For four days, November 1-4, 2012, 500+/- former Pan American Airways (1927-1991) pilots, flight attendants and sales & traffic personnel gathered at Le Meridien Beach Plaza Hotel in Monte Carlo, Principality of Monaco to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first revenue transatlantic passenger flight – one of many Pan Am aviation firsts. On June 28, 1939 the Dixie-Clipper flying boat (B-314) carrying 22 passengers, (including Betty Trippe, wife of Pan Am founder and aviation pioneer Juan T. Trippe) and 11 crew departed Port Washington, NY for Marseille, France via the Azores and Lisbon, Portugal, arriving June 29.
In order to tell how I came to attend this fabulous historic event, I need to tell the story leading up to it. In 2011, a new ABC TV series, Pan Am, was born. It was conceived by Pan Am’s own Nancy Hult Ganis. Nancy paid particular attention to all the details. Of that I was certain! Why! Because she chose 1962 as the year of the show – exactly the year of my Pan Am graduation. The show was so exciting for me. It was fabulous to see those blue uniforms again. And the four young women on the show were my roommates, at least in my own mind’s eye. Wonderful memories of those days back in 1962 flooded my mind. I rejoined a number of Pan Am organizations made up of former employees – World Wings International, the philanthropic arm of former Pan Am flight attendants; the Pan Am Historical Foundation; and Pan Amigo. I was so happy to be back in the Pan Am family and wondered why I had ever left.
I was already a member of facebook, but didn’t use it very much. Once my interest in Pan Am was reborn, however, I found numerous Pan American –related groups. There I immersed myself in everything Pan Am and/or relating to the Pan Am TV show.
Sometime around June or July 2012, I read about the 75th anniversary reunion of the first transatlantic flight made by the flying boat Dixie Clipper to be held in Monte Monaco. I joined the facebook group called “Monte Carlo Crew Party 2012.” There, I wrote asking to join the closed group in order to hear what others were planning for the trip and to let them convince me to take the trip. It only took a few days, however, to convince myself that it was a “must go” trip. After all, I had been apart of the 25th anniversary 50 years prior and I have the certificate to prove it.
I broached the idea to John O’Keefe and he agreed to accompany me. Next step was to contact event chairman former Pan Am pilot Don Cooper who was exceptionally helpful. I also called pilot Tommy Carroll to talk about sending him some of my personal crew photos to be included in a DVD he was putting together of Pan Am flying days around the world. He would call it “Gone But Not Forgotten.” And finally, I called Jeff Kriendler who was in charge of putting the event booklet together. He was looking for people to advertise in it, to raise money for the Pan American Historical Foundation. I put a half page design of my Pan Am history and sent it off to him.
Entry for Monaco Event Booklet
In preparation for the trip, I started a count-the-calories-diet that was long overdue.
I yearned to wear an old uniform to the reunion, but I do not have my own, as Pan Am had insisted we return them when we resigned; and they would only pay us our last check after doing so. We were able to keep our gold wings and gold hat pin, however. I complied when I left the job to marry. (In those days the girls had to resign when they married.)
While hunting on the internet, I found a copy of a Pan Am uniform on line – I was shocked to see it – a copy of the Pan Am TV show uniform, which, in turn, was a copy of my own old uniform. As I previously mentioned, the TV show was set in 1962 and that was the year I joined the Company.
When my new uniform arrived, I was so excited to try it on. I was pleased with it and it was large enough so that my tailor could take it in to fit me. The hat was a bit wide in the front – not exactly like my old hat, but again it was a copy of the ones on the TV show. It did have the correct shape in the back and there was the white piping that made my old hat distinctive for the Pan Am uniforms of that period. A week or so later, I picked up the uniform and the tailor-adjusted hat. I had lost about 4 pounds and it looked fairly good on.
Now, I needed to find white gloves to complete the outfit. I found them in a costume store – parade gloves.
Next, I designed some luggage tags with my black & white graduation head shot on one side and my graduation class on the back with Zazzle.com. I also designed a round pin with my graduation head shot. I needed something to pin onto my uniform jacket in place of my wings. My beautiful gold Pan Am Purser wings was now attached to my gold charm bracelet and I didn’t plan to take that overseas with me for fear of losing it. And, the picture, I decided, would remind people what I looked like as a young woman of 24 back in 1962.
I was set to go, but continued my diet to lose more weight. Finally, around October 7, I returned to my tailor and asked that she refine the tailoring. The jacket needed more work and, amazingly, the skirt needed to be taken in at least 3 inches on the sides. When the work was done, it finally fit well.
