40 Years Out On The Line

Posted October 2, 2003

By Daniel F. McIntyre

After American Airlines acquired our assets, the folks at the Skyliner asked me to write about my TWA memories. They were planning a final edition and were seeking memories. I wrote a short item, but although I lost contact with them, I continued to make notes as time and memory permitted.

I have collected TWA memorabilia since 1953, and conversations with visitors to my display room help keep my memories fresh. Here, then, are random thoughts from the viewpoint of 40 years out on the line. I apologize for any incorrect spelling of names, and to so many people I may not have mentioned. I hope these memories may stimulate others to recall some of their own.

One of my first memories is of the aroma of the hi-octane gasoline used on the 1049=s. On this subject I also recall that the fleets of the various Connies each had their own unique scent, but the problem was not as bad on the 1049=s and almost disappeared completely with the Super G. The Douglas DC-4 was often not the nicest-smelling flying machine. The first time I heard the terms ASky Roach@ and AVomit Comet@ it was being applied to the DC-4. The 707 galleys often reeked on the ground. Commissary boarded aerosol spray and used a product called "Nil-Odor," to mask the problem.

I remember when our address was 10 Richards Road, Kansas City, Missouri, with the bottom line of every manual page stating, "Nothing in this manual replaces the exercise of good judgment on the firing line."

I began my TWA career in 1952 loading galleys and passenger service supplies at MDW. After loading, it was customary to show the hostess where everything was stored. This often became a social event where conversation and coffee were sometimes shared. Casual friendships grew out of these brief but frequent contacts.

I often wonder where these wonderful "girls" are today. Patty Cherpes went to Laos with Dr. Tom Dooley. Helen Christianson from LAX, and one-of-a-kind. Patty Gallagher -- a poster girl for the paper uniforms. Georgiana Bell, a favorite with DCA passengers. Delores "DoDo" Narz, one of the very best. Maggie Gibbs, a very special lady. Rhonda Whissle, a pal from MDW. Sara Lee Mason, a Ano excuses@ MKC supervisor. A beautiful girl named Starr. Ellie Kertog, what a winner. Joan Paschke, I was a freshie when she was a senior in the same high school. Donna McNearny-Ward, classy-smart and beautiful. Ona Gieschen, my pal for so long it=s hard to remember just when it started. Marion Maxfield-Larson -- how she loved the Super Connie and a dear friend until she AWent West.@ Val Hubinschnidt, a fun lady flying the jets. Pat Martin from PIT was so nice and married my first supervisor, Art Schricker. Arlene Hilderbrant spoke five languages, was furloughed and went to Eastern Y Jackie Venterelli, Judy Thirty-Acres, Pat O=Hearn, Rose Ryan and so many, many others.

I hesitate to mention the captains I have known as I am sure to miss some. Jack Schnaubelt, retired flight deck man of the year in 1969. Warren Melvick liked to talk about guns. Roger Don Rae, so much more than an airline pilot. J.J. Quinn, a great guy. Nick Nichols, he loved to fish. SFO=s John Montgomery, a fun guy (but don=t delay his flight!). Randy Kramer, still doing a "PR" job at LAX. Ed Betts, writer, TWA historian and photographer. John Mitchel, one of the best. George Duvall, he was a real pro. Bart Hewitt, George Gay, Harry Meade, Roy Ownby, R. Meyers, Don "Snuffy" Smith, Dennis Maloney and many others.

My fellow ground workers I think of most often include Bill Sheehe and Frank Hannigan, two of the best from MDW. Bud Lawless who promoted me. Donald "Augie" Goetz, first my boss and later my friend. Augie moved me to STL, which changed my life. Earl Bartman, a straight-shooter from STL. Ed Kammerer, a station manager with a heart. Jack Piel, Bill McGroarty and Harry Walker -- my first friends in STL. Les Wood who was as good as he was tough, and he was tough. Kansas City=s U.S. "Sam" Powell, hard and fair with a great sense of humor. John Truex, a strong but soft-spoken gentleman.

