Who We Are
Currently, we operate 4 international and 22 domestic chapters, each of which supports their choice of community needs. Additionally, all members lend their considerable support to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. Pan Am bravely pioneered international aviation to exciting cosmopolitan cities as well as to remote corners of the globe, promoting tourism and economic development. In doing so, our multinational crews personally witnessed abject poverty in many areas. Working Flight Attendants would often fill their suitcases with non-perishable foods and articles of clothing to distribute among impoverished people. Both working and retired Flight Attendants have, and still do, participate in volunteering with the Dooley Foundation, Gallaudet University, CARE, and countless diverse local charities with hands-on involvement—all at their own expense, all on their own time. Over the years, World Wings has given millions of dollars to educate, conduct research, treat, feed and otherwise provide a hand-up by wholly funding numerous projects involving women, children, families, and veterans.
World Wings is proud to partner with David Jeffery Designs in our philanthropic efforts. Click here to learn more about their generous effort to support World Wings and their international charity Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders.
World Wings continues to celebrate its diverse, accomplished, adventurous, and caring members. Scroll down, or click one of the links below, to learn more about the flight attendants of Pan Am.
Guys in the Skies
Pan Am’s First Nisei Stewardesses
These unsung heroes were the best of “office husbands,” serving not only as crewmates but travel companions, dance partners at clubs around the world, fashion advisers, protectors from lounge lizards, housemates, even lovers and husbands in real life. They taught us how to cook (Stan Oliver’s recipe for “Texas Hell-fire and Damnation Chili” is still making the rounds), took us home and put us to bed after we’d had a few too many, and let us cry on their shoulders when our romances failed. Lat-er on, as our lives were taking shape, they came to the hospital while we were in labor, served as godparents to our children, and helped babysit while we were on trips.
The stewards’ story began in the 1928 with the hiring of Amaury Sanchez, who worked a Pan Am Fokker F-7 carrying seven passengers back and forth between Key West and Havana. Only men were hired until World War II, but when so many left to serve in the armed forces, women were brought on board to fill the gap. As the years went by, the airlines began to hire women exclusively, featuring them in their advertising, and focusing on their looks and the stylishness of their uniforms. This trend culminated during the “Mad Men” era of the jet age, when the airlines alleged that ladies were better able to cater to traveling businessmen.
But Celio Diaz, Jr. of Miami was having none of it. Rejected by Pan Am for a job as a steward, he filed a suit against the airline under the Civil Rights act of 1964, charging that he had been discriminated against because of his sex. The New York Times reported that, “The airline argued that a woman’s touch was needed to make flying as ‘pleasurable as possible,’ but the courts ruled in favor of Mr. Diaz.”
Among those watching the Diaz case very carefully from his home in France was Jean Philippe Kerhoas, who had been hired by the catering and support services unit of Maxim’s Air Regie, a company that was a subsidiary of the famous Parisian restaurant of the same name. He started out tracking down lost bags, but his poise and charm quickly got him moved up to the staff at the Clipper Club at Orly Airport. His myriad of duties included taking delivery of Dior originals wrapped in big white boxes with pink satin ribbons for actress Sophia Loren to pick up on her way through to Rome, and opera diva Maria Callas, who switched to Pan Am when Olympic Airways (owned by her lover Aristotle Onassis) took off for New York without her due to her chronic lateness.
“When I was growing up after World War II, my father was an Undersecretary of the Interior,” said JP. “It was through him that I was exposed to the many Americans who were there with NATO. I loved them. All I could think about was that I wanted to go to America to live some day, so when a Pan Am Vice President told me about the outcome of the Diaz case, I applied immediately.”
After graduating from college in 1971 in Los Angeles, Bob Bywater spent six months in Europe, jumping on and off trains with his Eurail Pass and staying in pensions. The wanderlust that would become a hallmark of his life took root during this time and while working at Bullocks department store in the fine jewelry department until grad school started the following February, he happened to see an ad in the LA Times for Pan Am. Although he didn’t completely understand what the job was all about, he knew there was worldwide travel involved, so decided to go for an interview and was hired.
