The Pan Am Series – Part XX: Belated Happy Holidays

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.

A Holiday Greetings Card placed on meal trays during the late 1980s. (From Romlee Stoughton)

A Holiday Greetings Card placed on meal trays during the late 1980s. (From Romlee Stoughton)

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.”

Hanger 14 at New York (IDL/JFK)

Hanger 14 at New York (IDL/JFK)

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.”

dc 4 alsaka pahf-1

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

For purchasing information, visit the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon

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

The book is also available directly from the publisher, BlueWaterPress or Amazon.

For further information about the history of Pan American World Airways, visit: Pan Am Historical Foundation

The Pan Am Series – Part VII: Aviation History

   China Clipper    707-121

Pan American World Airways’ Role in Aviation History

During the next three months, anniversaries of many “firsts” and significant events in the history of Pan American World Airways will be observed.  There are quite a few particularly noteworthy events.  Suffice to say, below is a list:

October: Launch of the Pan Am Shuttle on 1 October 1986; first to order American-built jet transports from Boeing on 13 October 1955; ditching of flight 943, a Boeing 377, in the Pacific on 15 October 1956; first airliner trip to McMurdo Sound, Antarctica on 15 October 1957; first flight on 19 October 1927 (chartered from West Indian Aerial Express); first trans-Pacific passenger service on 21 October 1936; first flight to Hong Kong on 23 October 1936; first Amazon route service on 25 October 1933, first trans-Atlantic service with the Boeing 707 on 26 October 1958; first scheduled Pan Am flight on 28 October 1927 and first to make a round-the-world flight via the North and South Poles on the same date in 1977, marking the 50th anniversary of the airline.

November:  First delivery of the Douglas DC-4 on 3 November 1945; first service to Fiji on 5 November 1941; first service to Barcelona on 8 November 1948; first Great Circle route to Tokyo on 17 November 1959; first “Clipper” flight on 19 November 1931 and the first trans-Pacific flight (mail) by the China Clipper a Martin M-130 on 22 November 1935.

December: First service to Bolama (West Africa) on 1 December 1940; runway overrun by flight 812, a Boeing 707, after an aborted takeoff caused by bird strikes and a related engine failure in Sydney on 1 December 1969; first to open the largest single air terminal in the world at New York Kennedy Airport on 5 December 1973; first service to Leopoldville on 6 December 1941; first delivery of the wide-body Boeing 747 on 12 December 1969; first jet service to Sydney on 15 December 1959; first delivery of the Ford Tri-Motor on 28 December 1928 and first delivery of the Fokker F-10-A on 31 December 1928.

On a sadder note, during this same period will be the anniversaries of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, the last trans-Atlantic flight from Frankfurt on 1 November 1991 and finally, the cessation of all operations on 4 December 1991.

It has been suggested that the history of Pan Am could be considered the history of international commercial air transportation.  The above events, plus the geographic location of the US and the events of World War II, lend a lot of validity to this assertion. At the time of Pan Am’s founding, the notion of using air carriers for shipping the mail was gaining in viability, and getting mail to the countries of Latin America by air became an attractive idea.  A special inter-departmental committee called by then Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover reported its recommendations just about one month after Pan Am successfully delivered its first load of mail to Cuba. This committee was headed by Undersecretary of State Francis White, a Yale alumnus known to Pan Am’s founder Juan Trippe, and a supporter of the new airline. The committee included representatives from the Commerce, War, and Navy Departments, as well as the Post Office – several being Yale grads and known to Trippe. Their conclusions, among other things, included the suggestion that foreign airmail contracts be let to the bidder that in the judgment of the Postmaster General, would best serve the interests of the United States, which was a critical distinction, freeing the Post Office from selections based solely on low bids. They also suggested development of two routes south from Florida, both of which had been suggested by Trippe. It was this meeting that for all practical purposes crowned Pan American Airways as America’s chosen instrument for developing international air routes.

