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Stewardesses share sky-high lifestyles

Pan Am employees to reveal memories of luxury airline at WomenSource event

POSTED: June 4, 2012 1:00 a.m.

During its heydey, Pan American Airways helped establish standards for luxurious, international flights and brought glitz and glam to the airline industry.

Although the carrier is no more, former employees like Mary Forrest, Annita Thomas and Joy Losee still cherish memories of the glory days.

Thursday, they will share their insights during the “Being a Pan Am Stewardess in the Days of Glamour Travel” program during the monthly WomenSource Brown Bag Lunch at Frances Meadows Aquatic Center, 1545 Community Way NE in Gainesville.

“One of my fondest memories while working for Pan Am was being invited to be the guests of Bob Hope at a show he was doing for the military while on a layover in Fairbanks, Ala.,” said Losee, who lives in Gainesville. “He sent a private limo to pick us up at the hotel and we were given front row seats at the show.”

Afterward, Losee and her peers were invited to the military base’s cocktail party, which was originally intended for the military officers and performers.

“(That) was just one of many special things that happened during my tenure at Pan Am,” Losee remembers.

“We were all small town girls and we were suddenly being treated like royalty or celebrities all around the world, wherever we went.

“It was an unforgettable experience and those experiences are the bonds that keep us together today in World Wings International, our organization of retired Pan Am stewardesses.”

Losee was hired by Pan Am in 1966. Before leaving the airline in 1978, she was able to travel to such places as Beirut, Bangkok, Istanbul and Tehran.

In 1972, she was presented with the annual customer service award, which included two round-trip tickets to any destination worldwide the airline served. Losee and her husband, commercial pilot Jeff Losee, used the first-class tickets to enjoy a two-week African safari.

Forrest’s entry into the Pan Am family was an eventful one.

“It’s the best airline and you would go to wonderful places,” the Gainesville resident remembers her father saying as he urged her to interview with the company.

Although she’d earned summa cum laude honors at Duke University, the cultural anthropology major opted out of the graduation exercises in order to begin training in May 1972.

Choosing to skip the culminating moment of four years of study may have been a tough decision, but it brought about a number of rewards, including the opportunity to honeymoon in Kathmandu, Nepal.

By the time Flowery Branch resident Thomas joined Pan Am in 1979, the airline was beginning to experience financial woes, but that didn’t curtail her travel opportunities.

“I flew out of New York’s JFK Airport for 12 years,” Thomas said. “I had the wonderful opportunity to fly all over the world meeting interesting people, learning about different cultures and developing lifelong friendships with fellow flight attendants.”

Brown bag attendees are required to contact the WomenSource office by 5 p.m. Tuesday to RSVP for the event.

Admission is $5 for WomenSource members and $6 for non-members. The fee, which includes lunch provided by Brenau Catering, can be paid at the door.

WomenSource is a nonprofit with a mission to help women achieve personal and professional success. In addition to the monthly luncheons, the group holds a variety of activities throughout the year including health seminars and a financial empowerment series.


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