My first memory of travel was a family trip to Florida by car when I was perhaps 8-years-old, back in the winter of 1960. I am not sure what kind of Oldsmobile; my older brother Elia claims it was a “Super 88!” It was new and dad was excited about taking the new car for a trip to Florida. I loved watching the road signs saying 120 miles to some town I never heard of, then getting there over and over. On that trip I saw my first palm tree somewhere where Georgia meets Florida. There were no seat belts back then and as anyone sixty-something remembers and if dad hit the brakes intensely all hell broke loose all over inside the car.
My first airplane ride was to Denver, Colorado to go to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. I was actually part of a group of 28 and we all wore our Boy Scout uniforms on the plane. I took photos inside the plane, and still have them thanks to my mom saving stuff. The first Boeing 747 I ever saw was in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1970. They actually let us into the plane just to see the inside.
Now back in the 60’s and 70’s the trick was to get to the boarding gate about 5 minutes before takeoff. In fact in 1971, the Eastern Shuttle to Washington, D.C. guaranteed you a seat if you arrived at the gate a minute before departure. Eastern Airline actually used the promotion they would instantly role out another plane if the plane was full. Not quite the way it is now.
In the older days airlines were in competition to have the best food, the best service, the best leg room, the best drinks, and then movies – all for free. They would give you toothbrushes with toothpaste, combs, and slippers along with eye masks, even to coach customers. Meals were served with linen tablecloths with fine silver. Again not quite the way it is now. The last flight I went on a month ago to Mexico they were selling cookies by the cookie, no cash, only credit cards.
It’s hard to believe that there was once air travel with no security of any kind. You showed up and went on the plane. Nobody checked anything. They even had smoking sections with signs. I could never figure how that worked as the smoke just went all over the plane. In 1972, I was coming back from Jamaica and had bought this huge cigar at the airport even though I didn’t even smoke cigarettes or cigars. When I lit it up in the back of the plane right after the no smoking sign went off within three seconds there were three stewardesses and a dude from the flight crew who basically wanted to throw me out the back door of the plane. That day I learned smoking permitted did not pertain to cigars on airplanes. On this subject of cigar smoke, I remember my first visit to the old Madison Square Garden in 1966 to see the New York Rangers play the Chicago Black Hawks with Bobby Hull! I sat in the inexpensive Mezzanine section on the second level. I was in 7th grade at the time and I could not even see the ice surface or the players through all the cigar smoke.
I must admit the first time I took a long distance train ride I was shocked it stopped at almost every station for hundreds of miles. It seemed we were in stations more than we were actually moving. I never could understand the conductor when he would say the names of the stops. I never did take a long train ride again until I traveled in Europe.
Now how many folks remember when people used to jump on the back of New York City buses to ride for free? Yes they would stand on the back bumpers on the outside the bus and hold on to the back window, and no one ever told them to get off! Sometimes amazingly there would be three people doing it at the same time.
Who doesn’t remember their first limo ride? I was a ring boy in a wedding party when I went inside. Back then the car seemed to have three rows of seats. I also remember my first stretch limo that thrilled my 5 and 7-year-old daughters because it had a bar with ice cubes and a refrigerator. They wanted me to buy one to drive them to school in.
I always thought there might be affordable space travel in my lifetime, who knows maybe there will be. After all I am only sixty-something!