The following is an excerpt from the memoirs of our very own EVE. The book is unfinished.
It is also untitled but two possibilities are under consideration—When They Say Detroit,
Get Off, is a reference to the time EVE’s parents put her on a train in Louisville, Kentucky
and her father told her, When They Say Detroit, Get Off. EVE was five years old and her
recollections of that trip are probably mental images created by the oft-told story. When she
arrived, although she insisted she had bought herself a sandwich and rented a pillow, she still had more money
than when she started out. So, of course, no one was terribly surprised that 30 years later she went into politics.
The other potential name for the tome is, Where’s Goody Two Shoes, a nickname she has endured most of her
life and the derisive term her fellow politicians saddled her with—which, in many respects, was a compliment. Or
so they said. At any rate, this particular selection from the manuscript pertains to one of her other careers—five
years flying for Eastern AirLines.
The public thought of us as "high flyin’ gals" in those halcyon days of the airline industry. Perhaps we
were. In 1961 we flew in kinder, gentler skies where all female flight attendants were called
stewardesses, and the cockpit door was never locked. The five-week stewardess training classes
were conducted on the grounds of the Miami Springs Villas and students good-naturedly dubbed
the program "Smile School". Thirty-eight years later I still remember several of the more salient
subjects we were taught.
On an airplane, the ultimate authority and the person with the "last word" on everything was the captain. In
response to any passenger query which we could not immediately answer, we were instructed to say, "I’ll find out
for you." Under no circumstances were we to reply, "I don’t know." Passenger confidence in us was a priority.
Topics most often repeated and emphasized came under the heading of crisis situations. It was absolutely
verboten to ever utter the "C" word. Even if all the engines caught fire and the cabin was filled with smoke we
must not under any circumstances say anything other than, "We have an emergency." Airplanes did not have
crashes; they experienced temporary malfunctions, unforeseen occurrences, and the occasional predicament.
In five years of flying, my personal encounter with such an episode involved a broken
nose gear, a foamed runway, lots of fire engines and other emergency vehicles, and
people sliding down chutes. Imagine my astonishment when the captain got on the public
address system that night and announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to have
to make a crash landing and the stewardesses will now begin preparing the cabin.
Please follow their instructions." It probably did sound better coming from him. The New
York Post headline the following day boldly pronounced, "Fate throws a seven for Flight
On a far more mundane level but equally important in the eyes of our teachers and then
supervisors was uniform protocol. When in full regalia we were to adhere to a strict
dress code: our hair length must be kept short so that it never touched the collar of our
blouses or long enough to be worn in a French twist; uniform hats much be worn at all
times; white gloves could only be removed when in flight; flat heeled shoes were not
permitted except when serving a meal. We were to wear no jewelry whatsoever, save for
one ring which had to be worn on the right hand; girdles were mandatory at all times,
unless we were "pencil" thin enough to get away with garter belts; and since the physical
requirement was for 20/40 vision, glasses were out of the question. The code of conduct
while in uniform dictated that smoking, swearing, chewing gum or drinking was not allowed. Our positions were
immediately terminated if we married. Those carefree skies came with a lot of rules and regulations.
A strict policy forbade animals on board. With few exceptions, passengers were not allowed to
bring ANY pet into the cabin of the airplane. Twice, I flew with Guy Lombardo and his black,
standard-sized (well behaved, I might add) poodle. Once was New Year’s Day, and it did seem
reasonable to cut the man a little slack on that occasion. During another trip, a very
prosperous-looking couple were seated in the two first class seats facing the bulkhead. On the
floor, at the woman’s feet was a birdcage containing a parakeet that drank Manhattans out of a
shot glass all the way from New York to Florida. His name was "Boobie," and he too seemed mannerly enough.
Of course, it might have been the booze.
