Please share your Pacific Air Lines and Southwest Airways experience with everyone. Email your “recollection” to Dan@DanVeenstra.com. If you have a photo of yourself during the time you worked for PAL then that would be a plus.
Also, see "Recollections of Flight Crew" by visiting the “Aircraft” page, #1, “ Behind Closed Doors” – This is a place Flight Crew, Pilots & Stewardesses, can share their experiences while flying in our aircraft. Those moments one does not easily forget.
SMX MRY SCK ACV Jim Wells, Station Manager
In 1962 at 30 years old, working for the City of Ukiah, California, at the airport with my own airplane and a sexy Bank of America employee as my wife, things were good. The local Airline manager, Paul Puffer, suggested I could do better as an airline agent and gave me a job application. I went to SFO and was hired. First stop was Santa Maria.
The manager in SMX spent most of his time masquerading as an official with his suit and tie and briefcase with nothing in it. His frequent words to the load plan agent, ” I’m going to San Francisco” became routine. The younger agents seemed to be afraid of him. Being the same age, I was not impressed and got along very well. Our senior agent decided enough was enough and transferred to Los Angeles.
Soon after, nearing one year on the job, I was called to SFO to meet with a man, Kip Wharton. I sat down in his office and he asked me If I knew why he called me up there. I replied, " probably because of the manager”. He gave me a look, I didn’t forget, and said, ” If I have any problem with a manager, I can handle it and I don’t need any help from you”. After I got back up from the floor, he asked if I would accept the Senior Agent position at SMX. I said yes, and went home. Shortly after, I entered the hospital for an operation. The manager told some agents I would not be back, and they called my wife at the bank. She called Kip Wharton. The very next day. Kip and a sales employee arrived on the first flight and went to the bank, telling my wife not to worry, my job was secure. A few weeks later we had a real gentleman, Bill Burr, as our manager. After that, nearing two years, another call to meet Kip Wharton, would I accept the assistant manager position in Monterey. I said yes and we moved again. The Manager, Dee Goodman was top notch for sure. I learned a lot from him. After a year and a half, another call, would I accept the manager position in Stockton.
My Stockton time was fun. Having one of the top union persons as an agent was a real plus. One day, Eric Wilson arrived for a station inspection. He seemed to be interested in my files that were not exactly normal using numbers instead of letters, but neat and complete. I think they had something to do with another call very soon. The call, at he beginning of 1967, was, how about going to Eureka/Arcata as manager. We moved again.
We should all thank Dan for all his work to keep Pacific alive. Jim Wells
RNO SFO Bill Dellinges, Station Agent
I was born and raised in San Francisco and after graduating from high school in 1961 figured I might as well get my military obligation out of the way and join the AF. I was afraid of water (Navy) and didn’t like the idea of marching through mud (Army). I always liked airplanes, having built every Revelle plastic airplane kit known to man. Maybe the AF could teach me a trade useful in civilian life? I did one four year enlistment, 1961-1965 as a mechanic on B-52’s and C-130’s. Upon discharge I went knocking on doors at SFO looking for a job with the airlines. I eventually found Pacific Airlines (PC) in an old Spanish-looking building which I believe was the original SFO terminal. They occupied several offices within this building. The action was now at the newer Central Terminal but PC still used the older terminal area for maintenance. I was interviewed by Bill Company and we hit off, talking about old WW II airplanes (hey, those plastic models paid off!). He was impressed with my WW II aircraft knowledge and Air Force background. While I had an aircraft maintenance job in mind, he said they had openings for Station Agents. I asked what that was. The description sounded interesting and I thought what the heck, it had something to do with airplanes and frankly, I was running out of my AF mustering out pay fast. I had my choice of Chico, Reno, or South Lake Tahoe. He said after 6 months I could put a transfer in for SFO. The pay was “352.” I assumed he meant $3.52 an hour. Pretty good starting pay in those days. To my chagrin, I later discovered he meant $352 a month. I chose Reno and Dad helped finance my journey and establishment in RNO. My hire date was March 29, 1965. I damn neared starved to death the first 2 months! I survived by using free dinner chips at clubs given to me by relatives who had collected them on gambling trips there. Also, every weekend I drove down to SFO in my ’61 VW or use a PC pass to see my girlfriend and borrow $20 from Dad each week – $10 for my guest house room and $10 for food. Yes, though a newbie, I had weekends off. But there was a catch. I got off