March 5, 2011
It was March 5th many years ago when I started my training classes for TWA. TWA flew me from LAX to KCI on what would become my favorite airplane, the 727 Stretch.
We took off over Marina Del Rey and I sat watching the glistening blue waves kiss the golden sands receding below me. I still have that beautiful picture in my mind. Hours later – probably after a delicious meal – remember the airlines used to serve great food even in coach – all included in the price of your ticket. Hours later, we came in for our landing at the old Kansas City International Airport where the landing pattern takes you over the downtown skyscrapers and then the bridge spanning the Missouri River, just at the end of the runway.
We were housed at the beautiful, new, state of the art Breech Training Academy in Overland Park, Kansas. It is still there today and has been sold and used by many different companies over the years. This facility was built just for the purpose of training Flight Attendants for Trans World Airlines. Our accommodations were 2 to a suite with 2 well-lit desks, plenty of closet space and a generous private bath. Ten of these suites opened onto a central area which was a sunken living room complete with a modified kitchen. These 20 young women comprised one class. The classes were arranged alphabetically according to last names. Our class was notable at the Academy for its ethnic make-up . I think we had the single most diverse class that was ever enrolled at Breech Academy. There were 4 black women, 1 Egyptian, 1 Chinese, 2 Hispanics, 2 Catholics, 4 WASPs, 2 Jewish, 1 Japanese, 1 from Belgium, 1 German and 1 from Poland. This diversity would not be unusual today, but ‘ahem’ number of years ago it was very unusual. Remember that our classes were determined by last names only and the classes on either side of ours consisted mostly of ethnically similar, if not identical, young women.
Our classrooms were in another building within walking distance from the 4 multi-storied dormitory buildings. These were also state of the art. Each classroom was horseshoe-shaped with a semi-circular bank of 20 fixed chairs with one long continuous horseshoe-shaped desk for the 20 chairs. Each desk ’station’ had its own set of three buttons marked A, B, or C. Theses buttons were used during the 6 weeks of training for in-classroom testing purposes. At the front of the room was a projection room behind a black window which served as the screen for the slides and videos that were used in just about every single class of our training. To the side of this screen was the teachers podium. Her podium was electronically connected to the buttons at our desks. She could put a multiple choice question up on the screen and we would each push the button that indicated what we thought was the correct answer. We would get immediate feedback as soon as we pushed a button at our desk . If you got it correct, a little green light flashed, if incorrect, a little red light flashed.
We were served three meals a day in the huge cafeteria and we had an enormous swimming pool which was encased in a big white plastic bubble so the pool could be used year around. The pool was necessary because it was imperative that each flight attendant pass the water ditching test in order to graduate. And that meant jumping off the end of the diving board into the pool and swimming over to the enormous life raft floating in the center of the pool. Then you had to climb on board the raft with your life vest fully inflated while the people in the raft made the raft bounce around to simulate North Atlantic Ocean waves!
Out of our class of 20 women only 16 graduated. Of that 16, I think that 10 of us went on to international training for another 2 weeks. At that time one had to be proficient in a foreign language and I passed the test in Italian.
And so March 5th is the date that my career with TWA began. It was a career that gave me incredible opportunities, much happiness, innumerable friendships, and was the fulfillment of my childhood dream. And now in retirement, I am still reaping the benefits of all those years of service by being able to use my travel pass benefits. Ah yes, here is a toast to March 5th and all the memories it brings to this now weary traveler.