Meanwhile, John and I didn’t want to forgo our annual Mediterranean cruise, so I looked for a cruise we could attach to the end of our Pan Am trip. I was hoping for a cruise that would take us to Istanbul, Turkey. I could barely remember the one layover I had there so many years ago, when I flew for Pan Am. I vaguely remembered the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar, but that was all. Voila! I found an 11-night Celebrity Equinox cruise out of Rome on November 5. It was even better than I imagined – an overnight stop in Istanbul with plenty of time to see all the major sights there including a boat trip on the Bosporus and an evening of Turkish singing and dancing at a nightclub and restaurant.
That would give us one day to fly from Nice to Rome with an overnight at our favorite hotel –Le Valadier, with its memorable lounge for dancing to the music made by a singer who played a synthesizer.
My excitement grew as we approached the day of our trip. On October 13, 2012, the Boston World Wings International group led by president Carol Guerrin met for lunch at the The Hotel Providence and then walked down the street to the Providence Performing Arts Center to see the musical “Catch Me If You Can”. Many of us wore uniforms, including me. During the intermission, Frank Abignale (about whose earlier life of impersonating a Pan Am pilot is what the story is all about) approached us and we all went up to the front lobby to take pictures with him. It was fun to see him again. Earlier in the year, in March, the Boston group met with him for lunch in Boston, so we all felt we knew him pretty well. Frank is a board member of World Wings International, Inc. and he always seems to enjoy meeting with us Pan Am girls and we enjoy his company. At the end of the show, he addressed the audience.
Carol Guerrin, Rosemary Lusky, Frank Abignale Jr., Mary Lou Bigelow, and Mary Greenfield.
That evening, John and I were due to attend a dance at Vittorio Rocci Post in Beverly. I kept the uniform on for the dance.
John O'Keefe and Mary Lou Bigelow
As the Monaco trip approached, I scurried to get all of my real estate business organized for Cathy Shea in my office. A day or so before we were due to leave for Monaco, John and I attended a Halloween Dance at the Andover Town Hall. John wore a pilot’s uniform that we put together and I wore – you guessed it!
The day was almost here and then came Superstorm Sandy, which hit the tri-states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on October 29. Boston was spared heavy damage, but flights stopped operating out of Logan Airport in Boston the morning of October 30.
Our reservations were made for a 6:55 PM flight on British Airways leaving Boston for Nice with a change in London to arrive in Nice about noon on October 31. The British Airways morning London flight was cancelled due to inability to position aircraft at Boston’s Logan Airport. By the afternoon, however, Boston flights resumed. We were lucky, as approximately 150 people who needed to fly out of New York or New Jersey weren’t able to go.
I didn’t want to pack my uniform for fear of losing it with my luggage and so I wore it to Logan Airport, complete with my white gloves, hat and Pan Am pin. I also carried a recently purchased Pan Am carry-all bag which is a copy of the one the Beatles sported when they arrived in New York for the first time in 1964.
George O’Keefe drove us to the airport, arriving at 4pm. When I stepped out of the car, I noticed two pilots glance over at me. Their mouths were open and they had quizzical looks on their faces. I noticed them whisper something to each other, and then saw their facial expressions change into big grins. I gave them a quick wave and a smile and continued on into the airport. The pilots must have thought they were seeing things, as they knew Pan Am was no longer, disbanding in 1991. It had been 21 years since the great airline took its last flight.
As we moved along into the airport, a female British Airways ticket agent approached and stopped to tell me about a relative of hers who worked for Pan Am. She went on to explain that she inherited the woman’s large collection of Pan Am paraphernalia. She expressed interest in joining our Word Wings International group. I encouraged her to do so and to email me her information.
Next came the check through Boston Logan Security. Two of the security officers looked at me and chuckled, asking me about the uniform. Obviously, they knew it was a Pan Am uniform and were entertained at seeing it – not disturbed as some people had cautioned me.
Once through security, an English couple stopped me. They told me how happy they were to see the Pan Am uniform again and told me of their many remembrances when flying with the airline throughout the years. The husband took my picture. He looked at the photo on his camera, but from the expression on his face, I could tell he was not too pleased. I asked if he would care to take another. A huge smile broke out on his face! “Yes, Thank you,” he said. This time his wife posed with me and it was a success!
