Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Seeing Cincinnati in a Different Light


This Loveland suburbanite seldom goes to Cincinnati's Downtown and Over-the-Rhine areas more than once a month. Practically everything I want, I can find closer in the 'burbs', including convenient free parking. Last weekend I experienced one exception though--Blink Cincinnati.


I've seen many transformations of the city in my years. Growing up in the 40's & 50's I remember going with my mom to Fountain Square on VJ-Day in August 1945 celebrating the end of WWII. As a young naive Cincinnati Police Cadet in 1959-60 I worked District 2, walking every inch from the Riverfront to Liberty Street. And by the late 60's (considering myself a sophisticated man-about-town) I worked in TWA's sales office on 4th & Walnut. But in all those years I had never seen my city transformed into a spectacular work of art.

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In its first year of operation, Blink attracted more than a million visitors. That breaks a Cincinnati record for the most people for one event. Families and individuals of all ages came together to enjoy the many creative aspects of illumination, whether they be displayed upon buildings or in a parade.


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Certainly, many of those who didn't attend, but heard the rave reviews, will make next year's even more popular. The following videos represent only a miniscule part of the event. Enjoy!

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Tribute to High Flying Hugh

Getty Images, Bettmann
With the passing of Hugh Hefner, the world has lost a cultural icon, the likes of which we will never see duplicated.

For airliner buffs, the above photo was shot in part of the first class lounge of a TWA Convair 880 (note the small holes at the end of the armrests for insertion of bayonet meal trays). The lounge was later replaced with three rows of first class seating. I understand Mr. Hefner was a frequent TWA flyer, especially between Los Angeles and Chicago, before receiving delivery of his own custom-made DC9 in 1969. His seat partner in the photo is Cynthia Maddox, Playboy's Assistant Cartoon Editor, who appeared on the Playboy cover five times.

Photo Credit-Just Plane History Blog

"Big Bunny" aka "Hare Force One"

In my years working out of LAX whenever I saw "Big Bunny" parked on the charter tarmac, I often fantasized what I'd experience if I were a priviliged guest on one of its flights. A unique feature of the DC9 was its retractable stairs, eliminating the need to have passenger steps brought to the plane. I read that Hef sold his plane in 1976 to a Venezuelan airline. Later, it was flown by Aeromexico on scheduled service. In 2004 it was finally retired. The parted-out jet's fuselage is now an educational tool, having been donated to the city of Cadereyta in Mexico. Hugh was larger than life and his legacy will not soon be forgotten.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bon Voyage for Pittsburgh???

Should Non-flyers have Access into Secure Airport Areas?


Courtesy: On Call International Blog

What do you think? Should non-flyers--restricted from access since 9/11 terrorist attacks--now be permitted access to secure concourses and concessions? If so, should these non-flyers have to pay a fee to be cleared through TSA Security?

Aunt Mildred would certainly be delighted to have several nephews and nieces there to meet her as she emerges from the jetway. Certainly, the concessionaires would be pleased to serve the nephews and nieces some food, or sell them apparel, books, souvenirs, etc. as they wait for their aunt's arrival. Airport parking lots would see increased revenue from their short-term parking as well. Creative airport concessionaire could offer to validate a non-flyers short term parking ticket, allowing an hour or two of complimentary parking--if the non-flyer purchases a certain dollar minimum.

Pittsburgh's airport is trying such a procedure.  Pittsburgh Post Gazette-28 AUG 2017 Airmall Article

Pittsburgh's airport lost its hub status to Philadelphia when U.S. Air merged into American Airlines, just as Cincinnati's airport lost its to Detroit when Northwest merged into Delta. Both have become what is termed 'origin-destination' airports in airline parlance. No longer must they accommodate massive numbers of connection passengers, scurrying from one gate to another, during scheduled surge periods.

I personally think hub airports should forbid non-flyer access. It's just too darn crowded during the surge periods to have non-flyers slowing down connecting passengers. Not to mention if you think TSA lines are long now, just think how long they will be with non-flyers having to clear security.

As for the origin-destination airports, I think each airport should decide for themselves. Cultural aspects may come into play. For example, folks deplaning in Jackson, Mississippi may be more patient waiting for Aunt Mildred and her greeters to clear the gate area, than those, say, in White Plains New York. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Real Thing This Time

The Booksellers on Fountain Square
Although I'm now a published author, I must concede that words cannot describe how I feel, seeing my memoir displayed here at The Booksellers on Fountain Square (Joseph Beth Books and Roebling Books as well).

