Rock Center   |  June 14, 2013

Life and times of a 1969 stewardess

In this week’s special edition of Rock Bottom, Brian Williams dives into the depths of the NBC Film Vault to unearth “Every Young Chick Wants to Fly,” a 1969 short documentary about stewardesses. From greeting passengers, to sexy attire, to maintaining a “bland to warm personality,” prepare to be amazed and maybe even slightly offended when you see how different air travel was back then.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> for you this week from the nbc news archives, the gift that keeps on giving. it is a mini documentary on flight attendants , and it's placed in time right when "mad men" is supposed to be taking place now, the late '60s. it's an unbelievable time capsule , and a big heaping pile of things we don't say or do anymore. so by today's standards, prepare to be amazed and at least slightly offended boy that special edition of "rock bottom" from the depths of our film vault.

>> basic training for stewardesses is meant to turn a girl into a woman. the airline gives her beauty tips, a sense of responsibility, and a practical trade. but you're likely to end up with something less than a full-time jet sophisticate or oxidental geisha. feeding and caring for a planeload of passengers can be as glamorous as a stint behind the counter at the five and ten.

>> that used too be a store when things cost five and ten cents. we move to the class where they learn how to make the cabin announcements. please note they are the same inane announcements we passengers still enjoy today. it's in this room where they all learn to say those little gems like, "or wherever your final destination may be." but this one's a bit dated.

>> please extinguish all cigarettes at this time. thank you for flying with us today.

>> we also get to hear what life is like for these women.

>> flying to me has been exciting.

>> sometimes just plain fun.

>> you learn so much about life, people.

>> really, really fun.

>> many of the girls have answering services.

>> now many of the girls have modern voicemail. the film shows the safety aspect of training and the physical fitness portion of training while not quite equinox, visible proof that spinning has always existed. it just wasn't called that. the iron pumping is less than robust, and these things were actually used to make women fit and trim. and that's another thing -- it's all women. back then the men only flew the plane. the gender roles are so dated they're bracing to hear.

>> stewardesses like jetliners must be slinky sex symbols . pilots can be homely and bald.

>> back in the cabin, listen for the clue that times have changed --

>> we are airborne, we'll be serving you dinner.

>> there it was right there. if you guessed dinner, you'd be correct. even the building is supposed to impress our impressionable girls.

>> stewardess schools are usually palaces. a girl from ft. wayne is bound to be impressed.

>> wait just a minute here and forgive the interruption, but ft. wayne has a dozen art museums and galleries, more than one newspaper, and its own philharmonic. the people of ft. wayne are not easily impressed. now back to our nbc news feature presentation.

>> this cocktail is then placed on a tidbit tray and served to the passenger.

>> when was the last time you saw a tidbit tray, including on the ground? this is where the film begins to turn a little dark, and we start hearing the grim stats of a career spent in the air.

>> the stewardess works an average of 18 months, then quits. just a year and a half. some get married, frequently to passengers. many leave the job because they find they don't like it anymore.

>> so what have we learned? flight attendants had a tough job back then back when flying was glamorous. now -- now most planes are buses with wings. they charge for everything that used to be free. planes are crowded, and passengers haven't gotten any nicer. some of them need to be duct taped to their seats. the lesson here -- unless they're not nice to you, be nice to your flight attendants . it's still a tough job serving customers in an aluminum tube hurtling through the air. and a bunch of them are up in the sky right now either just starting a long voyage or hoping to get home by the end of the week late on a friday night.