Bob Durs, another good one from Chicago. Al Day, an amazing guy. Jim Gravette, one of the best. Joe Genne, a real TWA AGood Guy.@ Jerry Dowling and Ralph Rooney both fine men. Jon Proctor who had a career with TWA to be jealous of. Jon is now editor of "Airliners" magazine, and wrote the excellent article, "Salute to TWA," in the July 2001 issue. Ginny Henline from MDW, made famous in the movie "Airport," and Diane Beckus-McIntyre, the best asset that TWA stores ever had. Two very special men -- Mr. Porterfield and Mr.Thompson, They were very senior fleet service helpers when I started and taught me about a side of American life I of which was very ignorant.

The efforts of the following men accounted for my longevity: Keith Dalton, Dan Saali, Stan Mangogna, Ernie Bischoff (founder of Operation Liftoff), Ken Sharp, Larry Shell, Eric Kanton, Dean Vanette, Dave Schulte, Larry ARed Leader@ Shell, Harold Cortell, a lead pantry man in the MDW kitchen who became a Commissary clerk and later a ASky Cap@, and many, many others.

I remember when you did not board a terminating flight until fleet service put a rug runner on the floor Y changing all headrest covers and pillowcases Y a "triple A" cleaning of the plane=s interior Y fresh cloth hand towels in the lavatories Y fleet servicemen having to carry toilet cans down the stairs Y helping agents push the passenger loading ramps up to the aircraft Y using umbrellas when it rained for passengers flying the new Lockheed 1049G Y rolling out a red carpet and placing chrome chains and stanchions from the steps to the gate Y hostesses wearing a uniform hat and commissary boarding a toy broom and dustpan for them to tidy up the cabin.

I remember when, on a certain date, they would ferry all flyable airplanes out of California to avoid tax liabilities Y when TWA operated a crew bus 24 hours a day. It ran between the hanger and terminal at MDW. I recall one night when employees from various departments gathered to applaud a Captain as he deplaned, having set a new speed record between cities. I also remember one morning when a

WW-2 B-25 bomber, painted in TWA red and white livery, taxied into the west bay of the MDW hanger. This would have been a major No-No, but it was there to pick up someone named Hughes.

I recall those wonderful little sandwiches, one half ham and Durkee=s dressing and the other half sweet brown bread with cream cheese. Two of the best Royal Ambassador menus: Beef and Oyster sauce and Iron Skillet Chicken. Having ice cream sundaes or coffee and cognac on a high-flying 707. I remember when beverages were boarded in two-gallon jugs Y when entrees were boarded in warming carriers Y making berths for the crews on the 749A international flights and for domestic passengers on both the Super and SuperG flights Y non-revving on my G-39 pass Y hostesses placing pillows on passengers= laps to support the meal tray Y the airsickness containers were cardboard "Burp" cups stowed under the seat Y the cockpit door being open during flight and passengers encouraged to Acome forward.@

I remember when liquor was boarded in fifths only. That did not last very long before the miniature Ashooters@arrived. I remember during the daily inventory spending hours trying to find a shortage of just one or two bottles. I had a vacation relief supervisor, Bob Hartnut, who taught me a trick that eliminated hours of searching for errors. We kept a box to store overages that were not on the daily inventory, and whenever there was a shortage we would dip into the overage box. Many years later in St. Louis, when it was a hub, there were no effective liquor controls. Our usage activity was higher by a power of about one thousand and I often wondered what our daily losses might have been.