Now, I have a confession to make, about something that's not in my memoir. It's something I hadn't told my wife about till just now. It occured during my earlier life, when I was a student patrolman at the University of Cincinnati. Early one Sunday morning, when the library building was closed, I used my master key to admit myself and my friend Denny Cooper. We went to the card catalogue desk, removed two blank cards, then typed in bogus names of books that we "authored." Denny, who had worked in a library during high school, gave each book a logical, but phony, Dewey Decimal number.

I remember the title of my 'book' had something to do with cybernetics. Maybe this was my first subconscious indication that I wanted to be a real author someday. That was over 50yrs ago. I guess it's a good lesson, you're never too old to give up on your dreams!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Before There Was BAYWATCH...There Was BREECH


Breech Academy Summer 1970
Admittedly, I would never be mistaken for David Hasselhoff, but some of the TWA 'hostesses' could easily rival the Baywatch beauties. Plus, we all had extensive ditching training. Uh, sorry I meant to say extensive 'water landing' training. When I think of this airline euphemism, I can imagine my late idol, George Carlin shouting with gusto, "We no longer 'stand by' for 'ditching'!" Then in a softer, more effeminate voice he continues, "We're going to have to 'get ready' for a...'water landing.'" And if you're wondering, no, I don't usually wear a life jacket at hotel pools. Behind me is Breech Academy, TWA's training center for cabin crews.

Call it what you want, an aircraft evacuation in a body of water is, in my opinion the most difficult safety maneuver to execute. In the calm of Breech's pool, it took all I had to pull myself up into the 25-man life raft. I can imagine how difficult it is to enter the raft amidst ocean swells.








On the other hand, when on terra firma, taking a ride down the 747's evacuation slide from 18 feet above the ground is a piece of cake. The dual slides even allow you to bring a buddy along. A velcro surface at the bottom stops you from spilling out onto the runway, grass, sand (whatever). 

If you enjoy riding in the upper deck of the 747-400 series, the secondary evacution route is from a height of 35 feet, or about 50-some feet of slide. Now that's a real thrill! So ladies, while you may want to see Hasselhoff at the beach, I can guarantee you'd rather be sitting next to me on a plane if things get rough.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

'Shaving Down My Bucket List'

   Bucket List items shouldn't necessarily consist of such feats as climbing El Capitan at Yosemite or milking cobra's venom in Thailand. No. They can be less risky and more accessible, like enjoying evening cocktails at the 107 Sky Lounge in Las Vegas, or renting an exotic car for an afternoon drive while vacationing in Miami.

For the past two years, my wife, Stacey, and I have manned a water station for the Price Hill Pacer's Charity Run, in neighboring Cincinnati. It was located on West Eight Street, in front of Grote's Barber Shop. There I noticed a window sign promoting 'Hot Towel Shaves.' Childhood memories of waiting for my turn in the barber's chair while watching men get those shaves came back to mind.
Hot towel shaves have become a relic of the past. Today, men tend to look at shaving as a necessary evil. Get it done-fast! Fine, but that's not what hot towel shaves are about. They're about relaxing and disengaging from your typical world for thirty minutes. Don't even think about checking your smart phone, or even talking, while a licensed expert glides a straight-razor against your face and throat--unless an ambulance ride is on your bucket list. For me a hot towel shave is the guy's version of a lady's spa visit.
Terry Grote has been giving hot towel shaves for over 40yrs.
By the way, ladies, perhaps you should consider pampering your guy to a hot towel shave for his birthday. It's the least we deserve after all those years of spa gift certificates.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A 4th of July Surprise

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to 
Ohio State University where the local time.....

  Not what you'd expect to hear when you book a flight from Chicago to Columbus, Ohio.

   Today, July 4th, marks the 50th anniversary of the landing of a TWA Boeing 707 at Ohio State University's Don Scott Field--Instead of Port Columbus!
   It was approaching midnight as Captain Chittenden, commanding TW30 from Chicago O'Hare to (supposedly) Port Columbus, descended the four-engine jet below the overcast, then announced he had the runway in sight. Yes. The runway for the WRONG airport. Land the plane, he did, on OSU's short 4400-foot runway, with 1000 feet to spare
   The east-west runway at Don Scott has roughly the same heading as the one at Port Columbus located some 10 miles southeast.

CMH Citizens Journal Front Page July 5th, 1967
   After the passengers were bussed to Port Columbus, another 707 was ferried from Kansas City to Port Columbus overnight, in order to be flown on a scheduled flight to JFK in the early morning. The strayed 707 was flown from Don Scott to Port Columbus later that morning by TWA's Superintendent of Flying.
   A week after the 'Don Scott episode.' I and two other TWA sales reps from Cincinnati attended a regional sales meeting at our Pittsburgh office. When the sales reps from Columbus walked in, my colleague Phil Pateneaude yelled out, "Did you guys fly in from Port Columbus or Ohio State?" We all had a good laugh--including the Columbus reps.