Friday night at 10pm and had to be back at work Monday morning at 4am! A split shift. No wonder no one wanted that shift! Yet I still managed a weekend in SFO! Have you ever driven a VW bug over the Sierras in the winter at night? The heater leaves something to be desired. Once I had $5 on me and I headed out of RNO at 11pm on a snowy night for SFO. At a road block in Truckee a guy knocked on my window asking if he could put my chains on. I naively said yes! Gee, I thought, this is great service! Later he said, “that will be $3.” When I said “What?” he yelled at me, “Do you think I’m out here for my health?!” Now down to $2, I didn’t have enough money for the two bridges I needed to cross S.F. Bay. So I paid to cross the Carquinez Bridge and without enough money for the S.F. Bay Bridge drove to S.F via San Jose. Jeez. I eventually got on my feet financially after a few months and paid my father back all the money I had borrowed from him. I was trained by the station manager, Bob Brandia and senior agent Ted Kaphan. We did everything: ticket counter, freight, cargo loading, reservations, fueling (both planes and the fueling truck!), load plan, passenger boarding. Then stand in front of the plane in our neat blue uniforms as we signaled engine start and smartly salute the flight off. Bob was a very professional, strict manager. At one point he complimented me on my progress. What he didn’t know was that when he was not in the station, we agents got a little goofy. We did our job, but it was a case of “when the cat is away, the mice will play” kind of thing. Some recollections: One night I was alone while the guys took a coffee break when Capt. Flickinger called in, “10 minutes out, what’s the wx (weather).” I radioed back I was new and didn’t know how to read weather yet. He grumbled “just read the numbers and describe the symbols to me.” So I did. Of all the PC captains, Flickinger was the last guy you wanted to tick off. As he walked through the station after landing, I heard him utter, “Can’t they train these guys properly?” Once a departing F27 needed 600 pounds of ballast and the agent doing the load plan forgot to tell anyone. Thank God the plane made it to its destination OK. One morning “Hal” was late and showed up at 5am after partying wearing jeans and a t-shirt, looking very hung over, checking in the Fun Flight passengers. Oh boy, if Bob had seen that he would have had a kitten. One day an F27 took off and a main gear tire fell off. I think we had 4 departures a day but only the “Reno Fun Flight 5am flight was ever full. I couldn’t figure out why the Bonanza flights to LAS were always full. They made a killing on that route. I recall when UA replaced their DC-6’s with 727’s. Wow! That plane looked like a 747 to me. And I think Western flew a 720 in there as well.
I stayed beyond the required 6 months, from March to about January partly because I liked living in Reno and partly because I felt obligated to stay the winter after all the cold wx operations training I had been given. Speaking of wx, in winter we often had to work with the Tahoe station manager, Don Rice, via telephone to reroute his snowbound passengers to Reno by bus for alternate flight arrangements – or anytime of the year due to wind direction problems. It was a very touchy airport. But around January 1966, my 10th month in Reno, I had made a couple mistakes Bob felt were unprofessional and asked me to transfer to SFO or he’d have to consider firing me. Thus I found myself working the ticket counter in SFO from 1966 to 1968. The Air West merger did a number on me – the counter was a nightmare. I transferred downstairs to operations until we became Hughes Air West in 1970 (my favorite 10 years with the airlines). Then came Republic in 1980, Northwest in 1985. By then I was working strictly the ramp. I retired July 25th, 2000 after 35 years with the airlines. Those first 10 months in Reno with Pacific Airlines seem like a million years ago and another lifetime. But I have fond memories of those “old days” and my introduction to life in the airline world.
MRY Jenny Ahn Wangoe, Reservations
In my youth, I followed my father all around the world – I was an Army Brat. I guess that wetted my appetite for travel – seeing wondrous sights & interesting people of different cultures. Upon my father’s return from Viet Nam – he was re-assigned to Ft. Ord, CA. I always wanted to be a stewardess but too young to fly. So inquired at the Fort JAMTO office to see if they were hiring. They advised me to apply at the Monterey Airport as they understood various carriers were hiring which lead me to Pacific Airlines. I was hired by Joe Smith – MRY/MGR – Nov 1966 as a Reservations Agent. A wonderful experience & awakening into “Airline Talk – Humor – Outlook – Precision & Camaraderie”. It was the days of headsets, phone boards & a large lazy Susan full of metal file boxes filled with file cards with handwritten reservations. The res cards were deposited through a hole in the wall and were teletyped for flight confirmations. On the job training was the way you learned the job.
