2014 Trip Five, Summer in the Cities, September 4

St. Paul, MN Thursday September 4, 2014

(NOTE: The post for Sept. 7 may show up below this entry instead of on top of it. Ed)

This is probably the last post for Summer in the Cities. The first post of the next trip (2014 Trip Six) is already drafted. We are spending our last few days here getting ready for departure on Monday and beginning plans for Trip Seven to start sometime in early November.

Yesterday, Wednesday Sept.3, we visited two local museums. The first was the MN History Center of which we are members but wanted to tour the special exhibits currently on display. One was a display of photographs taken by Chris Chambliss, documenting the social scene of African-Americans in the Twin Cities during the 1960s to 1990s. Much of that time we were in PA and there were many photos of places we were not aware of.

Lincoln Logs from exhibit "Toys of the 50s, 60s, and 70s"

Lincoln Logs from exhibit “Toys of the 50s, 60s, and 70s”

Hungry, Hungry Hippos

Hungry, Hungry Hippos

The next exhibit was titled “Toys of the 50s, 60s, and 70s”. The museum did a nice job of displaying toys and presenting hands-on displays for young children now to sample some of the toys. There were toys Chris and I played with such as Lincoln Logs, Matchbox cars, play ovens, etc.; and toys we had purchased for our daughters like Hungry, Hungry Hippos.

The third exhibit was a brief perspective on the War of 1812 but displayed in a thought-provoking manner by presenting it from the perspectives of Americans, Canadians (we invaded them, remember?), Native Americans and the British. How timely for us as we will be touring Montreal and Quebec, sites of battles from the War of 1812.

The final exhibit we explored was “Open House”, another unique display. The Historical Society had researched one home on the east side of St. Paul in what used to be called Railroad Island. As they described it: “This interactive exhibit brings to life the adage “if these walls could talk” by using a single, existing house-in the Railroad Island neighborhood on St. Paul’s East Side-as a window into the daily lives of people of the past. Stories of families, from the first German immigrants through the Italians, African-Americans, and Hmong who succeeded them, are told through rooms representing different eras of the house. Visitors become detectives, piecing together lives of the families who lived at 470 Hopkins Street.” The exhibit was well done; reminding one even as times change, there are patterns that repeat themselves in family lives.

After lunch we went to a small museum we had read about but never visited, one that does not receive much publicity; the NWA History Centre. This is a museum funded and run by volunteers who are primarily retirees and former employees of Northwest Airlines. It began before the lousy (my term) merger with Delta Airlines that robbed the Twin Cities of thousand of jobs as Atlanta took the HQ jobs. There are three rooms of displays and about 10 former employees were present when we made our visit. Vince from Purchasing and Anne, a former stewardess, were particularly enlightening as we chatted about the history and their memories. I remembered that there were planes called Stratocruisers, but never rode in one and did not know the second deck had cocktail lounges, sleeping berths and live organ music.

Various NWA aircraft with cutaway of Stratocruiser at left center

Various NWA aircraft with cutaway of Stratocruiser at left center

I thought maybe I had latched onto a hot topic for my Star Tribune reporter nephew to write about as they told us of a (former) employee who until last Saturday was still flying as a steward at age 90! Evidently the legal types had finally gotten nervous and figured they would pay to get him to retire, balancing age discrimination versus potential liabilities if anything should go wrong while he was working (this is all my conjecture). But alas for my nephew, one other Strib columnist was on the story and evidently the “retirement” package included a confidentiality clause. Down a little ways is the article from the Star Tribune on Sept. 2nd.

The other exhibits maybe were not as “hot” a topic as the retirement of an employee with 63 years of service but still were enjoyable. Northwest always did have uniforms that were stylish as one exhibit area demonstrated. A film goes back to the early days of Northwest which was founded as a mail carrier in 1926. I learned that the U.S. government unilaterally canceled air mail contracts in the 1930s, giving the job to the U.S. Army AIr Corps and threatening the economic viability of the airline. But, the military flopped at the job of delivering the mail by air and the federal government reversed its course, although Northwest had to re-establish itself as a new entity to meet guidelines for the new mail carrier contract. The early days of delivering mail by air between major cities were quite dangerous as the exhibits here told and reinforced the information we received at the Charles Lindbergh home in Little Falls a few weeks ago. We purchased some reading material and took home some free written material also.

From C.J.’s column in the Star Tribune on Sept 2, 2014 about Bob Reardon
Delta Air Lines’ oldest flight attendant Bob Reardon was retired Saturday.

“Was retired” seems appropriate because I’m hearing the 90-year-old didn’t want to go.

“I can’t talk,” Reardon told me when I went to his St. Paul residence Monday to find out what’s going on here. Reardon started flying Oct. 1, 1951, when what is now Delta was Northwest Orient.

On Bruce Retrum’s Facebook page, featuring a profile photo of him with Reardon, some are expressing dismay. Retrum, who identified himself as a flight attendant, posted a letter Aug. 25 saying, “The company announced the retirement of Robert Reardon effective August 30, 2014. Rather than a date to celebrate, it marks the end of a 62-year, 8-month career marred by a seven-month stressful and unfortunate ordeal. Robert’s pending retirement was not of his choosing. Robert has made it very clear that he does NOT want any ‘celebrations,’ ‘parties’ or ‘events,’ planned or hosted by the company. They would be inappropriate and insincere. Instead, a gathering of friends, family and supporters will be held to honor and reminisce with Robert when he is ready to do so. The world will most likely never have another ‘Robert-like’ icon.”

Ladyskywriter.com noted in 2013 that Reardon set a Guinness World Record. “Go to page 69, the Oldest category, where you will find Mr. Reardon at the very top of the page with the heading Oldest active flight attendant. Congratulations, Bob! This is a huge honor,” wrote Anne Billingsley Kerr, also known as Lady Skywriter.

Kerr flew with Reardon from 1956 to 1960, when she was forced to quit because she got married — something not required of men.

“I loved flying with Bob,” Kerr told me Monday. “I have a small chapter about him in my book, ‘Fujiyama Trays and Oshibori Towels.’ He is such a unique person. I don’t know what happened at Delta, but he did turn 90 in May and evidently he retired not voluntarily. We all hold him in such high regard it would be just awful if anything blew up on him.”

Although a couple of Reardon’s colleagues concede that he should have retired before now, they object to the way Delta Air Lines handled this departure. Airlines usually make big deals of these kinds of employee milestones. Reardon’s colleagues wanted him feted on a final flight, accompanied by a family member; then, as the plane pulled into the gate, the fuselage would have been drenched by fire trucks, which is a way the end of in-flight crew members’ careers have been honored.

Reardon’s colleagues are also appalled that the big bad airline is allegedly gagging a nonagenarian.

While his co-workers threw a big “All About Bob” party for him for his 60th year of service in 2011, some thought airline management was low-keying it with just cake and hors d’oeuvres. At the time he was purser on the three-day Tokyo flights.

“I’m not surprised,” Reardon told me then. “I don’t know of anyone else who is senior to me at Delta.”

Ed and Chris Sept 3 Noonish

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