Image by mod as hell via FlickrBy Don Potter
Flying in the '60s was an experience I will never forget. As a pre-boomer, one born between 1930 and 1945, I had the good fortune to see this evolution first-hand. From props to jets. From a slow, uncomfortable means of travel to luxury and rapid convenience. From a special event to an affordable everyday way of conducting business. If you weren't there, let me share with you some of the glory days of flying. If you do remember those days, let's take a trip down memory lane.
My work called for a great deal of air travel throughout the decade of the '60s. In the beginning, virtually all the short hops were on propeller driven planes: DC-3s, Viscounts and Conairs. Electras, Constellations and DC-7s were for longer distances. But it was a thrill to be whisked across the country on the new jets: DC-8s and Boeing 707s, or the all first class Caravel for shorter runs, at twice the speed of the prop planes. What an exciting time for commercial aviation.
While virtually all of today's planes are jets, with the exception of some of those serving the feeder routes, but flying in 2010 bears little resemblance to the joys of air travel 50 or so years ago. Most airports were relatively small, with the big cities being the obvious exceptions. There was no visible security, save an occasional airport policeman. You could arrive at the terminal 15 minutes before takeoff and still make the flight. Compare that to the recommended hour or two recommended today.
Air travelers then bore little resemblance to those now. Suits and ties were worn by men, whether in first class or tourist (as economy/coach was often called, and there was no such thing as business class). Ladies wore appropriate business or social attire as well. All planes allowed smoking, cigarettes only. In fact, free sample packs of cigarettes were included with meals and snacks (peanuts were the snack of choice). The seats seemed more comfortable, and there was definitely more leg room back then.
There were many more airlines from which to choose as compared to the handful of companies flying now. Southwest and Jet Blue did not exist; however, Eastern, National, Capital, Western, PSA, Allegheny, Mohawk, Frontier, Braniff, TWA and Pan Am were all in the air during the '60s and are no longer in existence.
Stewardesses had yet to become flight attendants. In fact, these ladies were proudly shown in ads as a reason to fly a particular airline. Food was promoted as a benefit in selecting one airline over another. Famous chefs supervised the preparation of signature recipes, as service became an important part of the decision making process. The food was good, even in the back of the plane. Imagine that.
It was not cheaper to fly. In fact, in today's dollars, it cost about two-and-a-half times more for a coast to coast flight. But compared to the mess air travel has become and the lack of service one receives in any class, even on cross-country trips, I would gladly pay the extra price to have the enjoyable experience of flying in the '60s. What about you?
Don Potter, a Philadelphia native, was born in 1936 and is a 50 year veteran of the advertising agency business. Now living in Los Angeles, he has written two novels in retirement, frequently writes on marketing issues, and has a blog dedicated to pre-boomers (those born between 1930 and 1945).
Read more articles for and about pre-boomers with thoughts, comments and opinions designed to spark thinking, foster discussion, and stimulate debate by logging on to http://www.pre-boomermusings.com.
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