Hostess in the Sky
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?