THE GLAMOR GIRLS OF THE SKY
There are no more stewardesses.
The stewardesses on airlines morphed into flight attendants who are both male and females. In the 21st Century flight attendants are the generally congenial people who walk down the aisle of the cramped plane offering you a small cup of soda, an even smaller bag of peanuts and tells you to stow your bags before take-off.
The glamor of air travel has gradually disappeared and most passengers who navigate the extensive security at the airport and then squeeze into the seat on the plane, hardly consider it a glamorous experience.
There is nothing wrong with flight attendants but they are a far cry from the glamor girls of the 1950s and 1960s who were called stewardesses. In Life magazine in 1957, there was a cover picture and featured article called “The Glamor Girls of the Sky.”
The article details the rigorous training and selection process a woman must endure in the hopes of being chosen by the airline to be a stewardess.
The stewardesses of the 1950s and 1960s were something very close to movie stars and were widely admired by men as sex symbols and also were envied by women of the era.
This was the world where the female protagonist, Amelia Ryan, inhabits in my new mystery “Fog City Strangler.” Amelia is clearly a “glamor girl” and admired all the men she encounters.
The attention and admiration at that comes to Amelia as a stewardess is a two-edged sword.
I found an old job application for stewardesses from the 1950s. The requirements show how far we have come as a society and specifically how far women have come in their quest for equality in the work place.
Appearance: Height and weight proportionate
Attractive ("just below Hollywood") Standards
Martial Status: Single, not divorced, separated or widowed.
Age: 21 to 26 years old
Education: Registered nurse or two years of college
Height: Between 5 feet, 2 inches and 5 feet, 6 inches
Weight: 135 pounds maximum
I'm not sure how a woman is supposed to react to the qualification--"attractive, just below Hollywood standards." Is it a compliment or an insult to be told that you are "just below Hollywood standards?" It's astounding to think of a job application which would list the "qualifications" as "white, single, female, a range for height and of course, a weight restriction. The weight restriction was a sliding scale. For instance, the fictional character, Amelia Ryan is 5 feet four inches which means she could only weigh 125 pounds. If a stewardess shows up for a flight above weight, she is grounded.
The airlines wanted pretty young, single women to provide eye candy for their well-heeled passengers who flew--mostly affluent businessmen. Once a woman was over 26 or was married she was asked to resign.
That of course changed.
On February 11, 1958, Ruth Carol Taylor was hired by Mohawk Airlines and became the first African-American flight attendant in the United States.
Ironically, despite her historic breaking of the racial restriction, Ruth's career ended just six months later due to another discriminatory barrier: she married and was dismissed by the airline. Incidentally, only stewardesses had the age restriction and the marriage ban. No other airline employees and especially pilots, were under the same type of requirements.
In my novel, stewardess Amelia Ryan falls in love with Sam Slater. They want to get married. But Amelia also loves her job. She has to choose between marriage and continuing as a stewardess. It was a great dilemma for her.
The glamorous world of stewardesses was one of the only avenues open to women in the 1950s to "see the world" and have a career. But it came at a great price. Sam and Amelia are secretly married in “Fog City Strangler.” They keep their union a secret so she can continue to work for the airline.
In an earlier book in the mystery series—“San Francisco Secrets” another challenge rears it’s head for Amelia--sexual harassment.
A womanizing pilot, Mark Silver, is essentially Amelia’s boss and aggressively pursues her with unwanted sexual advances. There was no such term as “sexual harassment” in the 1950s. As she tried to fight off Capt. Silver, Amelia ponders the avenues she has to protect herself. There are basically none. Amelia wonders if she goes to the airline to complain about Silver if it will cause her problems, not the pilot. She fears that when she complains about the “sexual harassment,” the airline will just say that “boys will be boys.”
Stewardesses routinely had to evade grabby male passengers and the unwanted advances of pilots.
Sam is upset by the groping of Amelia and complains about her work environment saying that if anyone is attracted to my girlfriend they can “take a sample.”
It would be several years before the stewardesses unionized and stood up to the airline. There was a series of lawsuits that knocked down the discriminatory barriers for women.
Fog City Strangler by Greg Messel
Book 1 of the Sam Slater Mysteries
Genre: crime fiction
About Fog City Strangler:
As 1958 nears an end San Francisco is being terrorized by a man who calls himself the “Fog City Strangler,” who preys on pretty young blonde women. The strangler announces each murder by sending a note and piece of cloth from the victim’s dresses to the local newspapers.Source: Info in the About Fog City Strangler was from the press kit from the publicity team.
Private eye Sam Slater is worried that the Fog City Strangler may be eyeing his beautiful blonde wife, stewardess Amelia Ryan. Sam’s angst mounts as the strangler continues to claim more victims. His anxiety is further fueled when TWA launches an advertising campaign with Amelia’s picture on a series of billboards plastered all over the city. Sam fears the billboards may attract too much attention–the wrong kind of attention.
Meanwhile, Sam and Amelia are hired to try to find the missing daughter of a wealthy dowager who fears she has lost her only child. The missing woman went for a walk with her dog on Stinson Beach, near San Francisco, and seemingly vanished into thin air. The woman’s husband arrived at their beach house and found the dog running loose but there was no trace of his wife. The police are stumped in their investigation.
As Sam and Amelia look into the disappearance of the woman on the beach they discover that nothing is as it seems at first glance. On a stormy night a shadowy figure sets fire to the beach house where the couple is staying–hoping to stop their investigation.
Fog City Strangler is a stand-alone thriller but is part of the Sam Slater Mystery Series–Last of the Seals, Deadly Plunge and San Francisco Secrets.
Meet The Author
Greg Messel grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound with his wife, Carol. Fog City Strangler is his seventh novel and is the fourth in a new series of Sam Slater mystery novels. Greg has lived in Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming and Utah and has always loved writing, including stints as a reporter, columnist and news editor for a daily newspaper.
Greg Messel is giving away a 3 book set of his Sam Slater Mystery Series (Last of the Seals, Deadly Plunge and San Francisco Secrets AND a $25 Amazon Gift Card!
• By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
• One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive the 3 book set and $25 Amazon Gift Card.
• This giveaway begins February 3 and ends on March 28.
• Winner will be contacted via email on Monday, March 31, 2014.
• Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!