Come fly with me

Pghairport

As a teenager in the late 1960‘s, AGMA loved to go to the airport.

Oh, I wasn’t flying anywhere.  I just liked to walk around and hang out.  And dream of all of the exciting places those airplanes could take me when I was older.

India, Egypt, Paris, Hong Kong – I wanted to travel to all of them.

Airports back then were infinitely different than airports today.  Friendly, laid back, sexy and exotic all at once.  With just a smidge of mystery to the teenage psyche.

Most people flying back then dressed up for the occasion.  Think Mad Men.  The men wore suits or sports jackets, and women wore dresses with stockings and heels.  And sometimes gloves.  And fur.  I thought it was all very sophisticated.

Full disclosure: The adult AGAM doesn’t really miss the part with the dress, stockings, heels and gloves. And fur.  Ugh.

Stewardesses (hey, it’s what they used to be called!) were young, pretty, always dressed in a crisp uniform and very attentive to their passengers.

Just like today right?

Those were the days when friends and family walked the passenger to the gate and kissed them goodbye as they boarded.  And they’d be waiting at the gate with flowers to greet them as soon as they got off the plane when they came home.

Now we have to say our goodbyes at the security checkpoint an hour and a half before their flight takes off.  Or we just slow down at the curb and have them jump out so we don’t have to try to jockey for “drop-off positioning”.

And our hello’s an hour after they land.  If we’re lucky.  It takes them at least that long to get from the gate to baggage claim to walking out of the extra top-secret security area.  By the time you see them, they’re cranky from all the delays and the welcome flowers are wilted.

Or you text them that you’re in the cell phone lot taking a nap.

To clarify, my friends and I didn’t wander around just any old airport when we were teenagers.  No…  We wandered around the fabulous Greater Pittsburgh Airport!

(silence)

No, really – it was totally cool!  Inaugurated in 1952, it was the second largest airport in the U.S. at the time and a great source of pride to the people of PIttsburgh.  It had one of the very first indoor shopping malls in the U.S. in it, numerous restaurants and a small hotel.  It had beautiful mosaics in the hallways and on the floors, and a huge Alexander Caulder mobile hanging in the three story lobby.

And huge observation decks to watch planes take-off and land. That was my favorite part.

It was such an iconic landmark in the city that people were absolutely heartbroken when the building was torn down in 1999.  A new airport complex had been in use since the early 90’s and by 1999, the old building wasn’t needed.

Heck, I hadn’t lived in Pittsburgh since 1971 and I was heartbroken.

Actually, the architects of the new terminal realized how important the old airport building was to PIttsburgers, so they designed the interior of the new one to mimic certain style elements from the old one.  And it worked.  To an old timer (like AGMA), walking through the new terminal feels eerily familiar with exposed concrete, steel, glass tiles/blocks, and curved lines.  And the Caulder mobile hangs in the atrium of the new building.  Kinda cool.

Now a days, nobody in their right mind would go out to the airport to hang out.

For a non-passenger, there’s really not much to do or many places to go.  And no observation decks.  And if they did just hang out, they’d probably get arrested.

AGMA realizes that it’s a different time with different rules.  And air travel isn’t the novelty it used to be.  It’s not just for business people or the wealthy anymore.

Clearly, considering the cattle car nature of the flying experience these days.  Now seating Zone 1.  Moo….

And a teenager can get onto the Internet and travel virtually anywhere their heart desires so no need to dream of places unknown.  A few keystrokes brings instant gratification.

But I wouldn’t trade those day dreaming trips to the airport for anything.  There was something magical about them and the adventure they promised a 16 year old AGMA.

And some 45 years later, that teenager is still inside of me seducing me with whispers of possibilities for the future.

She’s such a trollop.

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39 thoughts on “Come fly with me

  1. I don’t fly, but I did notice the change in the airport when I dropped my daughter off several years ago for a trip overseas. I was looking forward to watching the plane leave the ground and waving to it, even though I knew she wouldn’t be able to see me. That’s the way it used to be. These days, there aren’t even any windows to see a plane land or take off – the best we could do was watch the Departures board and mini-cheer when the notation changed from “Awaiting Takeoff” to “Departed.” Such a let down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Flying used to be such an event, especially taking international flights! My parents moved from Pittsburgh to a tiny city with a tiny airport in 1972. The terminal was literally one big room and you walked outside to get to the steps to get on the plane. My parents would stand at the fence watching the plane take off and I could actually see them waving at me!

