Glamourous memories from Pam Am stewardess

Your Stories · October 6, 2008

panam sterwardess 186x300 Glamourous memories from Pam Am stewardessUltra Swank blog features an amazing interview to former Pam Am stewardess Valerie Waterman. I’ve selected only some sections of the interview that can be found here.

Pan Am training:
I remember we had charm and grace training where we were taught how to sit with our knees and ankles together. We were also taught how to allow a man to light our cigarette - lightly touch his hand while looking into his eyes, Valerie laughs.
Pan Am stewardesses were expected not only to be charming and sophisticated but also know how to walk with grace.
There was make-up and hair training - just exactly what it sounds like. There were hair rules we had to follow. Long hair had to either be in a bun or a pony tail. They cut my hair short. I hated it.

Lifestyle and work:

I almost wish I could tell you it was not glamorous, but the truth is, it was fantastic! The sights were amazing; I learned more about culture, geography and human behaviour during those years - things I could never learn in college.
But of course, not everything was glamorous and stylish.

Picking up garbage, getting things spilled on me, and looking and smelling like a refugee after being on a plane for 20 hours. The jet lag was unrelenting. Something people don’t usually think about is the body’s circadian rhythm is very disturbed by this strange lifestyle. A big topic at crew parties was sleep, not sex!

Before take off, drinks were served on the ground, delivered using a small tray. We wore our white gloves during this service. The cabin crew memorized passenger names as best we could, so we could refer to them individually. “May I take your coat Mr Templar? Here is the dinner menu - I’ll be back in a moment to take your order. Would you care for a drink before we depart the terminal?”

Valerie recalls that all the service equipment had the Pan Am logo on it. Silver, glasses, table line, everything. The menus were colourful and beautifully printed for each region of the world. Probably collector’s items by now. Hot scented towels were offered to each passenger using silver tongs; this was a very important procedure Valerie points out.
After take-off an aperitif was offered along with wines and good French champagne from a cart with a silver ice bucket. Imagine if you will, clinking ice in crystal glasses. Each passenger’s table in first class was set individually with linen, silver, wine goblets, small cut glass salt and pepper shakers - the works.
Pan Am stewardesses were trained to handle everything, in a way they were at the same time hostesses, entertainers and service attendants. In other words; wonder women.
We served food table side using two large silver serving spoons in one hand, almost chop-stick style the food was delicately cradled between the spoons. Sometimes this was difficult with slippery food!

I used to play chess with my passengers. Of course, I was usually on very long flights and I had plenty of time to get to know people. After we showed a movie we’d pass out blankets, pillows, sleep masks and Pan Am playing cards. There was a lot to do - especially in first class.

These memories are related to seventies: it’s amazing how flying experience has changed so much……


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