The (PSK) passenger service kits contained baby food, diapers and pins. They also had baby certificates, coat/parcel tags and 2 green Class 44 equipment "out of service@ tags. I remember the card playing board with the elastic band to hold the cards in place. I remember when we boarded an ice pick and small silver ice tongs, and when the overhead racks were used only for pillows, blankets, coats and hats Y useing the same schedule format as the railroads Y just one class of service Y snacks being boarded in white paper boxes Y "Wrigley Chiclets" chewing gum and electric hot cups to heat water Y occasionally boarding a Bon-Voyage cake or bottle of champagne Y and Catholic passengers being granted special dispensation permitting them to eat meat when flying TWA on Fridays.

I recall the sounds of the AOperations Office@ -- some stations called it ALoad Control.@ The staccato rhythms of the Teletype machines blending with sounds from the hand-cranked adding machines Y hearing interesting conversations on the Private Line Fone ("PLF") where all calls started with the same question, "line clear?" I remember when the St. Louis Ambassador Club was a bottle club and each member had to stash their own booze there. Norma Nuedecker was the club hostess and Akeeper of the bottles.@ I remember when the planes all had names -- my personal favorite was AStar of Paris@ on Plane #555, an O49 Connie Y the last thing boarded on a departing flight was the "Greenie" weight slip Y the transportation agent crisply saluting the captain at departure time Yeverything, including our uniform shirts, getting little black spots from the exhaust fumes of the piston fleet Y seeing the Teletype Operator=s hands covered in bright colored goo after they had cleaned the machines.

Before Xerox, the only copy machine available was that sticky pad that Teletype Operators used to make copies of the messages we called "Long Lines." The door marked "Arinc Radio" (Aeronautical Radio Incorporated) that was always closed, hiding operators that never seemed to leave the room. I remember the few times when I was invited into their world and allowed to listen as they Aworked@ our flights. I remember June 30th, 1956, when we lost Flight 2 in the Grand Canyon, and the cargo flight just south east of midway airport.

I remember the old O=Hare terminal in 1960 with only four gates and an Ambassador club. It was small but nice. I remember when I started at MDW in 1952 the contractor was not finished with the two bay hangars. I recall the night they tried to park a 707 in the STL hanger. It was a duplicate of the Midway hanger, but it had only one bay. Everyone was watching the wing tips because of the tight fit, but they managed to damage the tail when it struck a ceiling-mounted heater vent.

I remember the hi-tech "Tele-autograph" machine that sat on the Kitchen Supervisor=s desk in 1952. That was where I learned the Alanguage@ of the airline. The AFIC@ (Flight Information Coordinator) would receive operational information messages from Teletype to be distributed to various departments, and the FIC would write on the surface of the sending unit with an attached pen Y the receiving units would then copy every pen stroke to be read at the other end.

The text was often difficult to read, and with apologies to MDW=s Pete Constantino, Tom Coyne, Harold Stam and John Seeper, and Jim Peters, also STL=s Bob Luecke, Wilber Lewis, Rex Ward, Bob Handley and Gerry Armstrong, and MKC 's Pop Gromer, here are some samples of messages as I recall them. Please note, as I learned much later, it was harder to print well than I thought.

1. FLT 37 P 506 eta 00:48 g 12

2. f 16 LNDG mkc FUEL

3. FERRY PLN 909 ORIG CHI - LAX 04:30 FROM HGR 3 CREW

4. f 29 CX jfk REORIG chi SKD PLN LTR

5. FLT 37 DLAD MECH 1 HR ADZ wand ck no 2

6. F 91 OPG AS STD CONNIE PLN 811

7. FLT 37 PLN CHG DEPT ASAP A/C 904 G 14

8. WEA 1 1/5- MILE 300FT lt rain

9. flt 92-09 futhr DLAD OKC MECH will ADZ

10. FLT 92-10 p 555 OFF lax SKD

11. F 55 p 218 now OVR DAY PROCg DIR cHI ETA approx 1 hr early

12. flt 15 a/c 605 term gate 14 e 04:51

13. Cargo 792 :55 late MKC ldg

14. chtr f 9454 pln 388 eta chi 06:25 g-10

15.we are closed accnt wea "fog"