Upon boarding the British Airways 777 aircraft, we reached our seats, when a gentleman from Business Class tapped me on the shoulder. He had this incredulous look on his face. “Pan Am,” he asked? “Yes,” I replied. He asked if he could have a picture taken with me. “Of course,” I said. He handed his camera to this beautiful young British Airways flight attendant and asked her to take the picture, which she graciously agreed to do. I chuckle when I think of it, because why didn’t he rather have his picture taken with the beautiful young stewardess, but no –it was the nostalgia of Pan Am that he wanted to capture to take home to show his wife.
The trip was uneventful.. The flight attendants were very cordial to me. They seemed so happy to see me in my uniform, asking me all about the reunion.
As we started to deplane in London, an Englishman, with the proper countenance, so typical of a British gentleman, turned to me and said, “When I first saw you, if you don’t mind my saying, I thought I had entered a time warp!” I laughed and said with emphasis, “I am in a time warp!” He smiled and continued on.
We had a two hour layover in London and then took our flight to Nice.
When we arrived in Nice, we found bus #110 quite easily, boarded it and headed off to Le Meridian Beach Plaza Hotel in Monte Carlo. It was a drizzly Seattle, Washington sort of day, but we didn’t much care, as we planned to stay inside the hotel for the evening.
As we entered the hotel, Ulu, a former Pan Am stewardess from Honolulu rushed up to me and commented on my uniform. She helped us over to the desk. Then a large group of Pan Amers from Chicago who were with Ulu gathered around me. One in the group suggested taking a picture of all of us. They put me in the middle and snapped away. I met June Gruner (husband Klaus) and Marilyn (whose mother is Mary Lou), who were in the picture. Later that evening, June came over to me and said, “I just want to thank you for wearing your uniform! When I saw you walk into the hotel, my former life as a stewardess flashed before me. It was such a wonderful feeling.”
After a brief nap, John and I went downstairs. The registration desk for the event was not open and would not be open until the following morning. In the bar, I met Sally Tobin with her friend Linda. I knew Sally’s face right away and realized we had flown together. Sure enough, she confirmed that she flew out of John F. Kennedy Airport in 1963. It was such a thrill to meet someone I had flown with some 50 years ago.
That evening, John and I strolled along the boardwalk. The weather was misty. We came to Bouchon, a very nice French restaurant, and sat next to Stephen, an English entrepreneur who lived in the building just next door. He fascinated us with his talk of how the whole world is so wonderful to explore and that traveling is his hobby. He was very helpful as we perused the menu. We ordered steak au poivre.
We then sauntered down the avenue and over to some other restaurants including an Irish pub. On the way back, we walked down a staircase that connects the two streets with the hotel street. The stones were slippery from the rain and suddenly I heard a loud, reverberating “boing”. I swing around to see John on the ground. He had hit his head. I rushed to him and helped him up. Fortunately, he has a hard head and was okay – no headache or dizziness, but both of us were a bit shook up as we cautiously made our way back to the hotel.
The next morning, we joined the group for buffet breakfast in the hotel. The morning was nice and clear and lots of our Pan Am people enjoyed their breakfast outside on the patio on the water side of the hotel.
Le Meridien from the water side
Waterfront by Le Meridien
The buffet was spectacular – as good as on any cruise ship, with smoked salmon, jambon, prosciutto, lovely cheeses, yogurt, eggs made to order, bacon, ham, sausage, juices, and wonderful yummy croissants and pastries of all kinds.
After breakfast we went over to the side lobby to register for the reunion. I looked for the organizers – Chairman Capt. Don Cooper, Capt. Tommy Carroll, Max Gurney, and Jeff Kriendler. I never did meet Lou Berman. At the desk, I met Annette Khalifi. I asked her if she knew George Khalifi, who was the assistant manager of the Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel in Beirut Lebanon back in the early 1960s and who later served as manager of the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel in Afghanistan. By way of explanation, George had introduced me to John Bigelow back in 1964 and later when John and I lived in Kabul, George moved to Kabul to become the first manager of the newly built hotel. Annette’s face lit up with a huge smile and she called her husband Jean Khalife over to meet me. It turns out that Jean is George’s brother. Jean showed me a picture of him on his cell phone.
Captain Tommy Carroll, who produced the souvenir DVD for the trip – called “Gone But Not Forgotten,” smiled when he saw me and told me that I was on the DVD quite a few times. He had used the photo of me in uniform standing by the Phoenicia pool– Mary Lou Moore – in graphics was written under it; my 1962 graduation class picture; and the group photo of me with the crew who had attended the Grand Opening of the Royal Teheran Hilton as well as the one with the crew celebrating the 25th reunion of the Dixie-Clipper flight – 50 years prior.
