From Apr 2-5, 2014, more than 500 former Pan American World Airways employees from around the globe gathered together at the Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki in Oahu, HI to celebrate the defunct airline’s importance in opening up passenger travel throughout the Pacific, beginning in 1935 with the famous Martin 130 China Clipper flying boat.
Well, he did it again! Three cheers for Captain Don Cooper! With the support of the President of the Pan American Association -Aloha Chapter Darlene Laster, Executive Director Kenneth DeHoff of the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, Terry Webber with Elane Kato and Geri Kai (who produced the memorable Pan Am cook book, called A Touch of First Class), and a group of dedicated Pan Am “family” committee members, Don made this event a very special one that is now part of the Pan Am Legend.
Monday, March 31 – John O’Keefe and I boarded US Airways flight #582 from Boston to Phoenix at 5:45am. With a short connection time in Phoenix, we were luckily to hitch a ride with a passenger trolley cart to our flight #692 to Honolulu. The crew were terrific. Cathy Carruthers wanted us to look up former Pan Amers Bette Nash and Joan Meyer Sing who now fly with US Airways. The steward, Jamey, suggested Chuck’s Steak House – for great food and an airline meeting place.
Arriving in HNL at 2:30pm , we jumped on a shuttle to the Hawaiian Prince Hotel Waikiki. The end of our journey at last! Resisting the urge to curl up on the bed, we took the hotel courtesy bus to the famous pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel and enjoyed a relaxing time down by the beach for the setting of the sun. Every Monday evening the hotel puts on a Luau feast with entertainment for $198 per person. We watched it from the bar, however, for the price of a delicious small pizza, beer and a virgin Piña Colada. Back to the hotel and sleep. We met pilot Jack Timken from North Carolina who flew out of New York when I did and wife Aurele. We also saw Bill and Ginny McKillop, who were also early arrivals.
Tuesday, Apr 1 -We had a terrific breakfast at the hotel. Fortunately, we were seated at a table next to Don and Betty Cooper and Shirley Zellmer and husband Eric. I gave Don the first of my souvenir Pan Am Aloha Calendars. With his approval, I passed some on to Muff Solvinto and Alda Halldorssan-Duin, Jackie Brown and son Jason.
A gorgeous day, though windy, I coaxed John into a shopping trip to Dukes Marketplace on Dukes Lane across from the Moana Surfrider Hotel. I found a wonderful red and white muu muu for me and and shirts for John. Next we headed over to the beach side of the Moana Surfrider and had lunch in the Banyan Tree Courtyard featuring a live performance – singer with guitar. We hopped the hotel shuttle back to the hotel for a nap and later that evening returned to the Beach for dinner at Chuck’s Steakhouse on the second floor accessed through the Outrigger Lobby. We arrived during happy hour (5-7) and chatted with some United flight attendants. They liked my souvenir calendars and wanted to know all about our reunion. Sure enough, behind the bar were the airplane models of United, Continental, Pan American and others etc. We had dinner at a little table next to the bar overlooking the porch and beach – a scrumptious steak and shrimp scampi, salad bar and rolls. They gave us a 10 percent airline discount. And can’t forget the mud pie to top off.
Wednesday, April 2 – Today the troops would start arriving at the hotel, as registration was all day. I stopped to see Helen Davey and thank her for the wonderful article she wrote for her blog column in the Huffington Post in advance of the reunion. John and I thought it would be a good chance to take a morning Pearl Harbor tour and yet get back in time for the cocktail party in the evening. We had a quick breakfast in the hotel before being picked up for our tour at 6:30am.
First we visited the USS Missouri and then continued on to the USS Arizona first we saw a film on December 7, 1941 and then a boat ride over to the memorial – a serene experience felt by all who pass through this beautiful WW11 “Valor in the Pacific” National monument.
On the way back to our tour bus, I stopped at a table in front of the bookstore to chat with Robert Lee, a Pacific Historic Parks volunteer who was a Civilian Witness to the events back on December 7, 1941. He gave me a copy of an article written by Paul C. Heintz, Education Director for the Parks about Bob’s experience on that fatal day. I gave him my Pan Am Aloha Reunion souvenir calendar. He looked over at me with wide eyes and asked, “Were you with Pan Am?” I nodded affirmatively and we instinctively hugged each other. During the war Bob served in Naval Intelligence on Oahu, at Naval Air Station Punene in Maui, and was assigned to the V12 Naval Officer Training Program in Michigan. Bob joined Pan Am in 1955 where he worked in Passenger Traffic for thirty years. Bob made my day! He explained that he was just about to close up shop at that time to go over to the hotel for the Pan Am cocktail party. We saw each other often throughout the Pan Am event. KUDOS goes to this fine gentleman! Hats off!