Operating authority to these countries, however, needed to be secured and at the time there was no framework within the US government to accomplish that. Trippe, was able to do it. He carried out then, what the US Departments of State and Transportation do today with respect to foreign routes. But to realize his vision, Trippe needed the U.S. government’s cooperation and as a result, Pan Am worked closely with a small group of influential and informed government officials to create and exploit the opportunity that would permit Pan Am to flourish and grow.

Another factor was that the US had virtually no colonial empire as compared to its European counterparts. The “foreign routes” of European airlines, for the most part government-owned (unlike the privately owned US carriers), were largely made up of routes to their colonies in Africa and Asia. There was no need to obtain operating rights. Pan Am, however, was required to obtain rights to operate not only to the European countries, but to their colonies as well. This was basically the situation at the beginning of World War II.

During World War II, because of the nature of the war in the Pacific, the US faced a need to develop large, long-range aircraft, in transports (the C-54) and bombers. These aircraft featured large fuselages, a wide wingspan and big capacity. Translated to a peace environment, these would convert to large passenger aircraft that would give the US a decided advantage in long-haul, intercontinental commercial airline operations. Because of this and other factors, the Chicago Conference was called in 1944 to deal with such issues that many anticipated would arise at the end of the war. What emerged from that conference was the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Freedoms of the Air and the framework for traffic rights between countries through Bilateral Agreements.

At the end of the war, with the benefit of conversion of wartime aircraft to large passenger aircraft, Pan Am emerged as a truly global airline, culminating in the operation of the first commercial round-the world-flight in 1947.  The war also caused the development of a mighty U.S. based aircraft industry, capable and ready to beat the proverbial sword into plows to supply newly-developed aircraft to both U.S. and foreign airlines.

    48-First RTW-comp    377-n

 John T. McCoy’s watercolor of Pan Am’s first round-the-world flight (left) and the “converted bomber” (right) .

The people of Pan Am have been in the forefront of the airline’s glorious history. And probably no other airline chief ever received the loyalty that Juan Trippe earned, carrying on through decades long after he stepped down as Pan Am’s Chairman, his passing and finally the passing of the airline he founded. Many of the Pan Am family played major roles in Pan Am’s history and have had the selflessness to share their recollections with us.

In Pan American World Airways – Aviation History Through the Words of Its People, published by BlueWaterPress, seventy-one such Pan Amers did just that, giving us 71 stories about their part in some of Pan Am’s history-making events.

Here are some of the writers:

2-KathleenClair  W.Crew-1BW   8-Jump Rope   10-Arriving JFK

Left to right:  Kathleen Clair, writes about her experiences as Juan Trippe’s personal assistant; Jay Koren (2nd from right in picture) writes about the first 707 flight; Kari Mette Pigman remembers November 22, 1963 in Dallas; and Gillian Kellogg L’Eplattenier tells about the excitement of flying the Beatles to New York.

13-Skygodincockpit   15-HelenDaveytodayBW   Chief Pilot, Berlin. 1982   26-McGhee

Left to right:  Bob Gandt tells of his experiences flying with the “Skygods”; Helen Davey recalls the R&R flights during Viet Nam; John Bigelow brings back memories helping Ariana Afghan Airlines; and John McGhee recounts the evacuation of Vietnamese orphans.

28-toppingtodayBW   30-Dorothy Kelly and Carla Johnson-comp   34-Mother Teresa-comp   37-Doubleday-3BW

Left to Right:  Allan Topping recollects his role in Pan Am’s last flight out of Saigon; Dorothy Kelly recalls the horrors of Tenerife; Ron Marasco tells us about Pan Am’s special relationship with Mother Teresa; and George Doubleday brings back memories of resuming service to China.

38-BenefieldBW   42-ClarktodayBW   48-OnboardBW   53-PAAnewHire

Left to right:  Harvey Benefield recalls evacuating Pan Am employees from Tehran; Mike Clark remembers his role in the merger with National Airlines; Merle Richman tells about Pan Am’s last round-the-world flight; and Diane Vander-Zanden recollects the sale of Pan Am’s venerable Pacific routes.