When I met Max Gurney, I immediately noticed his playful, sparkling eyes and happy countenance. Still a handsome man, you would never believe his age. Don Cooper, chair of the event was very busy – so many details to take care of. I thanked him for all his work, and let him go on his way.
JoAnne Emmett, who was there with her husband George Emmett also a former flight attendant, was standing behind the desk. She recognized me right away and called to me by name! I was so surprised. She looked familiar, but I couldn’t think why. She explained that Don Cooper had forwarded my film “A Pan Am Memoir 1962-1964” to her and told her that she was in it. JoAnne told me she had meant to contact me, but was busy getting ready to leave for Monaco and knew I would be in Monaco anyway. Sure enough, in my video is JoAnne, one of the girls in their blue serving smocks sitting next to me in the B707 lounge. We hugged and took a picture.
Tommy Carroll or Max Gurney suggested I wear my uniform and to meet them at 6:00 pm right there in the side lobby in front of the auditorium where the first event would be held – a cocktail welcome party. They mentioned that a Monaco newspaper would be taking pictures. Later that day, I dressed in my uniform and arrived at 6pm.
Eva Demetro was standing next to a beautiful bronze sculpture of the globe, featuring a Pan Am stewardess in a blue Pan Am uniform (one like my original uniform from 1962) reaching heavenwards for a Pan Am blue ball (that represented the sun). Her famous sculptor husband Jim Demetro, who I met later that evening, designed the piece.
Sculptor Jim Demetro with his Pan Am bronze sculpture
Eva was taking orders and explained that only 64 would be sold. After that, she explained that the mold will be destroyed. I knew I just had to have one, especially where it was my uniform. We were able to choose the number we wanted. At first I chose number 19 for my birthday, but later changed my mind and chose the number 62 to stand for 1962, the year I joined Pan Am. His website is www.jimdemetro.com and a new one in the draft stages www.demetrodesigns.com with his daughter Sculptor Christina. As of January 5, there are still some for sale.
About 6:30 pm, the newspaper photographer showed up, but where was Capt Carroll? I asked Jean where Tommy was. Jean went off to call him in his room. Tommy finally appeared in his full regalia – a fabulous, crisp Pan Am pilot uniform. He looked dashing. And then the photographer posed us for pictures – Don Cooper, Tommy Carroll, Max and me. He took some by the welcome poster and then in front of a Pan Am airplane poster. Meanwhile, John took lots of pictures of us as well. John did a fabulous job, getting in all the heads and feet! Dozens of other Pan Am people snapped pictures of us. I felt like I was on the red carpet – my 15 minutes of fame.
Tommy Carroll, Don Cooper, Max Gurney and Mary Lou Bigelow
Tommy Carroll, Monique Peyrat, Max Gurney and Bigelow
Mary Lou Bigelow and John O'Keefe
That evening, Sally Tobin’s friend Linda took a picture of John and me, as we stood by the Monaco welcome poster. A bystander crashed into Linda and my Casio camera went flying. When I picked it up, I saw that the it was broken. We also noticed that the person who had bumped into Linda left in a hurry, not even stopping to apologize. We went to the bar area and split a turkey club sandwich while we talked over the evening events. We then retired for the night-absolutely exhausted.
The next morning, we went down to the breakfast buffet and then asked Raymond, the wonderfully helpful concierge, where I could repair or buy a new camera. He directed us to take the #6 bus from across the street to a shopping center to FNAC, a large electronic appliance/TV/ camera store. Once there, the sales person looked at the camera and shook his head. It was not fixable. I searched through the display of cameras and was shocked to see a similar Casio camera but an upgraded version. I was thrilled to see that it was only 148 Euros, as my original one cost me $220 US dollars about four years ago on Susse Air. When I took it to the cashier, she asked me if I wanted the service warranty. I responded that I didn’t because I didn’t live there. “In that case,” she said, “it will only cost you 79 Euros without the plan.” I couldn’t have been happier. I bought a red one!
We walked through a beautiful downtown garden to the Hermitage Hotel and peeked into the stunning gilded reception room – it was gorgeous. We stopped at the La Poste Monaco central office. We wandered until we found the Monte Carlo Casino, which dominated the square. It loomed up in front of us – very impressive. In front of the casino were various automobiles – a black Aston Martin, a white Ferrari, and assorted BMWs and Mercedes. John took my picture next to the Aston Martin and Ferrari.
We began our walk back toward Le Meridien, stopping back at the Galleria, where we had purchased the camera, and split a sandwich at the food counter. Then we took the #6 bus back to the hotel.