“It was actually quite comical when I arrived at the Miami Airways (the training hotel) in March of 1972 for training. The staff, after years of trying to protect the girls from the men who hung out in the hotel’s bar, got flustered trying to figure out which ones of us were the trainees and which were the lounge lizards,” says Bywater. “Another crazy moment came when the instructor was teaching the ten of us how to shave and give us tips on skin care. We found it hard to suppress our laughter.”
JP also had a humorous experience in grooming class. “The pool at the hotel had so much chlorine that it had turned my hair a greenish color. The instructor said I couldn’t graduate looking like that, so she gave me a box of Clairol Summer Blonde, telling me she thought it would look nice. I didn’t know anything about American hair dye and the instructions said to leave it on for 10 minutes. Then I thought, what the heck, I’ll leave it on for 20. Ooh là là! I looked like Marilyn Monroe!” “Training was a special time,” reflected Bywater. “We knew we were being prepared for the world, and for world class service.”
Dave Tomkinson was working on the ground for Pan Am at LAX when he heard about stewards being hired. He jumped on a plane to New York, took a shower at Grand Central Station, breezed upstairs to his interview in the Pan Am building, got hired, flew back to LA, got his stuff, and reported for training in Miami in June of 1972. “It happened that fast,” he said, snapping his fingers. He wound up in Honolulu, where he rented a house with three other Pan Am flight attendants at Diamond Head, near the Amelia Earhart lookout. This was unique for the day, as all of his roommates were women.
Bruce Gately was working at a job he didn’t much like when his best friend hired on as a steward. “I majored in French in college, but I’d never been anywhere much outside of Seattle. It sounded like a great idea, so I interviewed and began training in January of 1973. I was also gay, and back then people didn’t come out as readily as they do today. I knew that Europe was less puritanical about these matters so I figured I could get based there as Pan Am had just opened up London.” His arrival at the Miami Airways was a bit daunting. “All those chic Europeans, Africans, Asians and Americans sort of intimidated me,” he says. “I asked one girl what she had done before Pan Am and she said she had been a VIP hostess at the Munich Olympics. A colleague of hers was now Queen of Sweden. I thought to myself, ‘Bruce, we’re not in Seattle anymore!’” After ten fun-filled months at the friendly Houston base, he finally made it to Lon-don. “It was such an elegant base. We went to union meetings in fur coats… the guys, too!”
The female flight attendants embraced the gay stewards right away, and the straight stewards weren’t far behind. JP, who is also gay, was in training with a number of straight stewards, including Tomkinson. “Dave and I flew together frequently and I remember one Guam layover when we rounded up some of the female crewmembers to go out with us for the evening. I took them to a gay club, and Dave was a good sport about it. So the next night, he said, ‘Okay, my turn,’ and we all went to a strip club where I, of all people, got selected for the lap dancing. Needless to say, I never would have had that experience on my own. Dave and the girls were in hysterics.”
“For Pascal, being part of the crew made him feel good about himself,” says Ken Miles, husband of the late Paul Pascal Haas. (Miles is a retired senior purser with Delta.) “As a gay man in those days he felt truly accepted and respected on the jump seat in a way that was not possible when he worked on the ground with Pan Am. And you know,” added Miles with a twinkle, “the guys weren’t the only ‘ball-bearing stewardesses’ on those planes…everybody had to have balls to do this job.”