Finally of age, I was accepted by American Airlines as a Stewardess and graduated from American Airlines Stewardess College, Ft Worth, Texas – based in Dallas, Texas. At the time fluent in Spanish I was awarded the Mexican run. (Attended Monterey Peninsula College night school 3rd year Spanish when working at the MRY airport.) I flew on the Boeing 707’s, 727’s & 727 stretches. Based in Dallas was a wonderful window into the political times of Texas. Lyndon Baines Johnson was our President. Many a flight was full of political leaders & dignitaries visiting the President at his Texas ranch (his western white house). My domestic flights would originate DAL & most often head East to DCA or JFK – then West to ORD – SFO –then South to LAX or SAN – then back to home base DAL. Usually 3 day trips. Always amazed how SFO was cold & SAN tropically warm – loved the palm trees!
I feel fortunate to have been part of the airline business in its heyday (both Pacific Air Lines & American Airlines in the 60’s) – when the men wore suits and ties & ladies dresses & nylons. We had time to serve our customers & make polite conversation. The food was plentiful & eye pleasing in all classes of service.
Met my future husband, Peter J. Wangoe PC/MRY while working at the Monterey Airport. In retirement we make our home on San Juan Island, Washington State.
I thought about a night the previous week when I was making a landing at the Tri Cities Airport near Pasco in southern Washington. An approach to the south west runway would normally begin from the east of the airfield, but as we were headed south from Boeing Field in Seattle we were required to ‘circle’ the field so as to land to the west. At that time, there was no precision approach and new to the route, I had not made this type of procedure here before. With the low ceiling we circled to the north of the runway at 600 feet above the ground before making our turn to a final approach. As this was my ‘leg’ and I was flying in the 1st Officer’s seat, I could see lots of flashing red lights off the end of the runway. I suspected there had been an accident and was concerned about making a missed approach. The captain, noticing my apparent anxiety, explained to me that this was a “Hump yard”, a train switching area and to continue the approach. I suspect I was anxious and pumping a little more adrenaline than normal, and at that time I noticed this shortness of breath which quickly passed as we completed our landing.
SFO Bill Critch, Pilot
Hubris at Flight Level 350
Do we challenge the gods? Or should we?
I had just celebrated my thirty-fifth birthday and life was becoming very sweet. I was flying airplanes I loved – newly painted, McDonald Douglas DC 9 Dash 30s. Within the year I would probably be a captain again, but this time, a well-paid airline captain, not an Air Force one. The skills were the same, but the airline job was much easier – we had a strong union and no additional squadron duties! At the moment, co-pilot’s pay was certainly enough to give us a comfortable life, but captain’s pay would increase my salary significantly enough for lots of overseas holiday travel with the passes provided by Air West.
Flying north over Idaho in the late winter afternoon, the Captain pointed out how the shadows on the ground showed the wagon tracks of the early settlers. When I compared my life to theirs, I couldn’t help but think I had it ‘made in the shade’. After leaving our ticky-tacky house in California, we had settled into a 1914 vintage home in the North End of Tacoma – the ‘better’ neighborhood of doctors, lawyers and assorted white Indian chiefs, far to the north of the blue collar house where Marlene had grown up. Our two-storey house had a bedroom for each of our daughters and they were attending an elementary school to which they could safely walk. They had a ready-made circle of friends nearby and we looked forward to summer parties surrounded by rhododendrons on the lawn that was tended by our Japanese gardener. Marlene’s mum was delighted that she could see her grandchildren, her daughter and her successful son-in-law, the airline pilot.
Looking to the north from our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, I saw a flash of lightning. Funny, there were no cumulus clouds there. Were the gods angry? Was Zeus playing tricks on me, or sending me a message? Well, I had a break coming – three days off and plenty to do around the house. Medical exams are a large factor in a successful career for ship’s captains, truck drivers and pilots; if you are aware of any health problems, you take appropriate steps to ensure that they are taken care of prior to an official record. So following our first trip to Europe, I discussed with Marlene the wisdom of having a private medical exam from a non-Federal Aviation Agency approved doctor to establish a base line for any future official physical exams. Our Family Practice physician had recommended a colleague who was equipped with the latest diagnostic equipment including a treadmill – an item not yet in common inventory by cardiologists who usually used a short stool to conduct what was then known as ‘The Captain’s Two-step’. My April 15th appointment was at the beginning of a three day break in my schedule so I was well rested when, fully wired-up with sensors, I stepped on the treadmill. Today’s machines run smoothly and without much noise but Dr. Billingsley’s machine sounded like an empty flatcar being shunted over Tacoma’s Tideflats just below our house. After three-minute warm-up, the slowly moving walkway was raised and the speed increased. I began to feel the shortness of breath I had experienced earlier in the week when I went for an afternoon run around the block. The machine stopped suddenly and Billingsley took my arm and asked me to step down and lie on the examining table.
