Back When Flying was Glamorous

Back When Flying was Glamorous

Image from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

DC-3 Stewardess Cart

The Douglas DC-3 airliner is very dear to my heart. I have loved the design and romance of this plane from my childhood, so you can imagine my excitement when a dear friend called and asked me if I would like to accompany her on the final flight of United Airlines’ retiring DC-3 fleet. The year was 1968. The flight was round-trip between San Francisco and Santa Barbara.  

Truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

My friend was, at the time, the longest serving stewardess at United Airlines.  She began her career in 1936 serving aboard United’s Douglas DC-3 Sleeper Transports, also known as Skysleepers, from San Francisco to Honolulu.  She had to be on that last flight and she invited me to join her.

Here's a photo of passengers boarding a DC-3 in the early years, from the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Flash forward to the year 1999.  My husband was a book editor. When a colleague, in a pinch, asked him to ghostwrite a few pages of a workbook based on a best-selling self-help book (which shall be nameless), he panicked.   But since I happen to have once been addicted to the self-help genre, I told him, "Don't sweat the small stuff.  We'll work on it together.  It'll be fun."  Besides, we were being paid a tidy sum for a few hours work. 

A few weeks later we were out poking around antique and vintage shops.  We wandered into a shop called Futures on Granby Street in Norfolk, VA.  Much to my surprise and delight, we discovered an extruded aluminum and Bakelite airline serving cart from a DC-3.  Wow! 

We just had to have this classic example of industrial design.  Bonus that it served on a DC-3.  And the price was exactly what we'd been paid for our work on the book.  Self-help indeed!

Click here if you'd like more information about the DC-3.  

Here are more links that demonstrate the DC-3's stature as an icon of art deco industrial design.  

Video of Delta Airlines' restored DC-3 ship 41.

Video of restored DC-3 on flight from Orlando to Punta Gorda.

Swissair’s restored DC-3.


Image credit: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Found Objects Ltd.