The men were proud of workng for Pan Am, and their careers grew in different ways. Tomkinson took on various union responsibilities and Bywater taught purser training at Honolulu and JFK for a combined eight years. JP wound up teaching our First Class service in Chicago during the United transition. “I didn’t think I was working,” he says of his Pan Am years. Gately has been heavily involved with World Wings for decades. All had memorable experiences as well. JP was chosen to work the Olsen Luxury Cruise, a round the world, 36-day charter aboard a 707 configured with all-First Class seats. Pascal was honored in 1985 to be on the 50th Anniversary of the China Clipper flight, a 747 that traced the original route of the 1935 flight from San Francisco to Manila. Bob was on board the inaugural flight of the 747 SP, as well as Flight 50, the Pan Am 50th Anniversary flight in 1977 that circumnavigated the globe over the north and south poles to Auckland, NZ, and the 1980 “proving flight” to Beijing Shanghai, taking over the station managers, operations and maintenance crews, VIP’S and executives.
For many, airline life was not always conducive to settling down. “I never got around to getting married,” said Dave. “Maybe it was that the experience of living with three Pan Am ladies for seven years was so good that nobody else could quite measure up.” Bywater had been flying for quite a number of years when he met a Pan Am girl out in Singapore while he was teaching purser training in advance of the United transition. They married and had a son. While they later divorced, he spends part of every year there with his now-grown child. None ever lost the love of travel or of all places foreign. Bruce Gately lived in London, Paris, Hamburg, Jeddah, Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, and Cirencester (England), before retiring to Paris. “Pascal loved the language and the heritage of France,” says Ken Miles, “and he eventually bought an apartment there.” While all of us were falling in and out of love in all these exotic places, tragically, many of the gay stewards paid a very high price for it. “Both of Pascal’s early roommates died of AIDS,” says Miles. “He never got over the pain of losing those friends, along with so many others,” a sentiment echoed by both JP and Bruce.
Like many of the female flight attendants, the stewards weren’t always motivated by money. “Pascal wanted to learn and grow, to explore the cultures of the world,” said Ken. All had places that moved them like no other, that made them feel more alive when they were there. “I had to see the Taj Mahal,” said JP. “I just had to. I liked anything that was exotic, mysterious, unattainable, far away. Ayers Rock in Australia was a mystical place for me. So was the Grand Canyon.”
“Thailand always spoke to me,” added Dave, who had first become acquainted with Southeast Asia when serving in Vietnam. “I happened to arrive in Phuket when they were filming the James Bond thriller, “Man With the Golden Gun,’ and I found myself going back and back, finally purchasing a condominium there in 2006.” He still lives there today. While the onboard experience of working together brought us together as a family, it was layover experiences that bonded us for life. “When we had five days in Fiji, we used to go to the Castaways resort,” recalls JP, “five or six flight attendants, men and women, all sleeping together in the same bure (hut).” And more than one stewardess went on vacation and shared a hotel room with a steward, driven by the cost savings involved and the companionship, some romantic, some not.
Just as it did with the female flight attendants, flying for Pan Am brought a polish and sophistication to the lives of the stewards as well. “I know it’s such a cliché,” says Bob Bywater, “but it was the most important part of my life. It gave me the opportunity to travel the world, which is what I had always thirsted for, what I really wanted to do. And I haven’t retired yet. I’m still a purser with Delta based at JFK, live near Washington, and travel a ton on my time off.”
“Without Pan Am, I wouldn’t have met the love of my life,” says JP, referring to his husband, Richard Johns, who hails from Australia. “Even though I actually spent more years with United, I will die a Pan Am person.” On his last flight with United, JP put on his Adolfo Pan Am tie after takeoff and wore it all the way to Brussels. It was his way of acknowledging that he would always be Pan Am.
“Pan Am was a lifestyle,” remarked Dave Tomkinson. “Any other airline was just a job.” “I was not born until I began flying with Pan Am,” said Bruce Gately. “I loved traveling all over the world with the exact sort of people I like to be with. I still feel fortunate to live where I do and have the friends that I have. And it all came on the wings Pan Am gave me in January, 1973…All of it.” ✈
This piece was written in memory of Paul Pascal Haas.
Originally published in the 2017 Winter/Spring issue of Jet Wings
Pan Am began an aggressive effort interviewing hundreds of young Japanese Nisei women in California and Hawaii in late 1954. Juan Trippe, ahead of the other US airlines, began a bold move to hire Japanese American women to staff its trans-Pacific flights to and from Japan when Japanese businessmen were first beginning to travel abroad. It was only ten years after the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in 1945, which marked the end of World War II.