Legend

1.Flight 37 Plane 506 estimate time of arrival 00:48 gate 12

2. Flight 16 landing at MKC for fuel

3. Ferry plane 909 originate Chicago to Los Angeles at 04:30 departing from the hanger area with a crew of three only

4. Flight 29 Cancelled at New York but would re-originate at Chicago on schedule plane number information would come later

5. Flight 37 will be on a one hour advised time on arrival. The crew has requested that maintenance use a tool call a wand to check the temperature of all the cylinders of the number two engine

6. Flight 91was scheduled to operate with a 1049 super constellation aircraft. It was being changed to a Lockheed 749 Constellation plane number 811

7. Flight 37 was plane changing at Chicago departing as soon as possible using aircraft number 904 from gate14

8. Weather report visibility one and a fifth mile with the ceiling at 300 feet, light rain

9. Flight 92 that originated on the ninth day of the month was in Oklahoma City on a mechanical delay, that delay was being extended one more hour and they would tell us more information in an hour.

10. Flight 92 that originated on the tenth day of the month using plane number 555 was off Los Angeles on schedule

11. Flight 55 plane number 218 scheduled to land at DAY was now operating over DAY and proceeding direct to Chicago, estimated time of arrival would be one hour early

12. Flight 15 aircraft 605 scheduled to terminate at Chicago using gate 14, estimated time of arrival 04:51

13. Cargo flight 792 was 55 minutes late at Kansas City due to loading of the aircraft

14. Charter Flight Number 9454, plane 388, estimate time of arrival at Chicago 06:25 gate number 10

15. Chicago Midway was closed due to weather, fog, no flight would land or depart.

For the purists out there B yes -- they entered the time after each entry.

I recall when STL station manager; Ed Kammerer had his Commissary department put together an audio-visual program for him to present at the 605 corporate offices. The subject was to explore the use of STL as a hub. We did not have much budget, only enough for a few rolls of slide film. We used local volunteer employees from OZ and TW in the slide show. Phil Millard, a former Arinc radio operator turned commissary supervisor, did the audio -- a wine glass, one quarter full of water, tapped with a pencil, was the recorded cue to advance to the next slide. The STL people working on this project were Commissary Manager Augie Goetz, Ron Parchman and myself. Ron did research and assisted Augie and me in writing the text. I did the photography. I'm not sure it was very effective, but several years later, look what happened to STL.

It has occurred to me that a personal recollection of TWA would be incomplete without some mention of traveling, or attempting to travel, on a pass -- more commonly known as, "Non-revving." It was an adventure to fly on our piston fleet. The flights were longer and there was more interplay between the passengers. I recall one flight on a 1049 Super Connie MDW/PHX when, after lunch, the hostess set up a poker game. She used the forward cabin and they played for matchsticks. She even wore a green visor when she played. Her flying partner told me she did it on almost every trip.

From 1964 B 1974, I was a weekly commuter STL/LAX. Many memories of this time in my life all seem to start by recalling the recorded announcement, "The white zone is for the immediate loading and unloading of passengers only Y no parking.@ This was the LAX terminal parking restriction announcement that played continuously.

In the era before computers, flying on a pass was challenging. Counting passengers as they boarded was not an uncommon practice. The classifications and seniority of other pass-riders was unknown, which often caused us to compare vital information in the Gate Hold Room. A Chicago mechanic once gave me a rule to fly by, "Never ever leave the gate room or get too comfortable in your seat on board until the aircraft is off the ground!@ Y sage advice. Computers eliminated any game-playing or favoritism by gate agents, but they couldn=t do a complete job of helping non-revs Y does anyone else remember being told to wait in the airplane=s doorway while the agent or F/A physically searched for an open seat?

