KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Trans World Airlines planes have shuttled travelers across the country and around the world for more than 70 years.
The airline, with connections to Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes, would set records, revolutionize the industry and win the loyalty of both customers and employees.
Today, it is only a memory.
"We don't exist anymore and it's kind of like, we get people from all different work groups that want to come down and look around," explained TWA Museum Director Pam Blaschum.
A trip through the TWA Museum at the Charles B. Wheeler Airport in downtown is a trip into another time. Display cases filled with memorabilia capture a period when air travel was something special.
Blaschum flew with TWA for 37 years.
"I was hired here in 1964 as a flight attendant, well, back then I was a hostess," Blaschum says with a smile. “It was the most wonderful career you could ever imagine."
From international travel and elegance to fliers themselves, Blaschum loves sharing her stories. TWA was once known as the ‘airline to the stars' and Blaschum remembers many of them fondly.
“William Holden, Ann-Margret, Ray Conniff,” she runs down the list. “Once we were flying on the Polar flight from LA to London, we had the entire Osmond family on in First Class. They took up the entire First Class section!”
It seems every museum employee, volunteer or visitor has a similar story.
"My very first flight was the Wichita Shuttle on a DC-3,” said Eileen Bolin. “Now does that date you? Yes! We just went Kansas City – Topeka – Wichita; Wichita – Topeka – Kansas City, back and forth all day long.”
Bolin joined TWA in the hostess office in 1950 at the age of 19. By 21, she was flying. She had to quit when she married three years later.
“They only wanted single girls,” she says laughing.
She returned to flying in the mid 1980’s after raising her family. By then, air travel had changed a lot and she loved it.
“The L-1011, the 747, all international,” Bolin remembers. “I had never been overseas before and I was just going from one place to another. It was wonderful! It was like reliving your life.”
Bolin still has her original uniform tucked away at home and gets excited when she sees one just like it in the display case. She remembers wearing it proudly.
"You know you really did feel special back then,” she says. “You really did because you were considered special."
Rose Mayer is another former employee who just happens to be touring the museum on this day. She worked in the accounting office reconciling tickets at the old headquarters at 17th and Baltimore with the moonliner on the roof.
"You had sort of a prestigious job when you worked at TWA,” Mayer says. “We were treated royally by TWA. We used to fly free, we'd go First Class. You could take your family."
It was that TWA family that has former employees sharing their many happy memories despite their disappointment in the airline's demise in 2001.
“I always considered when we went to discounted fares we created a bus line,” admits Mayer.
Blaschum also credits discounted fares and deregulation with the airline's downfall. However that does not take away TWA’s many positive achievements many employees are thrilled to see remembered in this museum.
"I just want them to realize what a wonderful company it was,” says Blaschum. “The company was made up because of the employees. But I want them to realize that TWA played a very important role in commercial aviation."
The TWA Museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It is located at 10 Richards Road in the Charles B. Wheeler Airport in downtown Kansas City. For more information, visit: www.twamuseumat10richardsroad.org .
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
More Community Profiles
A group of brain tumor survivors helps patients and families currently coping with a diagnosis through emotional and financial support.