Hellfeld who flew the Internal German Service on 727s around Germany, invited our entire A310 crew to dinner at his place in Berlin. Dear Bodo, such a generous man, had really gone all out for us with all the culinary trimmings. He had gorgeous 6 foot tanenbaum in his flat with branches perfectly spaced for the lit candles and weighed down by traditional ornaments. You can well imagine with a dining room full of flight attendants being safety conscious as we are, how each of us eye-balled that tree the entire night in case a candle fell from grace and started a fire. Somebody would have been on it pronto!
“Bodo had roasted a couple of geese for the Christmas celebration and I’ll never forget how his cat kept begging us for more meat through his ever-so-greasy whiskers. We opened small gifts and told war stories about our beloved Pan Am. And, you know what’s that is like…if you want to yak for hours, just get a group of Pan Amigos together and the next thing you know, it is hours later!”
From Debbi Fuller:
“One year I went to Tokyo over Christmas. I was junior and found that volunteering to fly over Christmas was a good way to get trips that were hard to hold at other times of the year. I had finished all my shopping and didn’t want to stay in town. Another more senior flight attendant and myself (can’t sadly remember her name), spoke to the concierge and she found us an inn (riokan) to stay in for 2 nights. We took a bullet train out of Tokyo, then a narrow gauge railway, then a funicular over the crater of a small volcano which smelled pretty sulfurous, and finally a bus to our little inn. We had a view of Mt. Fuji during the day when it wasn’t overcast and a little Japanese garden that was covered with snow but still beautiful. We entered the inn and were seated immediately in a couple of New England style wing chairs in front of a roaring fire in a stone fireplace and given hot cups of sake. There was a Christmas party there that night for some businessmen and they were being entertained by geishas! The next morning a woman came into our tatami room with a brazier and some fresh fish for our breakfast which she cooked right there. We spent part of the day walking in the little garden and part of it in the sulfur springs in the basement of the hotel – natural rock with hot water bubbling up from beneath the earth. By the time we returned to Tokyo for our flight home we were completely relaxed and looked a few years younger than when we had arrived! One of my nicest memories of a Pan Am Christmas. This would have been in the early 80’s.”
From Ed Jankiewicz:
“I’ll never forget Dad taking me as a kid to the Pan Am Christmas party at hanger 14! Was totally awesome!! One end, there was the tallest tree that I can remember! Then, there were one or two aircraft on display to walk through. The highlight: hanger bay doors sliding open and hearing the engines of a 707 winding down. Pan Am of course! And then, Santa, coming down the stairs! That, was the best!! Totally, awesome day!!”
From Joan Tirino
“[My Christmas memory] was years before I became an employee. Back in the 50s, when my uncle worked for Pan Am, he took me to the Pan Am Christmas party that was given for employees families. I was probably about 4 or 5 at the time. I must have enjoyed it because I still remember it, and the coloring books they handed out. I managed to find one on eBay to add to my PA memorabilia collection.”
From Regina M. Fagan:
“Back in the 1950s, Pan Am offered a ‘Letter from Santa Claus’ promotion in New York, probably in other cities as well. For the price of a first-class stamp (about .03 cents in those days) you would get a sheet of Santa’s personal stationery and an envelope with Santa’s North Pole address under a Pan Am logo (all in red for this). Mom or Dad would write a letter to a child from Santa and bring it back to any Pan Am office. The letters were then flown up to Fairbanks on a Clipper and mailed back to the children, with a North Pole postmark. My dear father did this, and one day when I was about 7 years old, maybe younger, I got that letter from Santa! He had actually written to me! And Pan Am had flown his letter all the way from the North Pole to our home! It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized this beautiful loving letter had been written by my Daddy. I still have it. It’s in a safe deposit box, so I can’t get it until after the holidays, but I’ve been thinking about it these past few days. Many years later, when I was a Pan Am Stewardess, my father reminded me of the letter and said to me, ‘Pan Am has had an influence on you for many years. Remember the Santa letter? That came from Pan Am.’ One more wonderful memory courtesy of Pan Am.”
For additional information about Pan American World Airways:
The Book Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People contains 71 stories written by the people of Pan Am who played important roles in many of the important events in Pan Am’s history. The book is published by BlueWaterPress.
Preview Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of its People
Also available in a Kindle Edition
For a companion book with a timeline of Pan Am history and images of aircraft, timetables and other memorabilia, see a preview of Pan American World Airways – Images of a Great Airline.
For further information about the history of Pan American World Airways, visit: Pan Am Historical Foundation