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Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Pan Am stewardess in our midst

We loved last week’s premiere episode of Pan Am, a glossy look at the aviation industry in the 1960’s from the stewardesses’ point of view. It turns out that one of our FROSCH travel agents, Susan Banks Gaertner, held that very role when she was a young lady in the sixties. She brought in part of her uniform and a photo of her and her coworkers to share.  

The show, though campy in places, gives us perspective on how the travel industry has changed since its heyday fifty years ago, when flying was not an exercise in patience but a luxury that laid the groundwork for globalization. This "new breed" of women eschewed the traditional roles of marriage and motherhood (or at least delayed it) to take on the adventure and exploration that this job afforded. As the New York Times put it, even if they still had to tolerate the mandatory girdles and blatant sexism of the era, they "represent the dawning of the women's movement" and paved the way for other exciting jobs in travel.

We look forward to seeing more of this show and hearing more first-hand stories from Susan!


  1. Very cool memorabilia. I really like the Pan Am TV show. Partly because it brings back childhood memories of growing up near Cleveland Hopkins Airport and thinking I wanted to be a stewardess when I grew up, but also because I know that this show has the very real potential of telling a story that has long been overlooked. If you're interested, you might want to check out a book I'm currently reading entitled "Femininity In Flight by Kathleen Barry. Lots of interesting information re: stewardesses and the labor movement. I think a lot of folks don't realize that credit goes to the stewardesses themselves for challenging in court many of the discriminatory laws against them.

  2. Thanks for the feedback & book recommendation Sabrina! It looks very interesting-- definitely a fascinating era.

  3. As a Delta Flt attendant back in the early 70's I watched this show with a big smile on my face. I still look back and go to San Francisco in my dreams. Susan Gaertner stil gives the same classy service today that she did back then!

  4. Great photo!! Which of the short bobbed hair girls with big smile is Susan ?

    Thanks for posting,


  5. How interesting. It was what I always wanted to be growing up. How very special that you have those memories.



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