   Actually, airliner landings at the wrong airport are not that uncommon. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

And The Overwhelming Winner Is...



Many thanks to those who partook in our poll. I appreciate your many thoughtful comments. This was my favorite design. I'm glad so many others agree. We've been working on the cover designs with a couple in Long Beach, CA. They have fond memories of TWA, and I feel they captured that period in commercial air travel when flying was still glamorous.

By the end of the month we anticipate having our Advanced Reader Copies (ARC's) printed. Stacey has already arranged for me to attend book events in the Greater Cincinnati area. I'm really getting excited now!

Friday, June 9, 2017

When Air Travel was Golden

Part of an Ad, From TWA Movie Clips, Vintage Photos on Facebook
Recently, the writer of an opinion article in the New York Times claimed there was no such "Golden Age of Air Travel," Much of the article dealt with economic factors cited by the Airlines for America Industry Trade group. He mentioned how the cost of airfares decreased (adjusting for inlation) since the "Golden Age". There was no mention though of the stagnation and decline of disposable income over those years for tens of millions of Americans. He also cites how many itineraries took longer than today, due to slower planes and multiple stops. I must say that our 747's in the early seventies, flying from Los Angeles to London, arrived just as fast as those today.

The Golden Age of Air Travel--as I define being during my time with TWA (1964-1974)--was not an economic era, but a cultural era. In this sense, it was the most flourishing period in the history of commercial air. Folks excitedly anticipated dressing up and getting on a plane. Smoking wasn't a big issue then as it is today in planes, restaurants, etc. Ample seat comfort and legroom was standard in coach, unlike today (see my earlier blog post). The transition from prop to jet was much more remarkable than the addition of WI FI and visual entertainment systems in today's cramped jets. Back then, folks on board didn't expect to be constantly entertained or occupied. They read, slept, knitted, and wrote letters--in cursive!
L-1011 Coach Lounge
Cross-country wide-body planes offered spacious coach lounges, offering passengers a place to stop by for a drink and some conversation. When was the last time you mingled around the bar in coach? Most flights over 90 minutes provided coach passengers with a hot meal, accompanied with real silverware.

Did one pay more then-adjusted for inflation? If so, so what. You definitely got more than you get on today's flights. Cheaper transportation in cramped seats was always available with Greyhound and Trailways.

Computer systems have vastly improved (?) since the Golden Age. Today, if you're flying on the lowest coach fare, the computers will mandate your seat assignment at the airport, possibly separating you from your family members or travel companions. It's all about the airlines' bottom line--not your comfort. And during a prolonged computer outage--something increasingly common these days--an airline suffers complete paralysis. So does its passengers! For one thing, there are no standard hand-written tickets capable of admitting passengers on board (as we had in the past).
Standard TWA Ticket
Most of my soon-to-be-published memoir, Up, Up and Astray recalls my life during that exciting period. It was fun writing it, and it was a real blast living it!







Friday, May 26, 2017

Is Air Travel Coming to This?


Operation Solomon-Photo Courtesy Patrick Baz/AFB/Getty Images
As if American Airlines hasn't enough customer service headaches along with other legacy and low-cost carriers, it chose to add more salt to its passengers' wounds. AA is decreasing the seat pitch in "steerage" class to a miserly 29". On flights with 30" and 31" pitches, I still get my kneecaps bruised by the person in front reclining an inch or so.

Normally I won't recline my seat in coach if my flight is two hours or less. After boarding a longer flight, I'll usually recline my seat first, just to make sure the person behind me didn't clip on a "knee defender." To assume the crash position with today's seat pitches one only has room to bend one's head and pray.

Not to be outdone, United Airlines announced (in a whisper) starting in May, it will increase some of its triple-7's present 9-across economy seat config to 10-across.
This will be troubling for those up front in their lay-down beds. How can they sleep, over the moaning and screaming of those wedged-in behind, fighting for armrest space?

Oh, For Those "Good Ole Days"

Wanna weep? Check out the snippet below, probably from an edition of TWA's Skyliner employee magazine in the late 1960s (courtesy Airlineguys Tweet)










What has been your experience in flying coach/economy? Have you had unpleasant experiences with fellow passengers? Do you see safety concerns in your perceived ability to get to the evacuation slides in time? Feel free to post your observations or suggestions.

If you enjoy reminiscing about these airline tales of yore, please share this blog with your friends.