Traveling during seasonal peaks and holidays was risky, creating some PA announcements that were anything but sweet music to the ears of this non-rev. After being removed at station stops a few times I was finally boarded, only to sit and wait for the dreaded sound of the Gate Agent keying the aircraft P/A system, "This is your gate agent, would the following passengers please collect all of their personal belongings and report to me in the gate area." Or standing at the gate at midnight watching the boarding process, and hearing "Flight 72 is full this evening. Our next flight to STL is 174 at 0745." Another heart-breaker was hearing the announcement that your destination city was closed due to weather. That one always ruined my day.

Another announcement was rare, but it has happened. One hour into your flight, you're feeling snug and comfortable when the captain says," We will be making an unscheduled landing at (city) to pick up passengers from a flight that has just canceled." After this one, all the non-revs aboard started digging for their timetables.

I remember when there was a pack of Philip Morris cigarettes on each meal tray Y when we changed brands to Winstons and for a time Salems Y how the air quality in the cabin changed after the "NO SMOKING" sign went out. It seemed to me that the smoke was thickest on flights to LAS. I remember one flight to LAX when I stood in the aft galley holding a cigarette for the F/A. She would steal a drag when she could. The smoking habits of the airline, and the world, certainly have changed

A low pass classification and not much seniority generated some undesirable Aperks@ such as learning to sleep in airport chairs or wandering around airports at night. In the 1950s it was not so bad as I was much younger then and terminal snack bars and gift shops most often were open. When the ticket counters were staffed, the graveyard shift people seemed to enjoy our conversations. Changing flight patterns and increased security have now turned our airports into deserted buildings after midnight. (Please note, I am one of those who would like to get my hands on the designers of those airport chairs!)

TWA was known as the AAirline of the Stars.@ I was lucky to travel with or see many of them. In the late 1950s my wife Diane and I were flying ORD/LAX on a 707. Diane was holding our infant son. When the hostess attempted to serve our dinner a fellow passenger, Mr. William Bendix, asked if he and his wife could hold the baby while we ate. After dinner, he said, AI don=t suppose you would let us keep him.@ I was once Walt Disney=s seat |companion from STL/LAX -- he was a friendly man.

Other Acelebrities@ I have flown with are Jimmy Durante, Bill Cosby and John Payne. I shook hands with Harry Truman and with Jack Fleck, the 1955 U.S open golf Champ. Very early one morning, I was loading the galley on a 1049 Super Connie. It was a thru flight from Idlewild (now JFK) to LAX. A very young and beautiful Elizabeth Taylor walked through the galley going to the lavatory. I waited for her return, and she did say, AHi@. Late one night at Lambert I spoke with Dr. King and Mr. Farmer.

On another flight we sat two rows behind Jayne Mansfield -- her presence caused quite a stir with the crew and other passengers. I tried to give Col. John Glenn a free upgrade not long after his first flight in space. He refused my offer and shook my hand. I saw Corinne Calvet and MacDonald Cary on a Ared eye@ SuperG flight MDW/LAX in the early 1950s. Others I have seen at airports include John Derek, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, Cesar Romero, Jane Russell, Dale Robertson, Ethel Merman and the very beautiful Linda Darnell. It seems like there were many more, but my memory is incomplete today.

I worked with a man in the 1950's named Pete "Pappy" Slazek. He often told stories about playing cards with George Raft and other Big Shots when he worked as a chef on the Santa Fe Railroad, but I never believed him. One morning we were standing at the bottom of the passenger stairs when Mr. Raft deplaned. He stopped in front of Pete and stuck out his hand and said, "Pete, you old SOB, where have you been?" They spoke for several minutes. Pete has been gone for quite awhile, but I remember him fondly from time to time.

I want to share a side benefit of non-revving. I flew into LAX in the middle 1950s at Christmas time. It was a very clear night and most impressive. I have made that approach to LAX during the Holidays many times over the years and it is still awe-inspiring. I have tried to capture it on film but it is just not the same. I remember one flight on a 747. It was a clear night and the crew turned down the cabin lights. The cabin became very quiet. There must be billons of festive lights visible there on clear nights in late December.

