CLIPPED WINGS

Flight at­ten­dants in re­tire­ment; many en­dured tough stan­dards

RSWLiving - - Departments - BY CRAIG GAR­RETT Craig Gar­rett is Group Ed­i­tor-in-Chief for TOTI Me­dia.

They were servers with a nurse’s train­ing, sin­gle and slim, forced out by age 32. In public, they couldn’t eat, drink or smoke; many wore white gloves and were tucked into im­pec­ca­ble uni­forms, small hats pinned atop their coiffed heads. They had to be ready to fill in, al­ways, overnight bags packed, sub­jected to strict ap­pear­ance screen­ings at work, un­usual even in the 1950s.

To­day we call them flight at­ten­dants. The in­di­vid­u­al­ity of an air car­rier was gen­er­ally shaped by these “air hostesses,” serv­ing plated meals and for­ever smil­ing in a bounc­ing plane, and with whom the public most closely in­ter­faced―but with re­stricted rights even out­side the job.

Yet these women, and later men, were re­silient and fought for their rights. A 1970s move­ment ended the pro­hi­bi­tion on mar­riage and al­lowed them to re­tire when they chose. Some older flight at­ten­dants re­main in the sky―it’s not too un­usual to have 50 or more years on the job, says Mol­lie Lassy, South­west Florida chap­ter pres­i­dent of Clipped Wings, a na­tional club of re­tired and ac­tive United Air­lines flight at­ten­dants. The group formed in 1941. South­west Florida’s chap­ter has some 35 ac­tive and re­tired mem­bers. It’s mostly so­cial, keep­ing tabs on the air­lines, trad­ing de­tails on kids and grand­kids, Lassy says, but it also in­cludes plan­ning for the Spe­cial Olympics, an event Clipped Wings na­tion­ally co-spon­sors.

On this sunny morn­ing, South­west Florida’s Clipped Wings are gath­er­ing at the Gulf Coast Town Cen­ter for their monthly lun­cheon. A hand­ful still fly, but most are off the clock. Other din-

ers gawk as the women pass by, re­spect­ful, per­haps sens­ing that they rep­re­sent some­thing spe­cial. They are, af­ter all, quite strik­ing into their 60s and 70s. They carry them­selves with glam­our and the in­tan­gi­ble co­he­sion of school­teach­ers, sol­diers or a base­ball team.

The lessons of the 1950s and ’60s can do that, Lassy says. “It was like a fash­ion ca­reer, but deal­ing with so many rules. It’s much dif­fer­ent now.”

Clipped Wings meets monthly to keep tabs on their busi­ness and one an­other.

Flight at­ten­dants had en­dured strict dress, mar­riage and re­tire­ment rules. Things changed in the 1970s.

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