Glamour is Only the Beginning….

Boeing 707

“Glamour: an attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing, especially in a mysterious or magical way. Glamour can be an exciting and often illusory, romantic attractiveness.” Yes, there is a magical, attractive quality to an airship flying high above the azure sea!

Onboard those airships, the “safety directors”, also known as flight attendants, have long been seen as part of the glamour, the magic of flying. Here is my true story of flying five million miles (or sixteen years) as a flight attendant for Trans World Airlines from 1969 to 1985. We were trained in Kansas City, MO then the headquarters of TWA. Eighteen months into my flying career, we received this casual, but official, letter that we could be bombing targets. Did TWA offer us “hazardous duty” pay? Not hardly!

Type written letter to all MKC hostesses in September, 1970. MKC was the airline code for Kansas City’s early downtown airport. Hostess was the job designation for flight attendants used by TWA at that time.

“Be a Woman of the World” was the headline on the brochure I requested from TWA in 1968 with this image reinforcing the message. The photo was a departure from the past: bright colors, short skirts, long hair and a woman of color! Wow, could this be me? Could I be paid to fly around the world? I had graduated from college in 1967 and accepted an entry-level job with the federal government. However, on-going job freezes there found me working as a substitute teacher and living at home with my parents.

TWA flight attendants-late 1960s uniforms by Dalton

My hometown, Miami Springs, Florida, as part of the Greater Miami area, was an airline boom town! We lived close to Miami International Airport where Pan American, Eastern and National Airlines all had headquarters. I had considered the possibility of flying in the past, but at 5′ 10 1/2″ I was considered too tall to be hired by any of those airlines. Much more about this later!
The classic tailored uniforms of earlier decades were missing. My mind’s eye saw this 1958 cover from LIFE magazine.

1958 Life magazine cover of air hostesses

The camaraderie of the group in this photo appealed to me as a young woman.

I started thinking about all this lately because I brought my orange striped hat, dress and jacket uniform items to my trunk show at Cuttin’ Up last month. I found my internet search about flight attendants, our public image and our varying uniforms enlightening. In my eyes, it seems there is a certain “dignity” lacking in some of the later corporate efforts to manipulate that portrayal of women workers.

When I was hired in late 1968 and began flying in March 1969, I could not have known that in 1971 my own image would be part of TWA’s marketing campaign and ads.

TWA ads from 1971 with new uniforms by designer Valentino modeled by Paula Mariedaughter second from right.

This TWA poster from the late 1960s illustrates the jaunty, mod mood of that era.

This late 1960s ad features the Dalton premium wool winter uniforms we wore until summer arrived. In summer we were wore a different set of really ugly polyester dresses.!

In 1971 I was one of the three flight attendants to model our new Valentino designer uniforms at each of the seven domicile cities. I was thrilled by the plum version of the uniform. We had choices of the plum, chocolate brown or a tan color. Best of all, we now had the option to wear trousers! No more summer uniforms and winter uniforms–these polyester uniforms would be worn year round. No required girdles or white gloves or hats!

My real education began after college graduation! Living as a woman worker for a large corporation and as a feminist as the women’s liberation movement was growing, enriched my life in ways it is hard to catalogue. I’m going to write about the highlights and some of the tangents of living the “glamorous” life of a TWA flight attendant/safety director. Perhaps I can dispel some of the common illusions. I’m looking forward to sharing my story with friends!

TWA hangar in Chicago crowded with propeller aircraft–this is prior to the beginning of the “jet age”. For the discerning eye: please note the “dolphin-shaped” aircraft in the lower left of the photo. Are you familiar with this famous, fabulous aircraft?. Answer next week!

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5 Responses to Glamour is Only the Beginning….

  1. Lila says:

    Love seeing these photos and hearing (reading) about the world you knew in those days, Paula!
    No, I don’t know the name of the “dolphin” airplane unless it was the one that broke the sound barrier (senior moment here!)….

    Just remembered….the Concord(e)…but that was in the 1980’s….

    • Paula says:

      Yes, Lila, you are right–I want to write about the world I knew as a young woman in the 1970s and 1980s working as a flight attendant for a major airline. It was a different world. I was a minor player on the stage, yet there is a rich history to be found in first-hand accounts of minor players. Another friend wrote, “It’s hard for me to imagine you as a flight attendant! You have had many adventures.” Definitely adventures are part of the picture I want to portray, but I want to write about the working conditions, feminism, everyday life, and even the allure of the airplanes themselves.
      More about the mysterious Dolphin aircraft later–think the 1950s and 1960s for the answer.

  2. Therese Ramsey says:

    You were influenced to your career in the sky from living near the airport! When I lived in DC we rode our bikes around all the monuments and parks with the children in a cart on the back of Dale’s bike. One of our favorite memories is when we stood near the airport and the planes flew right over our heads!
    You need to add model to your resume. Awesome picture!

    • Paula says:

      I did do a bit of modeling after training at the Monza Modeling Agency in Kansas City, MO. in 1970. (I spent money on the modeling classes, in the hope I could make money to supplement my TWA salary.) From those brief experiences, I realized I was not cut out for the business of evaluating and critiquing women and our bodies. No woman was exempt from self-loathing and self-hate inspired by the artificial standards of beauty pushed on girls and women–even those considered pretty!

  3. Lorelei Waqia says:

    MT daughter sent me this article. I started flying in April 1968. Myself and Gwen English were the only blacks in our class. My picture is in your article. I’m with two other flight attendants running across the tarmac. I stayed with TWA until 1998., retired, then went with United Airlines In 1999. I retired from United at the start of the Pandemic with 23 years. 53 years of flying and 6 children later I figured it was time to give up flying. I do that with many years of great memories with both TWA and United.
    Feel free to reach out I’m sure we’ve been flying partners along the way

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