      You’re right – the “Departed” message is not quite the same!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dressing up for a plane journey is such a novel concept for me. I dress down as much as possible when I fly, especially on long haul flights, which are uncomfortable enough without being in ‘nice’ clothes. How different the people in the airport must have looked back then!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with you!! If I thought I could get away with my PJs on those long flights – I would! But the good thing is that they make PJs now that don’t look like PJ’s. And there are a lot of casual clothes that are loose fitting and uber comfy just like PJ’s!

      The picture above is an actual post card that was sold at the Pittsburgh airport in the 50’s. The picture’s not real clear, but you can see the lady in the fur and the little kids in their ankle socks and nice coats. It was crazy how flying was almost a formal event!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Ouch! Sorry about that… Three hours seems quite extreme! What a mess… I think it’s a combination of the lack of adequate Customs/Immigration Agents and the over-the-top concern with who is entering the U.S. Interesting and ironic because our boarders with Canada and Mexico are rather porous!

      But you’re right – once upon a time it was a BIG DEAL to go to the airport and you were treated like the Royal Family almost! *sigh*

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this piece. We must be as young, you and I! I remember the same dream of flying around the world.
    I am from a little Canadian city. We did not have an international airport. So, in 1967, for Expo ’67, we went to Montreal and I remember driving there with my parents and spending an afternoon to “visit” Dorval International Airport. I remember my mom had asked me to dress properly (dress, clean shoes, white knee high socks). My cousins and I spent 2 or 3 hours watching planes land and take off. We were talking about Paris, New Delhi, Moscow. All these “foreigners” with their different clothes walking around and about were making the experience so “cool”! We were awed by this new world opening up to us.
    I now have a son whose whole world turns around airplanes. He can tell you the brand, the model and the year of manufacturing of a plane just looking up in the sky. He can tell you the altitude it is flying at, the code of I don’t know how many airports in the world and the number of landing strips they have. His dream is of being a pilot. I am just not sure his dreams are as much fun as ours were at his age.
    Different times…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Mrs. Street for sharing such a wonderful memory! It’s something that our kids and grandkids will never get to experience. The world is indeed getting smaller and in some ways that’s good but in others, not so good. Such is change, right?

      I think some people are born with the “flying bug” My brother had that bug too, but his eyesight was too poor for him to be a commercial pilot. He eventually became a private pilot and flew small planes for a number of years taking his family on various trips. At 73, he is still fascinated with airplanes! I’m sure your son will never lose his love of aviation not matter what happens!

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  4. That was such a different time in so many ways. I used to love being able to say goodbye to people at the gate or have them waiting there when we got off the plane. Sometimes my Dad would take me and we’d just watch planes take off and land up close. We can’t do any of that these days. Nice memories. I suppose everything changes. Sometimes I’m just sad that they do..:)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My first flight ever was into Pittsburgh airport, 1971. I was about to meet my future in-laws, so I don’t remember much about the airport. lol
    I used to love to “people-watch” at airports, so many happy and sad moments there. Nice post. Nice memories. ☺

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG – I’m pretty sure I saw you there in 1971! I was still hanging out watching people and planes! But I was the one actually getting on/off the plane as I flew home that Christmas from my freshman year in college in Texas. I felt like hot stuff and my parents were waiting for me at the gate!

      I totally understand not remembering the airport when you were meeting the FIL’s for the first time! Yikes!

      I like the beginning and the end of the movie Love Actually because to film it, they hid cameras at Heathrow (I think) and it captured all those unguarded moments of people being reunited. Awesome!

      Liked by 1 person

      • OMG – Hugh Grant’s just so adorable!! I wasn’t buying that romantic plot line with him – that young lady certainly was a trollop! Ha!

        So I hope your in-laws got over it when they saw your many outstanding qualities, especially you goal of living in a van down by the river!

