A baby boomer’s very special first journey

You’ll love this story, because it’s about a very special trip. Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania’s Leslie Handler, who also blogs for Huffington Post, tells of a trip that made this baby boomer feel like royalty. And when you read about it, you’ll find out why.

This is the best trip ever! We get to the airport in record time. We pull up curbside to find a friendly skycap waiting for us. He’s got on one of those navy blue flat-topped hats with the shiny patent leather brim, his name embroidered over the pocket of his starched shirt. He lifts our bags, two for each of us, and carts them away for a dollar tip.

Writer Leslie Handler.

Writer Leslie Handler.

We’re greeted at the counter by a ticket agent with a warm inviting smile. It’s the kind of smile that’s accompanied by a glance up at us acknowledging her gratitude for our presence. The skycap brings her our bags. She checks them, gives us claim checks, and doesn’t ask us for any further payment. She hands us our boarding passes, thanks us, and directs us to our gate.

We glance down at the boarding passes with our seat assignments on them. Awesome. Two of us have the requested window seats, and two of us have the requested aisle seats. Since we have nothing to carry but our small purses, we easily walk to the gate in five minutes and hand our boarding passes to the agent at the desk. She looks so pretty. Her perfect size-eight body fits smartly into her airline uniform. She too shines that now familiar grin our way, the one with the glance up and the gratitude. She hands back the passes and tells us it will only be a few minutes until we’re ready to board.

I feel like an elite princess from a foreign land as we’re escorted to our seats. We’re sitting two-and-two across the aisle from one another. There is no one in either middle seat.

Economy class seats in the 1970s were wider than today and had more legroom.  The food was quite good.

Economy class seats in the 1970s were wider than today and had more legroom. The food was quite good.

After takeoff , we’re offered a steaming, scented washcloth to refresh ourselves, and a free warm breakfast. We have our choice of an omelet or pancakes. We carefully unwrap the shiny flatware from its tightly wrapped white linen napkin. I place the napkin in my lap to protect my outfit from the possibility of a syrup mishap.

Kids were given "wings" during a flight.

Kids were given “wings” during a flight.

This is such an extraordinary experience that I want to savor every moment. Who gets to do this? Who gets treated like such royalty? I want to take this feeling and shrink it down to the size of a pill so it will fit in my purse. If I can just do that, then I can take it out at my whim, swallow it whole, and fall down the rabbit hole to feel like this again and again.

Our food trays are removed and we’re provided with a deck of cards with the airline logo on the box. We’re told we can keep the cards when we leave the aircraft.

United Airlines in the 1970s.

United Airlines in the 1970s.

After a pleasant flight, we come to a gentle landing and begin to disembark. I’m handed a metal pin with airline wings to attach to my party dress. It’s the new one with the powder-blue ribbon on it that ties on the side. It looks so pretty with my lace tights that slide neatly into my white patent leather Mary Janes. Mom reminds me to put my white gloves back on before we exit the plane.

That was forty-eight years ago. I was six-years old. It was my first plane trip. You already know how to describe my last plane trip. If you’re out there and you can hear me, can you please call the 60s? I want my customer service back!

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    1. Glad it brought back good memories because my memories from my most recent flight were filled with confirmed reservations yet no seat on the plane, a stop when I paid extra for a non-stop flight, a bag with my meds taken and checked for lack of overhead storage space, and a lecture,when I made a run for the bathroom, to return to my seat when the “fasten seat belt” sign had not once been turned off on a three hour flight. Mary Ann, I hear your sigh and I raise you!

  1. Recently I ran across my great aunt’s black and white photos documenting her trip to Ireland in the early 60s. As a newspaper staff member, her trip was photographed, beginning with her flight. It looked like a photo essay straight out of Life Magazine with the passengers in their Sunday best, drinking out of real coffee cups.

    (I had white gloves and lace tights, too, except mine were yellow to match my yellow patent leather Mary Janes.)

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