Three of the Hong Kong four were happy to be together at the thirtieth airline reunion of TIA (Transamerica). We flew during an era that was wild and woolly.We did things that cannot be repeated in today’s restrictive world. We are still an amazing bunch! Our pilots, ground crews, and flight attendants are a cut above. After TIA became Transamerica Airlines the company lasted until 1986 after which some went on to other airlines. One of my favorite captains still flies small planes putting out California fires at seventy-five years of age. And he still looks as handsome and youthful as he did flying airlifts out of Africa all those years ago. And dammit – he’s still married!
Another of my favorite captains, Bill Boyd, who is now in his late eighties, surprised me when mid-conversation he exclaimed, “Spangles! Is that you?” His face lit up as the recognition spread across it. “Yes! I’m the one who used to carry my parachute on trips and skydive in Hong Kong on layovers. You saved me from a mean Customs official who wanted me to open my reserve parachute so he could search for contraband.”
“Yes, and not only that, you were in on the Hong Kong Four champagne caper. You popped the cork of one of the pilfered bottles, passed it around the crew bus, and said the crew party would be in your room!”
“The four of us got busted by the company, suspended for three months, and then had a suspension party at somebody’s house in Marin.”
Spangles was the captain’s nick-name for me. I had forgotten that, but never forgot how safe I felt flying with him, especially on some of the dangerous missions where unbeknownst to us we flew into war zones airlifting refugees out of harm’s way.
Stories like this were ricocheting around Beeb’s Restaurant in Livermore, California on Saturday October 1, 2016. The amazing reunion committee who has organized this for the last thirty years is ready to hang it up.
Rumor has it there will be more informal reunions hosted by various members of the airline. There are more stories to tell and they get more elaborate with each year that passes. And as we all know, ” Old airline people never die, they just go to a higher plane.”
The bonds we made during the TIA days are unbreakable. We take care of our own much like a family. When I moved back to Capitola after being gone to Costa Rica for four years, I reached out to my fly-sisters. Instantly, I had my support network. Since many of us are single and live alone, we formed an “I’m not yet dead text tree.” It only takes seconds and if the day goes by without my signature text, I know Anne Ryan, who I flew the Hadj with in the 70s, will be at my door checking on me. I prefer that to wearing something around my neck that says, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
We are the poster children for Hunter S. Thompson’s famous quote:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke. thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a ride!”
Midway through the event my dear friend, Linda Le Vien, sidled up to me and whispered,”All the stories I’m hearing about myself – was I really that bad?!”
“Oh no. You were really that good! Without you, my book (“Flying High with Carole Jean”) would not have been nearly as spicy. After all, the main character, Lucinda, was based on you! Between you and Catherine Nevin, the Irish beauty who managed to get her crew a ride on the Concorde and survived detention in a Morroccan jail for a week, my escapades seem tame.
Yup, still crazy after all these years.
Thank you all, dear readers, for noticing that I have not posted a blog in over two months. Like Mark Twain said, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” I was flattered to hear you missed me and now I promise to post regularly again. Nice to know you care. I care, too. If you don’t hear from me for a while, please send me an email. firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m working on my next book, “Shadowbrook Restaurant.” I have set a deadline for myself and may have to stay cloistered in my writing closet to meet it.
Thanks for reading, caring, and keeping in touch. Thanks all, for a fabulous reunion!