Upon our return, we saw Pan Amers milling around the registration table which was set up in the lobby/ The famous island singers, the Puamana Trio, dressed in colorful muu muus serenaded the crowd. We picked up our Pan Am carry all bag stuffed with goodies and our name tags with tickets and hung them around our necks. We stopped to talk to Terry Webber, Elane Kato and Geri Kai , who produced the nonprofit book Touch of Class (Pan Am Cookbook) for the Pan Am Heritage Association. I stopped for a picture with them-they looked so pretty in their muu muus. I then stopped off at another desk where Jackie Banning (with Captain Chuck Cutting) was selling Gene Banning’s (pilot with Pan Am for 38 years – passed away about eight years ago.) book Airlines of Pan American Since 1927. Barnaby Conrad, author of Pan Am: an aviation legend also had his beautiful book for sale.
That evening was the welcome cocktail party, where 400 to 500 people crowded into the Moana Kea Ballroom. The heavy hors d’oeuvres was plentiful and delicious. John and I joined a table with World Wings International President Jane Euler and husband Phelps. To my delightful surprise, Rich Yoder and wife Mary Ann were there -hadn’t seen them since 1968, when I was married to John Bigelow and worked for Pan Am ticketing in the downtown Miami office, prior to moving to Kabul Afghanistan on the Technical Assistance Program with Ariana Afghan Airlines.
It was fun to see so many familiar faces:
2012 Monaco reunion: Max Gurney, Tim McCully, Don and Mary Ann Fell, Joan LeBlanc, Ann Wilkerson and husband Keith Wodarski, Gina Siu Oerelius, Gene Vricella and Jill Ramsfield, Lora Ford, Cynthia McMillen, Muff Solvinto, Debby Fuller, twin sisters Gunn Chencinski and Anne Marie Panel, Kevin Kramer (who had the Dixie Clippers made in the Philippines for the Monaco reunion).
Facebook Pan Am Groups : Tine Beam, Nellie Aviles, Author Psychologist Helen Davey, Faye Liu Zawatski, Linda Kirkpatrick Garver, Aunty Carla, Melanie Camp, Sandy Clarke, and who could forget Linda Toscano-Fountain?
Plus: Maria Rena, Marine Stanfield, Leyland Maguire who ran the Tahiti Lodge, twin sisters Gunn Chencinski and Anne Marie Panel, Rich & Mary Ann Yoder (who I hadn’t seen since 1968 while I was married to John Bigelow and working in ticketing in the Pan Am Miami office), Ruth Loewenstein, and Maria Rinna, Leilani Maguire who ran the Tahiti Lodge, Anne Marie & Stavros Olympios, Vivi-Ann Riordan, Capt Joe & Marty Roise, Edie and John Stavinoha, Marlies Suter, Agnes Von Brimer, Tori Werner, Don and Jan Wohlers, and Captain Ron and Judy Andersen, Jennifer Morgan and John Massey, and Sharon & Don Krump, Sumiko Allegar, Frank Garcia (Flight Engineer with Captain Ogg on Flight# 943, a Boeing Stratacruiser 377, that was successful ditched in the Pacific in October 1956), Shula and Herman Jaffe, Eva Kama, Judi Machens, Donna Lindgren, Christie McElroy, Charlette Seidel, Mary Jane Ellis, Melanie Marshall, Joan Davis and so many others that are listed throughout this blog.
Thursday, Apr 3 – Forum at the Mauna Kea Ballroom 9-4PM
• Don Cooper talked about Magellan’s discovery of the Pacific and its impact on the area.
• Author Jon E. Krupnik discussed Pan American’s transpacific and South Pacific route development. His book is Pan American’s Pacific Pioneers, The Rest of the Story.
Sold out 8 years ago, but a few regular editions at $100 each or a limited edition for $170 are available from Jon at Jon at email@example.com.
• Betsy Pease Tryon presented her father’s account of the December 7th bombing of Pearl Harbor from his memoirs. A CD with her father’s narration is available from Betsy for $20.
• Merry Barton told of her evacuation from New Caledonia on the Pacific Clipper when the bombing at Pearl Harbor was announced. Her father was station manager at Noumea, New Caledonia.
• Ed Dover gave an account of the Pacific Clipper being the first commercial aircraft to circumnavigate the globe.
I bought two Mihana DVDs www.mihanahawaii.com from Terry Webber for charity.
On the hotel shuttle to Waikiki Beach, we met a Fiji Airlines crew – Captain Harnek Singh, an A330 pilot and his check officer Capt. Jone Turaganivaki who remembered John Bigelow when he trained with him in Toulouse, France. I bought a gorgeous blue & white muu muu and presents for John’s family. Before we knew it, the time had flitted by and we ducked in to a restaurant for dinner before returning to the hotel for evening.
Friday, Apr 4 – Early to rise, we had the usual wonderful breakfast spread at the hotel and enjoyed our time with Shula and Herman Jaffe, formerly Pan Am maintenance, now living in Israel.