“Are you experiencing any discomfort?” he said. “No, just out of breath,” I said. “I’m a bit out of condition and I haven’t been exercising much lately.” He put a small white tablet under my tongue and told me to lie still while the lab assistant removed the electro sensors from my chest. After a few minutes, I put on my street clothes and joined him in his office. “Bill, I understand you are an airline pilot,” he said. “Have you had this shortness of breath any other time?” “Yes, Doctor,” I said. “I noticed it the other night on an approach to Pasco.” Jim Billingsley was also a pilot and, as I later found out, a fairly good one who owned his own Beech Bonanza. He understood why I had been anxious, but he also knew why the shortness of breath had appeared. “I’m sorry to tell you this,” he said, “but you have a serious heart problem. I saw it on the electrocardiogram tracing when you were on the treadmill. That’s why we terminated the test. If you had continued, you could have had a heart attack!” I immediately thought about last week’s scenario in Pasco. If 1st Officer Critch had a heart attack, the airplane could have rolled right into the ground before the captain, distracted by a radio call, could take over.
It was quiet for a minute. “Well doc,” I said, “I think I’d best ground myself until we get this sorted out.” He said quietly, “I don’t think it will get sorted out. It’s very serious and I suspect that your flying days are over, Bill. You have what I call a coronary insufficiency, which is to say that my preliminary diagnosis is advanced arteriosclerosis.” I’m 35, look younger, I don’t smoke much, I drink booze like the rest of my contemporaries and I’m not overweight. What’s this arteriosclerosis? I’ve never heard of it! But I think of the consequences of not reporting this condition and continuing flying. Apart from a clear violation of Federal Aviation Regulations, a lot of people including myself could end up dead. I came home much later than expected and Marlene and the girls were already having supper.
“How’d you like Dr Billingsley?” Marlene said. “Not very well. I’m grounded!” It became very quiet at the table. Sheila continued eating her fried chicken, but Tammy sensed Marlene’s reaction and she asked, “What’s wrong, Dad? Are you sick?” Like most aviators’ wives, Marlene understood very well what ‘grounded’ meant. If it was permanent it meant a huge loss of income and a drastic change of lifestyle. Most of our pilot friends had big mortgages, several cars and very expensive tastes in travel and entertaining. Several were already on their 2nd marriage and were paying alimony and child support based on generous court settlements quickly agreed to. They had challenged the gods but no bolt of lightning warned them to back off. The gods were definitely not smiling on us! So much for the sweet life, ‘made in the shade’. Of course, that’s not the end of the story. That night with the kids asleep and ourselves wide awake, over a glass of plebian Pink Chablis, we discussed our resources and our future plans.
Did I challenge the gods? Should we? Yes, I think we should. We challenge life by tossing the big, brown pennies and shouting as they spin, “Sydney or the bush!” What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. My high school motto was, “Dare to do as much as you are able” and if I have passed that on to my kids, I’ve succeeded in challenging the gods….and won. (In retrospect, it worked out rather well: we both started college two months later, scraped by on the money we had saved and in three years I was employed by Boeing; in five years Marlene was hired as the assistant Director of Medical records in a large local hospital. Of course, my flying days were over, but I continued to train ‘real’ pilots in the simulators and never again did I consider that we might have it “made in the shade.”)
MRY Richard Artus, Station Agent
Station Agents Mantra
Carriage return, line feed, letters “Those were the days!”
My time with Pacific and then AirWest was short as you know, less than a year. After getting out of the Army I wanted to stay in the MRY area rather then moving back to Chicago and luckily got hired by Pacific as a Station Agent.