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  6. 🙂 I often have to pass an airport on my daily drives (Tegel airport in Berlin) and see people sit on a wall, just where the runway starts, to watch the take-offs and landings. I think this is cool. Everytime I see them, I resolve again, to do this myself but so far never made it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How cool! Don’t wait too long to do it thought – with some of the extreme crazies out there, the next (God forbid) major incident with an airplane or in an airport, governments will probably rope off a perimeter around the runways so people won’t be able to just hang out and watch! I hate that a few insane people can have so much power over the rest of us…

      Hey – I’ll be in Germany at the end of the month but in the south. Doing a Christmas Markets trip and I’m very excited!

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  7. Wow! you wanted to visit India?! have you? majority of the people here in India still dress up for the “occasion” of flying 😀 Its almost like they are going to attend a wedding or a party on the flight. Hmmm…not a bad concept. Party on the flight! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not yet – it’s still on the bucket list!! Thought this year would be the year, but it didn’t work out. And I’m not the only one – another person my age commented that they used to day dream about going to New Dehli! I had planned a trip to Sri Lanka to visit a friends family when I was in my early 20’s but that didn’t work out either… Boo!

      I hate to dress up to fly and I don’t, but I have a theory that people tend to be better behaved if they are dressed up. Totally unscientific – just something I have been thinking about!

      So are you telling me when I do get to India, I’ll need to put the stockings, heels and dress on. Say it isn’t so!! 😉

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    • I try to be accepting of change but in flying, I’m not sure much of it is very good. The flight attendants are cranky because of all the cranky fliers because there is NO legroom or room for your butt on the seat. And you practically have to wrestle with other ill tempered fliers to get your bag in the overhead bin! Not fun… 😦

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  8. I can totally relate. I remember loving the whole experience of flying and feeling so glamorous and grown up the first time I flew at 16 years old. I even tried for years to get into the industry but evidently at 5’2″ I was not “qualified.” Now it’s just such a drag to fly, that even all the shops, restaurants and retail outlets in the airports simply seem like window dressing. Who has the strength to actually shop while travelling? Thanks for the nostalgic post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! And it DID used to be glamorous, especially for a young adult! I remember drinking a small bottle of Mateus on a Frontier (in it’s first incarnation) on a flight from Tucson to Denver. I was def hot stuff!

      I also thought it would be great fun to be a stewardess, but I am also 5’2″ so nah baby nah! I do have friends here in Atlanta (because it’s a Delta hub) who have been (I’ll use the new term) flight attendants for years and years and years (since the 70’s) They get on the best flights (London, Paris, Sydney, etc) because of their tenure, but they’re all kinda burned out and maybe should not try to to the long haul ones anymore. Is that horrible of me? I’ve a quite a few like them on international flights I’ve been on and I want to suggest that they may want to opt for early retirement… If you know what I mean.

      And you bring up a good question and a possible subject for another post. Who shops in all those high end shops? Or eats at those expensive restaurants? Curious minds want to know!

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    • How wonderful! Did they love it?

      I still say that if flying now was like flying used to be, it would still be fun and not a chore to be dreaded! I’m flying in the morning and wondering what will go wrong because it seems like something always goes wrong. When I take a flight where everything goes off without a hitch (as it should!) I feel like I’ve been given a gift! Go figure…!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Holy cow Louise…. Do you think I’m late in responding to your comment? So sorry….

      I think trollop is such a great word but soooo underused. Maybe WordPress should issue one of those challenges to bloggers to use trollop in their posts next week! And as always, thank you for your kind words!! (Late though my thanks may be!)

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I ran across your article when looking for the mobile hanging in the old ATL terminal….Had it mixed up with the one in PIT in my brain. I, too, spent time in the airport but it was in Atlanta. I even spent time in the tower- we would roam around with my father in Saturday’s. I even got to work for Eastern on holidays and in summers during college. Air travel is not the event it was back in the day. Your article brought it back!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Catherine! Thanks for stopping by and strolling down memory lane with me. Ironically, I now live in Atlanta and spend way too much time in Hartsfield-Jackson! 🙂 But I know it was probably totally different back in the day. I bet it was like Pittsburgh and was probably an entirely different terminal (and maybe a different site?)

      It’s hard to communicate what a point of pride the airport was for people of Pittsburgh from the 40’s through the 80’s. It was just instilled in you from birth how amazing the PGH airport was! I think that’s why so much of the old terminal was mimicked in the new terminal that opened in the early 90’s. And of course, not every airport has a Calder mobile… How cool is that?

      Yes – it’s totally different now. I’m glad that I was around when it still was a big deal!

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