57-Kelly&JaneNamakama LGA   60-ReinerTodayBW   62-Don Cooper-1    68-NScully-1BW   69-mark pyle

Left to right:  Kelly Cusack writes about starting the Pan Am Shuttle; Arnie Reiner recalls the initial investigation of the Lockerbie tragedy; Don Cooper tells about the Internal German Service out of Berlin; Nancy Scully recollects her experiences working Pan Am’s White House Press Charters; and Mark Pyle remembers piloting the Last Clipper to Miami.

 

CoverDesign.Book2-2011

From the preface:

“On December 11, 1934, Pan Am’s founder, Juan T. Trippe in a New York City speech stated:

‘By each successive step, aviation is advancing to that potential ideal of a universal service for humanity.  By overcoming artificial barriers, aviation can weave together, in closer understanding, the nations of the world, and lift for the peoples of the world those horizons which have too long limited the prospective of those who live upon this earth.’

“These words are fulfilled in this book, an anthology of stories written by the people of Pan Am.  They were there at the important and news-making events that shaped the airline’s life.  Many of these events made headlines around the world, such as the carnage at Tenerife or the Lockerbie bombing.   And, with the recent fall of Muammar Ghaddafi, the name Pan American is still commanding space in news publications today.  Other events, among so many, might have just been a small item in the local newspaper or were never reported at all. 

“There were those employees who went beyond the call of duty; others were simply doing their job and in some cases there was loss of life of their dear friends.   The bottom line, big or small, heroic or otherwise, is that the events were important to the airline and its people.  This is the story we have to tell: The historic achievements of Pan Am as experienced and lived by its greatest resource – its people.”

Below are some comments:

From Michael Manning, Broadcast Journalist and Media Consultant,

“[The book takes the] reader ‘inside Pan Am’ relative to its achievements and tragedies from a first-person perspective. * * * [O]ver 70 first-hand accounts . . . that lend authenticity to the human experience shared by employees at all levels of the company.  By the conclusion of the book, what becomes evident is that this unique US institution—long admired as ‘the American Flag’ by many foreign countries—has also come to represent a piece of the USA that has been sadly lost. This wonderful presentation of Pan Am revealed without barriers allows the reader to ponder a company that was only as great as the people who made it ‘The World’s Most Experienced Airline’”.

From Bobby Booth, long time airline consultant and aficionado,

“The stories in this book make up what is essentially one important story – a story of dedication, heroism, and sacrifice – by an airline and its people during an important period of aviation history.  It is a story that needs to be preserved in history for future generations.  This book is an important step in that direction.”  

From Edward S. Trippe, Chairman, Pan Am Historical Foundation,

” . . . is a tribute to the legacy of one of the world’s great airlines and the men and women who for six decades were the soul of the company. * * * [This is] a compelling book, which through the words of its contributors captures much of the joy, adventure and spirit which was Pan Am.”

From Readers,

“This is a superb collection of very short tales by a wide range of former employees ranging from flight crew to “ground pounders.” Taken together they provide an accurate, intimate view of what made this airline great.”

“Pan Am – nostalgia – memories – incredible stories. A must read if you enjoy air travel and get to wondering just what kind of lives did – and do – airline personnel live.”

“A nice compiling of stories by former Pan Am employees.  Well worth the read for any fan of Pan Am or airlines in general. Pan Am was the pioneer and the stories in the book prove it!”

From Sir Richard Branson, Chairman, Virgin Group,

“Fathered by the legendary Juan Trippe, Pan American was the leader in international aviation exploration and development. A relentless risk-taker, Trippe was an innovator and ultimate entrepreneur……………and this book captures many of Pan Am’s most memorable events from personal accounts of the employees who were there.”

This book is available for purchase directly from the publisher:

http://bluewaterpress.com/Catalog/book_pan_am2.html

This book is also available from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/American-Airways-Aviation-History-Through/dp/1604520728/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381238392&sr=1-1&keywords=Pan+American+World+Airways+-+Aviation+History

For more information about Pan American World Airways history visit the website of the Pan Am Historical Foundation at  http://panam.org/