The number of famous people that came through Monterey was pretty impressive. With LAX being where many of MRYs flights flew to we had a lot of Hollywood types coming and going out of MRY. Even though my time was short during that time I wrote tickets for James Arness (GunSmoke fame) Kirk Douglas and his 2 sons, Elizabeth Taylor about blew my mind when she stepped up to my counter one day. Kim Novack was a MRY regular. During the annual Bing Crosby Golf tournament about every famous Golfer in the world came through Monterey. Also with Laguna Seca race track literally a mile from the MRY airport we had race car drivers from all over the world also by the ton coming and going. The SkyCaps at MRY did pretty well for themselves by the way.
During my short stay with Pacific/AirWest one night while parking a B-727 I looked up at that Capt after he shut down the engines and I thought “that is where I really wanted to be”. In that left seat of a Jet airliner.
Eventually yes I did in fact get to that left seat of a jet airliner. I retired about 6 years ago from United Airlines as a Captain. Now in hindsight it seems my career with the airlines that began with Pacific and ended with United just went by way too quickly.
I very much enjoyed the industry especially when I began. The airline business was vibrant and always fast paced. There were jobs of every kind and many of them actually paid a living wage until the airline greed thing moved into the airline business. Once deregulation of the airlines began the flood gates soon opened up as we all know. Greed driven men like Frank Lorenzo. Carl Icahn soon figured out that unregulated airlines could be turned into cash cows for themselves and they JUMPED on them big time. Airline names started disappearing like Passenger Pigeons who went extinct in the 1900s.
I had the airline bug and just couldn’t let it go, so within 3 years after leaving AirWest I got my first paying pilot job with some now long gone commuter airline. Although that first flying job paid NO wage what so ever I took the job for the flight time anyway. I wanted to fly for a living and I flew a lot of really awful airplanes at first but just kept moving up the ladder towards a better airline and better airplanes. Eventually I flew most of the big jets. Thousands of hours in the B727, B747, B777 and I even paid my dues in the Airbus, what a rotten airplane that is. After more than 30yrs in cockpits I retired in 2005 at age 60 when that was still the rule, which since I retired has been raised up to age 65 as the mandatory retirement age for pilots.
Back in the days when I began in the 60s airline people were fun, active type people. That made any job with the airline something you could enjoy, the people you worked with. Passengers actually dressed up for their flights, remember that! Now it’s become Flip-Flops and shorts and Tee-shirts as the preferred mode of dress just like some city bus.
I don’t need to remind you how awful the entire industry has become. I rarely ride on airlines anymore because of the horrible nature of it all now. The security, the animals that now fly on airliners and those seats….forget it. I think back to the days of the DC-6s, DC3s and DC4s, Viscounts, F-27s and four abreast seating in nice mohair upholstered seats with nice BIG soft seating. Now the seats are like a bus stop bench seat with the gum wad stuck on the tray table.
I could go on but……
Years ago I used to have my own website Dan and know full well how much work it can be so hopefully others appreciate all your time and effort keeping this website going. I got tired of all the complaints about mine eventually. I had many .PDF type files in my website and people were constantly complaining about how they couldn’t open them. Even though throughout my website I had links to Adobe Acrobat and I even said you had to have Acrobat to open and read those .PDF files people STILL didn’t read the instructions.
So keep up the good work Dan and thank you for your time….
TVL-RDD Don Hargreaves, Station Agent.
In August, 1966 I was job hunting and came across a newspaper ad from Pacific Airlines, no experience necessary. I had never heard of them, but thought I’d give it a try. Maybe work for them for six months or so. So I went down to talk to Mr Bill Company at their old headquarters over by the United Airlines hanger at SFO. He seemed happy with me and asked if I would mind going to Lake Tahoe. I said; “where do I sign?”
So on August 22, 1966 I started my airline career by going to a one week training class in SFO. Coincidently, this was the same day that the big airline strike against all the majors ended. In one week we were to learn everything there was to know about the airline business. Ya, right! Of course we learned all the airport codes, but we also learned ticketing, reservations, air freight, aircraft weight and balance, etc. We even learned how to operate a teletype from a diagram on the blackboard. One instructor told us that he didn’t expect us to learn much in this one week, but that when we got to a station and saw something we didn’t know, we would know what it was that we didn’t know. Made sense to me.
