“We Know You Have A Choice Of Airlines When You Fly…”

Not so much anymore.

The things you collect. Airline timetables didn’t seem so cool.

When does the “cool” factor set in? By the time we had reached middle school, we knew what to wear, what music to listen to, and generally, how to act and understand what was and wasn’t cool. If you had an older brother or sister, that gave you a leg up.

I’m still kind of embarrassed about this story. I guess I don’t care anymore about what other people think. I can be cool, but I’m also a geek. So, “Up, Up, and Away!” we go!

What did you collect? What were your interests and hobbies? Lots of us had collections that we cherished and would bring to school for show-and-tell. It seems most of the boys brought baseball or football trading cards. They knew all of the stats, and it bored me to tears. My Dad was a geologist, and he curated my interest in all things earthly. So I brought rocks. I probably bored everyone to tears. I guess someone found them interesting, for as I left my display in the classroom for others to admire, a few got stolen. Damn kids.

We (my sister and I) lived in Abilene, Texas during my first ten years, but my Dad lived in Salt Lake City. Our home base in the summertime was at my Grandpa’s ranch near Durango, Colorado. Between these three places, we made a lot of road trips. In the summer of ’65, the parents decided that we were old enough to fly on our own, so Dad wouldn’t have to come down and pick us up.

Unless you were too young, you always remember your first plane ride. Santa Fe was the closest we could get to Durango without having to change planes and airlines (which I guess, as minors, you couldn’t do back then). Our first ride was on a TTa (Trans-Texas airways — I never could figure out why they used a little a for airways) DC-3 with three stops en route. I remember the thrill of the turbulence and the cars looking like ants. Truth be told, we weren’t that far above them!

I guess I’ve always been a borderline hoarder of all things paper, so I picked up a TTa timetable at the ticket counter. It stood as a souvenir of the trip.

By this time, I was thick into collecting things on our travels. Matchbooks came first since they were free. That evolved into road maps, which were free at all gas stations. I’m also a geography nerd—another day.

Dad encouraged a fascination within me of rocks, fossils, and shells. Looking for and finding them was the most fun, but buying them was another thing altogether. I must have had pretty good taste, for I was always denied the lovely shiny gems that I wanted at the rock shops. So pennants and postcards it was—things I could afford.

I didn’t think much about timetables again until 1967 when we flew on our first jet, a Boeing 707, from Dallas to California, where Dad had moved. Looking at the American Airlines timetable, I could now see an airline network from a national perspective, not one that just flew to five states.

By 1968 we had moved to Ventura, California, which is the city Dad was living in. It gets complicated from there — I could write an entire book based on what happened between then and 1971. Another day!

Mom moved to Los Angeles to be on her own. She had gone to a secretarial school in Texas, and my parents met while both were working at Humble Oil Company (now ExxonMobil) in Odessa, Tex. In LA, she landed a sweet job as an executive secretary to the owner/President and CEO of a bank that catered to a swanky clientele. Affairs to follow!

The bank was in the One Wilshire Building. At the time, at about 30 stories, it was one of downtown LA’s tallest towers (earthquake restrictions). Often when I visited her, she would take me to work with her, where I’d occupy myself with the “Xerox” machine, or just pal around with the workers. The bank guy also owned a hotel nearby, so sometimes I would work there for real money. (I was such a minor!)

One day I went for a walk (what parent nowadays would let their 12-year-old go walking alone in a big city, or anywhere for that matter?) But it was a different time, and I had an excellent sense of direction because of…road maps! On that walk, I discovered that almost every airline in the world had a ticket office — most streetside — within a two-block radius. That’s when my love affair with timetables began.

I didn’t just collect them; I read them cover to cover, memorizing where each airline flew and when. This was before the airline deregulation act of 1979, so fare information was even included. I could make everyone’s travel plans! They just had to call their friendly travel agent to book.

While my immediate family knew of this peculiar interest, I hid it from my friends. I knew it would be uncool. So I always did my timetable reading in private and tucked them away in a drawer when finished.

This curiosity went on for most of my life. Timetables were always available in brochure racks at hotels and travel agencies. I began to subscribe to some of the harder-to-get ones.

I recently retired, but I worked in the airline industry over the past 22 years. Imagine that! It was there that I found people who had similar interests. Finally, I could sit around with a group of folks and talk about what airlines flew to Chicago or Phoenix or Casper, Wyoming, and what equipment they used on the route. This told me that there are people who have the same quirky interests as I did, and as you might have. Now with the internet, they’re not so hard to find. Try Facebook groups.

After 9/11, most airlines stopped printing timetables. Everything went online, which isn’t the same as something tactile. There are only four significant airlines left, which makes it that much less interesting. We have little choice in which airline we fly any more.

This hoarder has begun to get rid of his stuff because, upon my demise, no one else should have to. Besides timetables, I have all kinds of airline memorabilia on top of the other collections I’ve been selling on eBay. I’ve kept a selection of the oldest timetables, especially from defunct airlines, and I’ll pull them out and look at them occasionally.

When no one is looking.

Maybe I should have brought my timetables to school for show and tell. Perhaps it would have sparked an interest in aviation among a classmate. The schedules of old were in a graph format that was hard to read. I could have taught them how to read them.

Now that would have been cool.

I wish that I would have had the guts to enjoy my geeky pursuits “out of the closet” at a younger age. I was hiding it as if I were gay!

Then there’s that.

My life in the context of 20th-century history and pop culture — infused with a dose of fun (where appropriate!) More to come when I get my sea legs on here.

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