At 9am fifty of us, who were lucky enough to sign up early for a tour organized by Clipper Skipper Darlene Carver Laster, boarded our bus for Ford Island, Pearl Harbor to see the historical site of our Pan Am China Clipper operation on the edge of the West Lock of Pearl Harbor known as “L -dock”. We saw where the Clipper flying boats landed and tied up and were serviced during their layovers in HNL. Originally there was the Atkinson house, leased by Pan Am for the operations office, passenger service area and a clinic. All that is left now is a foundation. We were very fortunate, however, to be invited inside one of the original houses, known as the Uyehara home designed by architect C.W. Dickie, still used today as military housing. Dee Dee Orzeszczak, who lives there now with her Navy husband, has renamed it the Pan Am Clipper House. She graciously showed us the inside along with a wonderful Pan Am plaque on the wall. Captain Robert Hicks, who began his professional flying career as an officer on flying boats, including the famed Boeing B-314, had a nice chat with Dee Dee.
Then we walked over to the landing and take-off spots for the Pan Am flying boats and farther on where they were serviced.
Back at the hotel, I ran into Tim McCully and Max Gurney. Tim wore a shirt belonging to Tommy Carroll. Tommy was there in spirit. Both Tommy and Jean were unable to make the reunion and they were sorely missed.
I stopped in the Clipper Lounge and met Joe Roise, who was training captain for a few years on the B707. His wife Marty started in 1955. I also met Barnaby Conrad III, author of Pan Am: An Aviation Legend.
I put my uniform on again for the evening event at the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor on Historic Ford Island. We boarded the busses at 5pm and they dropped us off at Hanger 37 where the Pan Am exhibit is next to the museum store. Kenneth DeHoff , Executive Director of the museum, and Tanya introduced me to the Pan Am exhibit and took my picture with some of the Pan Am models. The museum hall was set up with tables amongst the airplanes. We sat with Diane Vanderzanden (1963-1985 and then switched to United 1985 – 2005) who produces the Aloha Clipper newsletter for the Hawaii members. It costs $30 a year – in case anyone is interested .
Betsy Smith opened the festivities with a few tales from Pan Am days. Kenneth DeHoff, executive Director of the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, addressed the audience.
And of course, some of the flight attendants and Captain Lane Smith paraded in their uniforms for the crowd.
The end of the night was celebrated with the newest nostalgic video created by Tommy Carroll called Pan Am: The Legend Lives On. There were Cheers and Tears from the crowd of 450+ who attended.
Saturday, Apr 5 – At breakfast we bid goodbye to Don and Betty before they set off on their 50th Anniversary Island cruise with Norwegian.
At 1pm, Kevin from Makani Kai Helicopters picked up Marilyn Slattery, John Whalen and me and drove us to the airport where we boarded the helicopter. Marilyn and John sat in front. I sat in the back seat on the right side. It was open on both sides which was great for filming. Fortunately the day was sunny and calm so the only reverberation for filming came from the wind from flying, but it was not bumpy and the pilot Eiki who is the chief pilot for the company was gentle with us. He had been flying for them for 25 years. For the first fifteen minutes or so, I was scared —-less and lonely all by myself in the rear of the airplane. Every time we would bank, I could see straight down. I envisioned my body strap breaking and hurtling down into the mountains or sea! Shudder. I wore a parachute but would it open if I needed it? And did I even know how to open it? Finally I just left it up to fate and thought – what will be will be and fortunately kept myself very busy taking videos of the entire flight. I even took a selfie. All of sudden, we saw the airport and my excitement mounted. Land! We hovered awhile and I rather liked that as I could take better videos.Once on the ground, we thanked the pilot with the “hang loose” sign and Kevin brought us back to the hotel.
After a brief nap, John and I headed over to the Surfrider to listen to two singers and a very graceful Hula dancer. We had a snack of quesadillas and later returned to the hotel about 9pm.
We wandered over to the Chart House near the hotel, where we received the shock of our trip. It was late and we were hungry. When we sat down, we were handed a Card offering $8 Specials for those eating after 9:30pm of clam chowder or salad and a choice of dinners. We chose the wonderful grilled Shrimp with macaroni and rice. Topped off with a $6.75 piece of Key Lime pie and a marvelous band ( 2 Point 0 (Tito & Billy), who plays every Saturday evening.
Sunday, Apr 6 – After breakfast, we packed and brought our bags down to the bell hop for safe keeping and then set off to meet the bus for an Ecological North Shore and Circle Island Tour by Oahu Nature Tours that left from the Hilton at 12:30pm, returning at 6:30. It was definitely worth seeing the countryside. We saw the lovely Japanese Byodo Temple in the Valley of the Temples, Sunset Beach, Walmea Bay to see the Green Sea Turtles and the Dole Plantation. The day was glorious and a perfect ending to our Hawaii adventure.
Our Shuttle was late so we gladly accepted a ride on VIP with the US Airways crew for flight 693 to Phoenix that left 35 minutes earlier than our flight. They liked my Pan Am Aloha reunion calendar.
Back in Boston on Monday at 5:30pm. Felt fine on Tuesday. Full-fledged flu on Wednesday!