|With the purchase
of the 14-passenger Lodestars in 1940, Mr. Baker decided it
was time to once again offer in-flight service, and hired
five stewardesses. Working conditions were improving with this larger
aircraft, passengers now had “stand up” head room, and enjoyed boxed lunches
During the first year, the stewardesses were placed on
flights without formal training, as a stewardess school had not been developed.
One stewardess recalled, “One of the employees would show us the airplane,
where the coffee pot was, and send us on a flight, often the same day we
were hired.” Betty (Fox) Newton, who was hired in the summer of 1941,
recalled “It was a challenge trying to serve a meal gracefully, without
spilling anything, as flights were pretty bumpy at lower altitudes.”
In 1941, one of the original six, Helen Bowen, was promoted
to Chief Stewardess. One of her duties was training the new hires,
as a stewardesses school had been added; Betty (Fox) Newton's class was
the first to attend. Training was sketchy and simple, as they only
learned first aid and how to serve a meal.
When the United States entered World War II, nurses then
flying commercially were needed to serve with the military. Airlines dropped
the RN requirement, opening the door to many women who wanted to share
in the glamour of aviation. The applicants were numerous, but only a select
few were chosen.
In 1946, National and the Chief Stewardesses realized
there was a need for standard service and strict qualifications for applicants.
Classes were now three weeks and each young lady had a manual outlining
her duties and responsibilities.
MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS FOR STEWARDESS in the 40’s:
1. Age limit - 20 through 25 years of age
Applicant must be of perfect physical condition, no disfigurations,
attractive, straight even teeth, clear skin texture, well-shaped hands,
attractive hair and style. Straight attractive legs, straight and well
proportioned facial features.
2. Height - 5’2" to 5’6" (inclusive), stocking
3. Weight - 105 through 125 pounds, properly proportioned
4. Applicant must be single
5. Unquestionable family background
7. Irreproachable character
8. Pleasant personality
9. Good conversationalist
10. Ability to deal with people
11. Speaking knowledge of Spanish or French desirable,
but not required
12. Applicant must have completed two years of college
or have business
background deemed equivalent to college.
With the purchase of the 46-passenger DC-4 and the award
of two important routes, New York and Havana, National Airlines continued
its dynamic growth. For the first time there were two stewardesses per
flight on this aircraft. One of the responsibilities of the senior stewardess
was “Showing the ropes” to the junior stewardess. Working conditions
were challenging, as the Lodestar and DC-4 were not pressurized. Flying
at lower altitudes meant air turbulence, cold cabins in winter and sweltering
conditions in summer. Passengers were uncomfortable and often suffered
air sickness. “Burp bags” and chicklets were a must! The harsh conditions
did not discourage employees or the flying public, as National continued
to prosper. The public began to realize that air travel was the fastest
and most convenient way to travel.
The purchase of the airlines first pressurized airplane,
the 58-passenger DC-6, improved in-flight conditions enormously.
The promotion for this aircraft proudly announced “The first Truly Postwar
Luxury Airliner." Initially christened the “Buccaneer 400’s,” passengers
experienced "Cool Pressurized Cabins at all altitudes, Full View Windows,
Swank Modern Lounge" and flew more than five miles per minute. Service
was inaugurated on July 1, 1947, between Florida and New York, reducing
the five and a-half hour trip on the Lodestar, to an amazing four hours!
In 1949 National embarked on promoting the airline with
innovative and successful ad campaigns. We will be highlighting two --
the popular “Piggy Bank Vacations” and DC-6 "Star" service.
By the end of the decade, approximately 60 stewardesses
proudly wore their National wings. Our first stewardesses pioneered a career
that became an integral part of National's success and history, while exuding
a special brand of dedication to their company and passengers that is remembered
We salute you!
We will be adding additional memories, as we receive them,
from a very special group of ladies, the “Feathered PROPS,” stewardesses
who flew during the 40’s and 50’s. We now invite you to return to
December 7, 1941, (Pearl Harbor Day) and relive the historic flight of
Eleanor (Hayman) Amos, the sixth stewardess to fly for National Airlines