So the following Monday five new hires hit the Tahoe station at once. Besides myself, there were four others: Tom Bailey, who was the only one with experience at this sort of thing, as he had been a sales rep with Swissair. Then there was Craig Poulton (we called him Tiny as he was tall and rather large), Larry (I don’t remember his last name), and Lloyd Kline. Meeting us at the station was the manager, Don Rice, Don Fisher, Clark Kane, John Mueller, and Joel Horner (who was on loan from RDD). I don’t think they really were prepared for a station full of new hires, but we learned quickly, and everything seemed to work. The five of us all roomed together in the Bavarian Court Apartments, in Bijou, California. The place was really nice. It had three bedrooms, wall to wall carpeting, a raised fireplace, and a even a washer-dryer combination in the kitchen. We could look out the front window and watch the skiers coming down the slopes of Heavenly Valley Ski Resort. The rent was $225.00 per month, which was an awful lot in those days, as most apartments rented for less than $100.00. But since it was only $45.00 per person, we could afford it, even on our starting salary of $362.00 per month.
After two months, Tom Bailey went on to bigger and better in Sales in SFO and Lloyd Kline was fired. A month later Craig went to SFO and Larry quit. A month after that I was furloughed and was offered either MRY or RDD. I chose RDD. I had only three or four days to get to RDD after I received word I was going, as they needed someone there right away. So I packed my car and took off for Redding and arrived in the evening, checked in at the airport and found that nobody knew I was coming. They had an opening but didn’t know that it had been filled, as the personnel office had failed to tell them of that fact. So much for my importance. When I arrived there, Denny Stark was manager and Dave Benny was Senior Agent. Also working there was Ron Anderson, Ray Ayers, and Joel Horner (who I had met at TVL).
It was at RDD that I really learned about the airline business. Redding still had reservations at the station, so I learned Res procedures, and then there was fueling, weather observations, and working the remote radio on the ramp as we did not have a tower. All these were new to me, and I loved it.
The remote radio took the place of a control tower. When a flight called 10 minutes out, we would go out on the ramp with a telephone receiver attached by a long cord to the radio. We would then advise the pilot of all traffic we could see in the area, and their positions. It got real interesting in the summer, when there would be three or four student pilots in the pattern at a time. We were also a base for U. S. Forest Service B-17 borate bombers and they wouldn’t fly a pattern, but would come straight in from any direction. So into the middle of all this traffic, we would try to get our flight in. Hairy!
Some of the good memories of RDD involve the flight crews. The three captains I remember most were; Bill Lord, Bob Allen, and Captain Edwards. These three always livened things up whenever they flew into Redding. For a while Lord and Allen were flying from Portland to San Francisco several times a week. Their flights left Portland at about the same time and were scheduled to arrive in San Francisco at about the same time, but took different routes. One went down the coast via North Bend, Crescent City, and Eureka, while the other one went inland via Klamath Falls and Redding. So naturally they would race all the way down the West Coast. We would get a radio call from Bill Lord stating he was 10 minutes out and that he needed a quick ground time. Upon landing Bill would tell us that he had heard Bob Allen going into Eureka on the radio so we had to hurry. We would service the flight in record time and off he’d go. On one of these runs Bill called us 10 minutes out and said that if we could turn the flight in 10 minutes, he’d give us a trophy. Of course we all wondered what kind of trophy it would be, so we did it. Upon departure he handed the “trophy” out the cockpit window. It was an Orange peel that he had carved into the shape of a man, with all the appropriate parts. He must have worked on it all the way from Portland.
Bob Allen was quite a pilot and we called him “Hot Rod Allen.” He got this nickname as he was an ex-fighter pilot and he flew the F-27’s as though he was still flying fighters. Upon takeoff we would watch him as he would immediately put it into a steep climbing turn – it looked just like a fighter taking off. Needless to say, he almost always arrived ahead of schedule. Captain Edwards was from the South, and we always knew when he was flying the inbound flight, for instead of the usual 10 minutes out call, he would play Dixie on his music box over the radio. And upon taxiing into the gate he would be leaning out the cockpit window waving a rebel flag. Once when he was inbound, and Bill Lord was just taking off, Edwards music box came over the radio. “Beautiful, just beautiful”, drawled Lord. “Hope y’all didn’t bump your head when you stood up to salute,” came the reply from Edwards.
About a year and a half after I got to RDD, we started flying the yellow bananas, and we all know how that merger went. But I have very fond memories of my years with Pacific Airlines at TVL and RDD. They were fun times and we learned a lot about the airlines. We also got to know almost everyone on the system, or so it seemed. Just a big extended family.