Before going upstairs to change, we stopped off at the Clipper Club hospitality room for a snack, wine for John and coffee for me.
That evening, the Monaco Tourist Office hosted a party for Pan Am. I wore my uniform that evening as well. This time a number of other Pan Am “girls” wore various uniforms from throughout the years. Max had told me the night before to be sure to make myself available to TV people who would be shooting video for a local TV show that was panned for airing on Tuesday Nov 6 (after we left Monaco). The TV cameras took my photo a number of times, and then seemed to disappear. Susanne Malm and Jackie Banning held up head shots of some of the girls who couldn’t make it to the event.
Suzanne Malm and Jacke Banning hold up photos of Pan Amers!
There were lots of still shots taken with large groups of Pan Amers in uniform. I was in one large group of about 20 girls taken with Max. Captain Carroll was in many photos with the girls, as well. And, John O’Keefe continued to take fantastic photos for my collection. It was nice to finally meet Jane Euler, president of World Wings International, as well as Joan LeBlanc, another young woman I remembered flying with – 50 years ago!!!
That evening, John and I took a bus to the harbor and sauntered through a large carnival. We shared un jambon et frommage sandwich at the carnival and finally hopped the bus that returned us to the hotel.
After breakfast, John and I took pictures around the outside of the hotel by the pool and the water. We then took the bus downtown and switched to Le Grand Tour on-and-off again touring bus and took the whole circuit. We didn’t dare get off at any of the scheduled stops, because we noticed that it was hard to get back on again – the lines were too long and the seats too few. We finally disembarked near the hotel. That was when I noticed the Welcome Pan Am banners installed along the street near the hotel.
We stopped in to the Clipper Lounge for a few pictures of Jim Demetro and his bronze statue, had something to drink and then went up for a nap.
Fortunately, Jim mentioned that I was pictured in an article on the Pan Am event in the Monaco-Matin newspaper that day. I went into the hotel convenience store, but found that all the papers were sold out. A wonderful waiter, however, found a copy in the staff room for me. I was so grateful. The picture was one taken by the Pan Am airplane of Tommy Carroll, Monique Peyrat, Max Gurney and me.
l. to r. Charles Hambleton, Margaret Kelly (cousin of Princess Grace, HSH The Princess of Monaco), Ann Blumensaadt, Robert Genna and Mary Lou Bigelow
That evening, we dressed up – I in my white jacket and long black skirt and John in his black suit. Many of the girls wore their uniforms again, but I had had enough and was happy to be able to wear something else. John and I chose a fun table of four pilots with their wives. It was a nice table and we enjoyed the buffet dinner, seated with them on the ground floor. The event took place in two rooms as there was not enough room to hold everyone in one. The floor above was where the speakers were. Downstairs we had to watch the events on a huge screen. Before the official start of the program, Capt. Tommy Carroll’s DVD played, interspersed with some pictures taken throughout the event. It was a terrific evening.
The next day we packed up and left for the Nice airport by the same bus we took from the airport. It was easy enough and checked into our flight to Rome. A wonderful time was left behind in Monaco, but our pictures will help us relive this time many years to come. I met so many wonderful Pan Amers on the trip that I can’t begin to mention all of them. You can see my album of pictures on the Monaco event in facebook. I also submitted them to an album made up of photos by other attendees, graciously organized by Clipper Pioneer member Jim Kelso called “2012 Dixie Clipper Celebration -Monaco” on Shutterfly –http://monacodixieclippercelebration.shutterfly.com/.
And, the Monaco TV report can be seen at –
or a shortened link at: http://bit.ly/13gnWzJ
Thank you from the heart to the organizers beginning with Chairman Don Cooper! Wil Groote and Jean Khalife callaborated with the committee as the French-based liasons. A special thanks has to go to Max Gurney, former Pan Am District Sales Manager for Southern France and Monaco, for the idea and for coordinating with the Principality’s officials.
More recently, Jeff Kriendler submitted an article for Airways Magazine-February 2013 issue. Courtesy of Airways Magazine.
And another terrific article by Patrick Middleton of The Riviera Reporter, the French Riviera’s English Language NewsMagazine is at –http://www.rivierareporter.com/travel/461-pan-am-remembering-the-great-days
On the Pan Am Historical Foundation website is a story by Lou Berman http://www.panam.org/community/pan-am-events.html and a
Recap of the event under Pan Am Historical Foundation tab What’s Happening – http://www.panam.org/whats-happening.html.