Saturday, February 11, 2006
Early Air Travel
Today when we think of “Air Travel”, we imagine giant jets zooming in and out of Charles de Gaulle, Heathrow, JFK and the other modern city airports. Multiple gates for boarding and deplaning, trams and conveyers to carry passengers and luggage to and from wherever. The very image of “modern” with voices out of the sky and announcement boards that flash and point. It is all quite romantic and next-worldish with computers determining everything.
BUT... back in 1950, we were going to Lake Champlain in northern Vermont for vacation. We were taking my grandmother (“Gram”) and my wife’s mother (“Mimi”) along. Our car was small and with all the stuff and nonsense we felt it necessary to take, we didn’t have room for every one. It was agreed that Mimi, a certified character and willing to try anything, would fly to Burlington, Vermont, from Philadelphia. Mimi arrived at the Philadelphia airport early and decided to buy a new dress. (Why? Heaven knows! that was Mimi.) Her suitcase already given over to the airline, she carried the dress in its box until boarding time when it was checked. This was before “carry-ons”.
Her plane, on its way to Montreal, stopped at Burlington about 9:00PM. We were there to meet her. She got off and stood waiting beside the plane for her luggage. Her suitcase was dug out of the fuselage by the co-pilot, but there was no sign of the dress. Much arguing ensued. My wife and I were back behind a low chain link fence and couldn’t join the fray. But Mimi was doing fine. The Captain was insisting that there was no dress box on the plane and Mimi insisting she had seen it come on aboard. Finally, the Captain said he was going to take off and climbed aboard. Mimi said, “Not until I get my dress!” She walked right out in front of the two whirling propellers and stood with her arms folded. The Captain gunned the engines a couple times but this gray haired old lady stood perfectly still. He saw his on-time record going down the tube and he surrendered. He climbed down and at that time, my wife and I were drawn into the situation. The Captain asked us to pull her away from the plane (HA!) and she agreed to leave if we gave him directions to our camp on the lake and he promised to find her dress and have it delivered the next day.
Sure enough, a taxi from the Burlington Airport arrived the following day with her dress. Custom markings on the box showed it had crossed the border north into Canada the previous night and come south in the morning into the US again. I sort of wish I could tell you she never wore the dress while she was there, but I can’t. It was a very appropriate vacation dress and she wore it frequently. As usual, Mimi was right on all counts. And the Air Travel industry survived her first flight.