SFO Ann (Gilsdorf) King, Accounting & Maintenance Engineering.
Hi Dan, This sounds like fun. I started with Pacific Air Lines in early 1964. I was secretary to Hal Pedersen (later Stan Jones) in Revenue Accounting. I married Larry King from General Accounting in 1967 (he later became payroll supervisor). In 1967 I moved to work for Jack Steffen in Maintenance and Engineering and then left the airline in 1968 because my job was moved to Phoenix with the merger. I didn’t want to leave my new husband and AW did not have another job for me in SFO. I had many wonderful trips to ACV on my way to visit relatives in PDX. I remember getting fogged in one morning and had to stay overnight at a station agents home (I don’t remember her name but she was so nice). Great memories and some pix. Problems is I don’t have a scanner and am not very savvy on doing downloads, etc.
SJC-SFO-SAC Bob Stevens, Assistant Manager.
Hi Dan, thanks for starting this. I was hired in SJC 3/63. Ward Gross was the Manager. Great memories of working out of the Quonset hut terminal, before the new one was built in about ’66. Transferred to SFO in about ’67 when the major airlines went on strike. Recall working 20-hour days for a month. Good thing I was living in Burlingame at the time. Went into management in early ’68 in SAC (when I first got to SAC, it was at the old terminal, before becoming SMF), then onto PDX. Fond memories of working with Walt Kupper, Larry Gilmore, Henry Sandoval, Duane Siggins (he went to Flight Control, where we worked in the same room above the ramp in SFO, whenever I worked ops/load-control). I got pretty good at doing a Giants baseball play-by-play/inning box score by watching Rich Flynn do them. I remember Tom Flickinger having this plane parked at SJC. Took flight lessons from Dee Thurman Flight School . Stopped at about 26 hours, just after my first solo.
I remember being taken for a ride in Bob Love’s P-51, and Tom Flickinger spray painting his stencil “Pussy Galore Flying Cub” inside the front trunk of my Chevy Corvair. I had never imagined what laying on my back (literally) and being pressed into the seat would feel like while traveling skyward, and how noisy and buzzy (vibration) the P-51 ride was. Spectacular. Great memories.
ACV Dan Veenstra, Station Agent.
My experience with Pacific Air Lines, in my mind, started prior to arriving in ACV. I was just discharged from the Air Force and stayed with my parents in Bellingham, Washington for a few months before deciding to look for employment in the Bay Area. I drove down and stayed with my aunt & uncle in Belmont. One thing that was necessary was I needed to print resumes. My aunt & uncle offered their new family car for transportation. When leaving the printer, with resumes in hand, I got into the car and drove forward not noticing a cement post in front of the car. Yup, I creamed the front bumper and grille. Unable to return the car in that condition I managed to get a body shop to replace everything that day.
I had an interview set up with Pacific Air Lines main office at the airport and was hired as a Station Agent in McKinleyville, California (ACV). McKinley where? Two days later I was heading north. I now only had about $100 in my pocket because the other $300 was spent to repair my uncles car. I remember eating rice for at least a week. The cheapest place I could find to live was the Clam Beach Tourister Court. My room was right next to the bar. All night long, boom, boom, boom of the juke box base reverberating through the walls. I guess I must have been young enough to deal with basically no sleep because within two days I showed up at the airport and met the Station Manager, Brody Tyler.
I really liked the diversity of the job. Ticketing, reservations, baggage handling, refueling, etc., etc. Refueling was not a problem as that’s what I did in the military. However, refueling a Martin 404 was much different than refueling KC135’s & B52’s. I thought it was unusual that 5 gallons of oil had to be dumped into the plane's engines each and every time. But then, when the engines started the reason became obvious. Lots of smoke. One time a passenger came to the front counter asking me “When’s the next smoker coming in”. I laughed as I knew what he was referring to.