This restriction pertaining to pets was so vigorously upheld, as a rule, that one story about a
man and his pooch became airline industry folklore. To this day I don’t know that this ever
actually took place, but it made pretty hilarious story telling. A passenger was escorted back to
the front door clutching his little dog which he thought he had succeeded in hiding under his
coat. The stewardess informed him, in no uncertain terms, that he would not be permitted to
remain on board with his pet. As he descended the stairs, he turned, looked up at her and said,
"You know what you can do with that plane don’t you?" To which she replied, "Yes sir, and if you
can put your dog in the same place, you can take it with you!"
Eight girls in my graduating class chose New York City as a base, and we understood we would be assigned
flights out of LaGuardia, Idlewild (now Kennedy), and Newark (in New Jersey). We split up into groups of four
and occupied two apartments in a building that at times seemed to be virtually on the end of the runway at
LaGuardia. We were certainly on the final approach flight pattern in inclement weather.
During the first two months one of the girls in my group laughingly related that she got sick on every trip and
complained that the altitude must be causing her to retain fluid because the skirt of her uniform was becoming
increasingly tight. We were stunned when we heard her crying hysterically in the bathroom where she had
become sequestered with the telephone. She was pleading with her boyfriend back home to make her an
"honest woman." The fact that it took several months for all of us, including our pregnant friend, to realize what
was happening reinforced what I already feared, that I was just a "country bumpkin." Smile School hadn’t fixed
As a farewell gesture, to our friend, I suggested to the others that a plain gold bracelet would make a nice
memento. Furthermore, I volunteered to select something and mentioned a jewelry store I had
noticed a couple of blocks from Saks. If the three of us each chipped in a bit, we could easily
afford something tasteful.
So on a cool and drizzling day, I donned a raincoat and tied a scarf around my head. (Twenty
years before the expression "bag lady" entered our lexicon I was definitely ahead of the curve
with my outfit.) The minute I stepped inside Cartier’s and saw the deep, plus carpeting and
elegantly appointed décor, I knew I was a Kentucky girl in "grass way over her head."
Unfortunately, I was already facing a pleasant but imposing looking gentleman who asked if he could help. I
stammered something about a plain gold bracelet for a young woman friend and followed him through three
rooms of other breathtaking baubles until we reached the "bracelet" room. (In those days, the interior of Cartier’s
made Tiffany’s look like K-Mart!)
As I walked slowly around the display cases I became increasingly intimidated and uneasy but
tried to hide my angst as I pointed to what I hoped was the least expensive in a dazzling array. He
withdrew the tray from the case and remarked on my good taste as I turned over the price tag. In
what I hoped was an Oscar winning performance in nonchalance, I stated, "No, I don’t think any of
these are quite what I’m looking for." I then beat a hasty retreat. In 1961 $200 was more money
than I would save in a couple of good years.
Even divided by three it was considerably more than we each paid in rent. I have never been in
Cartier’s again. I still harbor a lingering fear that even now, 38 years later, someone there would
spot me and say, "Oh, the girl who just fell off the back of a turnip truck has returned."
When I travel by plane today I am struck by what a nine-to-five type of job it appears to be for the cabin crew.
Many have husbands or wives and families, wear stylish eyeglasses, and lots of interesting jewelry. The hats and
gloves disappeared years ago. There are very few meal services on domestic trips, and serving carts make
everything much easier to dispense.
The days of "coffee, tea, or me" disappeared along with open cockpits and hot towels
used in the first-class cabin when gourmet meals were served on fine china. Occasionally
I have a nostalgia attack and fond memories of those "high flyin’ gals." Like so many
others, the Kentucky girl arrived in Miami Springs and embraced it as a magical
stratosphere. She completed Smile School and arrived in New York City feeling like
"Queen of the world." She even believed prince charming might likely be aboard her first
flight. Instead, on one of her earliest trips, she found herself down on her knees mopping up a spilled food tray
which had not been securely fastened before take off. As I wiped peas and gravy up off the floor the passengers
sitting next to the galley (kitchen) looked down and asked if I needed any help. I still vividly recall my answer, "No
thank you, I’m just trying to find the glamour."
It’s definitely Not Cleaning up spilled food