Career Romances for Young Moderns

Career Romances for Young Moderns were a series of books published from the 1950s-1970s about young women striking out in different career fields. But because these were career romances, the books usually ended when the women gleefully give up their career for a man. The books paint a hilarious picture of a business world that's thankfully out-of-date. They're a little hard to come by today, but can be found in used bookstores and online.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hostess in the Sky

Hostess in the Sky, by Margaret Hill, 1955

You know that Replacements song, where Paul Westerberg sneers "you ain't nothin' but a waitress in the sky?" Yeah, well, back in 1955, that wasn't an insult, apparently. This book is lively and fun, and I would even go as far as to say it's more entertaining than a typical Silver Wings for Vicki-type book. It comes off as more interested in Beth's career than in her romances, which makes sense, considering Hill also wrote "Goal in the Sky" and "Senior Hostess."

Main character: Beth Dean

Career: Hostess, Sky Lanes Airlines

Gael's grade: A-

Trauma #1: Beth and pals are junior hostesses trying to make senior (apparently that is chronicled in Hill's next book).

Trauma #2: Living in a house with a bunch of other hostesses tries their patience, especially when someone takes Beth's last pair of stockings. She resorts to WW II methods and fakes having nylons on by drawing a seam up the back of her leg with eyebrow pencil. "Ingenious, that's what an airline hostess was supposed to be," she thinks proudly. She's mortified later when she puts on real seamed stockings and forgets to rub off the first seam, and a passenger notices. Horrors!

Trauma #3: Beth is assigned to go to a mental hospital and take a patient on a flight. But she takes the wrong woman. "All right, so I'm the Idiot of the Airlines," gulps Beth.

Trauma #4: Argument with a passenger about why Sky Lanes is still flying DC-3s, which he calls "worn-out old crates." Beth gets super-defensive and lectures him on the history of flying and how much more it would suck to be flying 30 years ago. "You wouldn't get deviled crab and French green beans with chives if this were back in 1925," she scolds. Um, yuck?

Trauma #5: Once, Beth and chums forget to load silverware on the plane! Luckily, a troop of Boy Scouts are on, and they share their knives. And a woman helpfully notes "we can eat the bacon with our hands." Bacon?? With your HANDS?? What is this world coming to?

Prince Charming: Beth finds a kid stowaway, Jimmy (ah, for those pre-TSA days when anyone could sneak on to a plane...). He's escaped from Boys Town, and it turns out the young man who comes to get him, Peter Harcourt, is a heartbreaker.

What's standing in their way?: Beth simply doesn't see much of Peter for most of the book, but then he shows up again at an air show where a plane has crashed into the crowd, praises her medical skills, and they end up getting together. In a very clean-cut, career-oriented, 1950s way, that is.

Signs o' the times: While attending a small-town rodeo (where all men grow beards), the girls are thrown into Kangaroo Court. Which pretty much consists of nothing, except explaining that their uniforms are royal blue, not powder blue. Got it? Good.

When's the last time you quizzed your stewardess about events in Iraq? Apparently Sky Lanes hostesses "were expected to keep well-informed on world affairs, scientific developments, the latest movies and books."

Beth goes on a radio show for teens and talks about her career. You thought "American Idol" had tough requirements? Hostesses must be unmarried, 21-28 years old, 5'2"-5'7", and weigh between 105 and 125. (According to current standards, a 5'7" woman should weigh 135, so underweight hostesses were apparently highly prized. Also, you're weighed every six months to make sure you're not gaining.)

Kids from an "experimental" (read: proto-hippie) school are on one flight. Of couse, they break a passenger's alarm clock and make a dog look rabid, and Beth sneers at their "progressive" education. She later finds out they actually know quite a bit about flight. Possibly more than Beth.

There's quite a to-do when the airline sells one, yes ONE extra ticket on a certain flight, completely by accident. What would Beth do if she knew about our modern "bumping" procedures and how normal it is?

When a flight is grounded, the hostesses are responsible for entertaining the passengers, even "taking them at company expense to the best restaurants and hotels in town." Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...and how hard is it nowadays to even get a Motel 6 voucher when you're grounded? Yes, I have slept on the floor of the Detroit airport, why do you ask? When Beth's plane is grounded, she gets uber-creative and gets the passengers square-dancing at a local theater. Swing your partner, allemande left and do-si-do!

Quote that says it all: (Remember, this is all on an AIRPLANE.) "The lower deck was divided into two rooms: the long lounge where passengers would gather for games, card-playing and other social activities, and the library equipped with desks, tables, typewriters, maps, shelves built into three of the walls and filled with books. The fourth was Plexiglas to furnish an unrestricted view of whatever happened to be flashing past the window."


"The movies, apparently, had been going on for some time. Beth got in on the features about crop dusting and smoke jumping. She would impress Louise with the scientific names of the latest insecticides and the ideal altitudes for dusting certain crops."

Well, how could Louise NOT be impressed?



  • At 4:51 PM, Blogger Amy said…

    So glad to see a new review! That's one I haven't read before.

    This link goes to my Library Thing collection, where I've entered most of the books I've owned, specifically to the 265 career romances I have entered. I've also scanned a lot of the book covers. (If the books are shown in a long vertical list, you can click on "cover view" to see larger covers.)

    (If the link doesn't work, you can go to, search for user amysisson, go to my profile, and click on my "career romance" tag.)

    I hope I'm not being pushy; I just thought you might be interested.

    Take care!

  • At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There's an interesting article about flight attendants from the 50s and 60s in this month's BUST magazine. Those ladies had to put up with a lot of crap, tellyouwhat.

  • At 8:29 PM, Anonymous Talia said…

    The height/weight requirements actually make some sense: the airlines probably only made the uniforms in two or three sizes, and staying in that height/weight range would allow you to fit in them. (Perhaps that extra money saved with the smaller size selection was why the airlines would entertain the passengers of grounded flights on company expense back then.)

  • At 9:57 AM, Blogger Kim said…

    >>"You wouldn't get deviled crab and French green beans with chives if this were back in 1925," she scolds.

    And you won't in 2007 either. Here are your pretzels; zip it, buddy.

    Also, if I were stranded at an airport and a flight attendant tried to make me square dance, there might be a terrorist incident. I'm just saying.

  • At 10:38 PM, Blogger Min Self said…

    I still think of this book summary almost every time I go on an airplane.


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