The Navy built the runways during WWII to test fog dispersal equipment because it was the foggiest place in the US. I always felt sorry for everyone in other stations because we were often fogged in. I suspect folks in SFO, with sunny skies overhead, were often waiting for flights from ACV. I’m sure we changed the planes schedule for downstream locations the entire rest of the day. We often had folks waiting an hour or more while the planes circled overhead. Eventually the passengers on board were offloaded in CEC and arrived ACV in limousines or rentals. In the meantime, our passengers enjoyed complimentary dinners at Merriman’s restaurant at Moonstone Beach or were put up at the Eureka Inn. I remember one time working the ramp and releasing an F27 without making sure the rear air stair was up and locked. I ran to the operations and quickly told Terry Middleton to stop the plane. I looked out the window and saw the plane on the runway revving the engines ready for lift-off, stewardess pulling on the rope, hair blowing 90 degrees . . . then, engines came down to an idle and up went the air stair door. Normally we hear from the pilot about 15 minutes after leaving but this time “silence”. When they were near STS we got a call and the pilot said “Well, you should have checked the door before releasing us, and we should have checked our instruments as well. I think it would be good to forget this happened”. I remember Bill Thoma, a Station Agent, bought a new Ford Cobra. He parked it by the ramp. I think he inherited some money. I remember he said he paid $20,000. It would be worth over $500,000 today.
By the way, yes, after a week I ended up moving out of the Clam Beach Tourister Court. I decided living on the beach was the thing to do. I decided to knock on every other door along the beach starting at Arcata up to the redwoods until I found a place. I ended up renting a home on a cliff overlooking Moonstone Beach for $75 a month. For a 3 bedroom, two garage, balcony over the cliff, I thought it wasn’t bad. Also, a big plus was Moonstone Beach was the preferred Humboldt State College hangout. A couple of PAL employees and I would often run cars back from SFO for Avis & Hertz. As you can imagine, business people couldn’t always wait for the fog to lift and rented cars to get to SFO. We’d catch the last flight to SFO and drive the cars back for $15 plus gas. A great benefit of working for PAL was getting tickets for something like $2 each direction. I remember sometimes the flights would be full so the stews arranged for me to sit in the 3rd seat with the pilots. One time the 3rd seat was occupied so the stew said “How about sitting in the restroom on takeoff? I’ll be busy with serving when we’re off the ground so you can sit in my jump seat to SFO”. Worked for me. Later, Jim Wells replaced Brody Tyler as the Station Manager. Just prior to the merger of Pacific/West Coast/Bonanza I was transferred to Seattle and worked in the Sales Department for a couple of years.
Working for Pacific Air Lines was a wonderful experience. I’ll never forget the people and the camaraderie. I wish the best to my fellow Pacific Air Lines employees and hope they find this site so they can share their experiences with us all. I have also submitted a few pictures in the ACV Scrapbook Page for your viewing pleasure.
Station Agent, ACV
ACV Terry Middleton, Sr. Station Agent
Nice to see that you have set up a page devoted to those that worked for Pacific Air Lines, all those years ago. The picture I posted is the only one I could find of Terry when he worked at ACV. The others must be packed in boxes and I don’t know which ones.
I met Terry in September of 1972. Both of us had moved to Grants Pass, Oregon while going through divorces. He had married Barbara Luchte (who I believe worked at ACV) in 1963. So by the time that we met, Pacific had merged with Bonanza and West Coast and had become Air West. Because of the divorce he had transferred to Medford, Oregon to be close to home (Grants Pass). We were married in December of 1972. After going through all the other mergers and transfers due to closure of stations, we ended up in DTW and hating it very much. Tried everything to get back to the west coast but seniority was too high in many of the stations. Well, after 10 years and the airline business losing its glamour and fun, we decided to call it “quits”. Too many rules and regulations for employees. So December 31, 1993 he retired and we moved home to Grants Pass, Oregon; where he was born and grew up.
Too many years of smoking, jet fuel fumes, and deicing fluid fumes caused Terry to have a heart attack in 2000. Life became normal again until 2003 when he had another heart attack and then double by-pass. The first one had sealed itself up. To add to the heart problems he developed Emphysema. We were still able to travel for a couple of years but then in 2005 he started using Oxygen. Over the next 3 years the disease progressed to the point that he was on Oxygen 24/7. April 2008 he was then diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis and he passed away on September 14, 2008. His memorial service was September 20, 2008.
I met Don Green many years ago. I believe that he was Terry’s best man when Terry and Barbara were married. Don now lives near Portland with his second wife. I get a Christmas card from them every year. The last time Terry and I saw him was in 2005. We were flying out of Portland for DTW and we had dinner with them the night before.
If I come across any more pictures I will post them for you. The ones I have in the scrapbook are mostly from Hughes AirWest or Replublic or NWA. Not much more I can tell you.