The first Nisei graduating class hailed from the farmlands of California and the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Ruby Mizuno, from Sacramento, California, spent three years, as a child, in the Internment Camps in Gila, Arizona and Tulelake, California. She, as well as the others, had come full circle after graduating college, experiencing the working world, and now, as a stewardess for Pan Am, had her dreams fulfilled travelling to the exotic cities of Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and later, around the world.
May Hayashi, Ruby Mizuno, Louise Otani, Katherine Shiroma, Marian Tagawa, Jane Toda, and Cynthia Tsujiuchi
The graduating stewardesses had their wings pinned on by then Hawaii Governor Samuel King. They were a media sensation with the two Japanese dailies, Hawaii Hochi and Hawaii Times, covering their story. There were interviews, photos, biographical sketches, and lunches.
The first Nisei stewardesses flew the Stratocruiser B-377 from HNL to TYO. There was a refueling stop on Wake Island between HNL and TYO. The crew had a 24-hour layover, not in a hotel, but in barracks left by soldiers during the war. Not having much to do on an atoll surrounded by water, they had cocktails at 5:00 pm. followed by dinner in the mess hall and ended the day by sit-ting outdoors watching a Hollywood movie. After the Wake Island layover the luxurious Imperial Hotel in Tokyo was a godsend. And what a sensation they were in Tokyo! They were met by the President of Imperial Hotel in the lobby when they arrived. There was a media blitz. Reporters followed and photographed the Nisei stews in uniform as they went shopping around the Ginza, had their hair done and ate their meals.
The Pan Am Clipper was beautiful and spacious. The cocktail lounge was downstairs and the berths upstairs. First Class was in the aft of the plane, Economy in the front, and there were separate (non-flushing) bathrooms for Men and Women. Four of the original Nisei stewardesses interviewed recently claimed the passengers back then were extremely “classy,” with dignity, refinement, courtesy, intelligence, and patience. They wore suits and furs, unlike the casual travelers today. Ruby (Mizuno) Nishimi told a story about a beautiful Coty cosmetic executive who, when peas fell on her suit during turbulence, was not angry at all. She remained calm telling Ruby that she need not apologize because it was beyond Ruby’s control. She was so nice and refused the offer to dry clean her suit at the next port. She just smiled and brushed the matter aside. The first Nisei stewardesses certainly had the opportunity to meet the Rich and Famous of that period.
These young Nisei stewardesses, based in Hawaii, experienced numerous events during their “flying” days: the Korean and Japanese Baby Lift for Holt Orphanage when both Ruby Mizuno and May Hayashi accompanied young children from Tokyo to HNL; and May experienced a DC-6 charter flight of farmers from Kagoshima who travelled from TYO to Wake Island to HNL to SFO to Sacramento to attend a farmer’s conference.
May (Hayashi) Tsukiyama, is a charter member of the Hawaii Chapter of World Wings. She attends meetings and serves as the chairman of the Children’s Department and a Cashier Assistant at our annual fundraiser garage sale which draws approximately 500 people. May is still very beautiful, healthy, active, and enjoys golfing.
The majority of the Nisei stewardesses flew an average of two years and then resigned, mainly, because their strict Issei (first generation) parents ordered them to get married and “settle down” before it was too late. Cynthia Tsujiuchi, however, was an exception to this rule. She continued to fly for more than 40 years experiencing airplanes from the Stratocruiser, the DC-6, the Boe-ing 707 and the Boeing 747.
The original Nisei stewardesses (less one) today enjoy their retired life, reflecting upon those glamorous days gone by travel-ling aboard Pan American World Airways. ✈
This piece was written by Betty Santoki, former Hawaii Chapter President
Originally published in the 2015 Summer/Fall issue of Jet Wings
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