I watched a television special recently about early day flight attendants and the jet setters with whom they traveled while wearing those little skirts, heels, and caps…remember? I do, and it was enough to remind me that some of you probably do not know that Judy Gordon of Dublin, Texas was once a part of that very crowd.
Judy Gordon is just one of those interesting people, and I had a lot of things that I wanted to ask her. Of course, one of the first things that I wanted to know was just what it was that enticed her and husband Tom to move to Dublin, Texas.
“We were living in Keller and had been since 1976. I worked for the Colonial Golf Tournament and Tom worked for Delta Air Lines (where the couple met) until he retired in 1994. Then, the younger of our two daughters married a dairyman from Erath County, and she moved here.
“I was very tired of the twenty miles or more that I was driving to work and the more we visited our daughter here, the more we fell in love with Dublin. It was a town like Keller had once been before it grew so large.
“Anyway, we moved here in 2000, and we’ve never regretted it.”
As I ask everyone, I asked Judy how hard it was for the couple to carve a place for themselves in a very small town.
“It was absolutely not hard. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly. We actually had a garage sale. Both of my girls were here to help, and we looked up to see Mary Yantis who was pulling up to give us her personal card and two peaches! That’s how it started.”
Now, I’m not from Dublin but I do know Mary Yantis, and nothing the woman does surprises me because she is just one of those people that every hometown should be fortunate enough to claim.
“We just never felt like strangers here.”
It was at this point that I changed gears and asked Judy to go back in time and tell me about her time as a stewardess for Delta.
“I never really gave being a stewardess a thought; I was working part-time and going to TCU, and my manager at the company where I was working asked why I was there. She had been a stewardess who had gotten married and had to quit flying, but she suggested that I put in an application. I did, and I actually got a response.”
Delta sent Judy an airline ticket and she flew to Atlanta for an interview. She was hired and given another ticket and told to come to Atlanta to attend stewardess school.
The rules that governed the lives of the stewardesses in the 1960s seem a little silly.
“Our hair could not touch the collar of our blouses. Luckily, when we were in training I had my hair cut just like it is today. The other girls, however, were told to get their hair cut, and they did. After it was cut, they were told that it still was not short enough.
“Since they didn’t have the money to have their hair cut again, I became the beauty shop. Every night I’d sit on the end of the bed and we’d prop pillows for them to sit on in front of me and I’d cut their hair. Since I only knew how to cut hair one way, they all ended up looking like a clone of me.
“We had to dress in suits and high heels everyday (a minimum of 2 7/8” heel) even when we were in school. I had to have enough clothes and all the accessories for thirty days of school. Every pair of my shoes had a matching bag, believe it or not!”
High heels and matching bags were not the least of the dress code!
“We couldn’t wear glasses, earrings, or jewelry, except for a watch and a small ring. We also were to wear no make up, but we would often sneak on mascara and in the photo on this page, I am wearing mascara.
“We also were not allowed to wear bobby pins, and we had to have a girdle and hose on at all times. In fact, while working for Delta, supervisors actually did girdle checks, and weight checks on us. Not having on a girdle would get you fired!”
Judy actually pulled out her old manual and showed it to me in black and white.
“A good girdle and bra should be worn at all times.”
After Judy graduated, she was thrilled to discover that she had been assigned to work out of Love Field in Dallas since Fort Worth was home to her.
“There were probably twenty-five girls in my class and right before graduation we drew numbers from a hat to determine our seniority. I drew number two, which gave me seniority over all but one.
“I bid on the station that I wanted to work and with my seniority, I was able to get Dallas.”
Life is funny, isn’t it? A lottery drawing basically won Tom for Judy who would never have met him had she not been assigned to Dallas.
What actually happened was that one of Judy’s high school friends told her that if she happened to be based out of Dallas to be sure to look up his cousin who worked there. Judy eventually ran into the cousin and they had a few dates.
Then, one night the cousin came over to show Judy his new car and he had Tom Gordon with him.
“My roommates were all stewardesses for Delta, and I told them that I’d really like a date with that guy that came with the cousin. One of them said she’d fix it and through a call to a friend and a call to a friend Tom eventually heard it and called me for a date.”
Judy and Tom continued to work for Delta while she and Tom continued to date. Of course, the dress code for stewardesses continued.
Judy was actually written up for a hem in her skirt that was too shallow. It happened on a check ride, and stewardesses never knew when those would happen.
“That was the time that I had left gloves at home and had to borrow a pair, but I had no idea that my hem was a problem.”
There were a few concessions, however. Although the ladies could not be seen in public without their hats, jackets, and gloves, they were allowed to remove these while working on the plane!
Judy worked for Delta for six months. Then, Tom was drafted and they decided to get married because “I didn’t want to be flying with him off in Timbuktu. Besides, you were not allowed to fly if you were married.”
Actually, married WOMEN were not allowed to fly; the men, of course, were allowed to do it all. It eventually took a class-action suit in the late 1960s to end the marriage rule and allow married stewardesses to keep their jobs. Judy did not join in the suit because she knew that Tom would be returning to Delta once his tour in the military was completed.
How did the young wife handle Viet Nam?
“Not well, it was like living in a state of emergency all the time. We had a small baby by that time, and I moved in with my dad in Fort Worth; Tom’s family lived in Grapevine.
“When Tommy was in Viet Nam, he worked for a medical advisory team. They worked only on Vietnamese people in a hospital and an ophthalmologist asked Tom why he was in the service since he was legally blind.”
I turned to Tom at this point for the answer.
“When I went for my physical, I was wearing contacts and asked them if they wanted me to take contacts out when I did the eye test. I was told that it didn’t matter. In other words, I was going.”
Judy said, “We didn’t know for a while what he was doing. We just thought he was going to be shot; we didn’t know where he was for a long time. Then, we learned he was in an advisory position in a hospital, and we felt like he was safer, but we still worried in the back of our minds because they bombed around them all the time.”
I asked Tom exactly what he did there in the hospital.
“Our job was to train the Vietnamese doctors and nurses to do better work. Our secondary job was to work on Vietnamese civilians if they became war casualties because the Vietnamese doctors were snowed under.
“We did not work on any U.S. military unless it was a life-threatening situation with the nearest military base too far away to give immediate help.
“An aptitude test determines your aptitude for a job and tells what you are most qualified to do. Today that guarantees you that job.
“When I went in, you took the test and if you had prior military experience they tried to fit you to the job. Figuring the weight and balance of the aircraft was my job at Delta Air Lines, and that is what I thought I would do…
“Then, when I got out of basic training, my orders said I was assigned to Sheppard Air Force Base as a medic! It was just what they needed at the time, and I became a medic…”
Today the couple, who obviously still love each other’s company, has two daughters, one a fifth grade science teacher in Dublin and one in Keller who continues to live with her family in Keller.
“We have two grandchildren here and two grown grandsons in Keller. We left the bigger kids when we came here, but we had always been there for them and we wanted to do the same for the younger ones. Leaving them was the only tough part of the move.
“We have just been so blessed with a wonderful family!”
Judy also made a point of telling me just how great her two sons-in-law are, and how thankful she and Tom are for them.
Does she miss her former life and the thrill of flying?
“Not at all, but looking back, it is amazing how much things have changed from then until now.”
She is certainly right; times have changed. The flight attendants of today bear little resemblance to the stewardesses of the 1960s; however, the change that interests Dublin, Texas most is the change that came when Judy and Tom Gordon decided to make Dublin their home.