As I watch the promo for the new 2011 PAN AM TV show with the four Pan Am stewardess strutting together in formation, I don’t see TV actresses (who are terrific, by the way, in their roles). I see my former Pan Am roommates – Mary Lou “Pfohl” Gallagher, Marge Warder, Sally “Pierce” von Summer, Pam Jones, and me (Mary Lou “Moore” Bigelow). These trim young women on the screen are sporting our 1962-1964 hairdos, our hats, our uniforms, our Pan Am name pins and wings, our shoes, our bags, and as a friend remarked our purposeful stride with “attitude.”
Since the TV show started Sunday, September 25, 2011, I have experienced lots of little “aha” moments and pleasurable recall events of emotions, feelings, people, places, and memorable times from those exciting days flitting around the world, and with pay!
My flying career began in 1959 as an air hostess for TWA (Trans World Airlines) out of the New York and Boston bases. I flew within the continental U.S. for the first nine months, and then switched to the international division as the most junior girl in that system. TWA made a new ruling that all international air hostesses were required to speak a second language. I jumped at the chance to try out with my meager knowledge of French and managed to pass inspection. My thrilling new schedule took me to the gateway cities of London, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, and Madrid. Most of our schedules were three-day turn arounds with a one-city layover, i.e. New York/Paris/New York; New York/Rome/New York; and so on. I would normally have four three-day trips per month. Flights that continued on to the Middle East were handled by a French TWA cabin crew, based in Paris.
In mid 1962, I left TWA and joined Pan Am as a stewardess, and later checking out on May 1, 1963 as a purser, flying for the Overseas Division out of New York. My flights took me from New York as far east as Hong Kong and return. A typical 12-14-day Far East trip might include layovers in London, England; Istanbul, Turkey; Karachi, Pakistan, Bangkok, Thailand; Hong Kong with return stopovers in Teheran, Iran and Paris, France. Of course there were shorter trips as well.
Though my flying days ended when I quit flying in September 1964 to marry airline pilot John Bigelow, my connection with Pan Am continued for years to come. John and I moved to Miami, Florida in October 1964. I soon returned to Pan Am, working in ticket sales for V.P. William Bray and District Traffic/ Sales Manager Porter Norris at the downtown Miami Sales office. Shortly, thereafter, John joined Pan Am as a captain, training Pan Am pilots on the Boeing 727. In mid 1968, the Company offered John a position as the advisor training captain for Pan Am’s technical assistance program with Ariana Afghan Airlines, Afghanistan’s international airline. In two weeks, we packed up our belongings and headed for Kabul, Afghanistan. I was thrilled to be on the road/air again, so to speak. Sitting in one place was never my idea of living! But more of that much later. I am getting way ahead of my story.