Do any of you remember some of the nicknames given to TWA: "Thieves, Whores and Alcoholics," "Twenty Wobbly Airplanes," "Try Waiting Awhile," "Travel With Angels," "The Worst Airline." The one I always disliked the most was "Travel With American."

Some personal highlights of my 40 years:

Worked 1st Convair 880 at ORD

Met last TWA piston (Connie) flight at STL

Worked TWA 1st 1011 flight STL LAX, rode on last 1011 flight

Helped MCI on their first L1011 flight

Rode the last TWA 707 flight with Jon Proctor

Slept in berth, MDW/ LAX , 1049G

Worked as F/A on STL-LAX flights on several occasions -- 707, 727,727S

Worked 1st 747 flight from STL

Drafted to work in Coach Bar on 707, 747 and L1011 flights STL-LAX during holiday peaks

Rode in lower galley L1011 washing dishes STL-LAX No dinner plates boarded by my crew.

Had dinner served on FC round table on 1011 Flight 177 STL-LAX with TWAer Dennis and Mrs. Shearin.

Rode the last TWA 1011 flight ORL-STL with Jon Proctor

Worked as additional F/A on several, "Girl Friday@ charters.

Rode TWA final AFarewell@ Flight 220 MCI-STL with Ona Gieschen

Finally the airplanes:

Aircraft Type TWA service My involvement

Douglas DC-3 Charter & Cargo Worked

Douglas DC-4 Psgr & Cargo Worked / pass-rider

Lockheed O-49 Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Lockheed 749 Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Lockheed 1049 Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Lockheed 1049G Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Lockheed 1649 Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Martin 202 Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Martin 404 Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Boeing 707 Psgr & Cargo Worked / pass-rider

Douglas DC-9 Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Boeing 727 Psgr & Cargo Worked / pass-rider

Boeing 727S Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Boeing 747 Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Convair 880 Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Boeing 747 SP Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Lockheed L1011 Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Douglas MD 80 Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Boeing 767 Psgr Worked / pass-rider

Boeing 757 Psgr pass-rider

Boeing 717 Psgr pass-rider

TWAs acquisition of St. Louis-based Ozark caused great angst for their employees. I remember a Missouri license plate in their employee lot, "OZ B4 TW." I found for the most part that they were highly motivated and hard working. Five years later I was among those who claimed, "If you cut a former Ozark employee, they would still bleed green." I often wondered how I would have reacted in their situation. Nine years after I retired, American took over TWA and I feel that I may never get over it. So a tip of my hat to the "Greensiders" for the classy way they handled their disappointment.

Among the merging group of fine Ozark people were Wayne Kelley and Chet Rupp -- both old acquaintances and now old friends Y Captain Jim Watson who had left TWA years before to pursue a different career in flying Y Maggie Lewis who always said hello when we passed each other in the concourse Y Gary Saunders who came to work very early shared many early morning cups of coffee with me Y and so many others that were with me, at Commissary/Aircraft Services when I retired in 1992.

On Sunday, February 10, 2002, I flew home from DFW where we had attended a TWA presentation at American Airlines= C.R. Smith museum. Passing the former Ozark parking lot, I saw another license plate, "OZ TW AA", and wondered if may have belonged to the same person?

I have many memories good and bad, and much to be thankful for. I shall continue to wear my TWA 40-year service pin with pride as I grieve the lost sense of our "community." The cover of an old Saturday Evening Post magazine cover, sums up my feelings. It shows a painting by Norman Rockwell, depicting a young boy about to enter the gate to a circus, pulling a wagon loaded with a large bucket of water. With great pride he tells the burly gatekeeper, "I=m with it!"

It is this feeling of having been Awith it" that I will miss whenever I fly again.

###

Dan McIntyre (1952-1992) served in Station Operations at MDW, ORD and STL, and invites reader comments or memories at TWARemembered@aol.com

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