A series of articles about the “Good Old Days” in which yet another pathetic cranky aging boomer tries to convince the world that things used to be better.

A couple of weeks ago my next door neighbor, who must travel often from here (St. Louis) to Chicago, summed it up when he said that flying is worse than going to the DMV. And this remark was made before the Christmas Day incident and the resulting increased (and inconsistent) attempts at improving security.

We all know what a hassle it is just to get to your plane. To add insult to injury, he added that more than half the time, the flight attendants announced that due to the short flying time, no beverages would be served. “Wow” I thought, short is a relative term. Back when I started in the airline business, at the long gone and sorely missed Ozark Air Lines, we would routinely serve beverages on the 29-minute Columbia – St. Louis flight (and that’s not 29 minutes flying time, that was the published gate-to-gate or “block” time, the actual flying time at least eight minutes less).

With a standard like that, it’s no wonder that we served food on almost every one of our eleven STL – ORD flights (each one hour, gate-to-gate). The morning flights we nicknamed the “donut dash.” Trays of assorted donuts were boarded; one flight attendant dished them out (and it seemed that some passengers took forever to decide which one they desired) while the other two followed with the beverage cart. Not too tough.

Later in the day, however, things got interesting. For many years we had a service called the wine basket. The food carriers, which normally held seven full-size trays, were filled with (I think) about twenty oval baskets, each of which contained a piece of fruit (either an apple or a small bunch of grapes, depending on the season), two pieces of wrapped cheese (usually Laughing Cow) a package of crackers, a napkin, a plastic knife, a packet of Grey Poupon mustard and a pony (187 ml) bottle of complimentary wine.

The ovens were boarded with warm sandwiches. After takeoff, we’d pile the sandwiches on top of the food cart and two flight attendants would dish them out while a third would follow with additional beverages. Clean up was simple; we’d go through the cabin with plastic bags for the disposable items and stack the baskets, holding them between our arms and bodies as we proceeded through the cabin. All of this in 50 minutes or less!

Later on, just for variety we substituted warm pizza slices from a local chain, coupled with a seven-ounce bottle of Budweiser (we were based in St. Louis after all). And for the crews (based out of STL) the trip sequences almost always held a pair of these legs (up to ORD and back) so you did it twice. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

These old-days stories are something to reflect on these days while you’re trying to get the flight attendant’s attention so you can enjoy your $5 (or more) beer (they were a buck then, cocktails $1.50) to take the edge off of your travel experience. That is, if your flight is deemed long enough in include a beverage service.


Photo:by wheezr, flickr creative commons