Thursday, March 17, 2011

Come Fly With Me

Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away.
If you can use some exotic booze, there’s a bar in far Bombay.
Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away.

Come fly with me, let's float down to Peru.
In llama-land, there's a one-man band, and he'll toot his flute for you.
Come fly with me, let's take off in the blue.

Once I get you up there where the air is rarefied
We’ll just fly starry-eyed
Once I get you up there, I’ll be holding you so near,
You may hear, angels cheer, ‘cause we’re together

Weather-wise, it’s such a lovely day,
You just say the word and we’ll beat the birds down to Acapulco Bay
It’s perfect for a flying honeymoon they say,
Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly
Pack up, let’s fly away…

© Cahn Music Company; Maraville Music Corporation

Are any of you old enough to remember when train travel was common and air travel was a big deal?  When a trip on an airplane was exotic and exciting?  When Frank Sinatra sang "Come Fly With Me" and you wished you could take him up on it?

Do any of you remember this scene?

Your dad wore his best brown suit and hat (well, back then he always wore a suit, although at the beach he'd at least roll up his pant legs and leave his coat and tie in the Buick) and your mom wore her new floral-print summer dress and lacy white hat.  Airport security consisted of a middle-aged guy with a nightstick and revolver and clip-on tie who looked like he'd eaten more than his share of donuts and rocked back and forth on his heels as he gave you a wink and a nod.  You strode out from the terminal building across the tarmac toward a gleaming, streamlined airplane with either a blue or orange stripe or two red ones, depending on whether you were flying Pan Am, American or TWA.  You ascended a set of air stairs that a coveralled mechanic had wheeled up to the plane and were greeted by a smiling stewardess (as female flight attendants were called in that less enlightened age), impeccably attired in a neat blue suit adorned with silver wings, and a smart, military-style cap.

The cabin wasn't cavernous, but only because wide-body jets weren’t yet invented, not because you were being stuffed into it like so much sausage by a bean counter corps trying to stave off bankruptcy proceedings.  Maybe your dad brought you up to the cockpit where the pilot (who likely flew B-24s during the War) pointed out what the various levers and switches and doohickies did and handed you a set of Junior Aviator wings that weren't plastic.

The biggest challenge for the stewardesses was your little brother wanting to zoom through the cabin with his toy F-86 Sabre jet.  Not business travelers refusing to turn off cell phones or surly men glancing furtively about, looking like they're up to no good.

Jet air travel was in its infancy.  You could get on a 707 or DC-8 for a trans-oceanic flight or major domestic route, but just flying was excitement enough and you felt a thrill, tempered with a bit of caution, as you looked out the window of the DC-6 or Super Constellation and saw the mechanic standing below the streamlined engine nacelle, fire extinguisher at the ready, and each propeller slowly turn before its massive Double Wasp or Turbo Compound radial engine caught and fired in a thunderous coughing fit and cloud of white smoke.  The booming cacophony calmed to a loafing, lopey idle until the pilot deftly eased the four throttles forward together with a practiced touch, unleashing ten thousand impatient horses to urge you free of the ground.  And then, leveling out at cruise speed and altitude, the engines settled down to a reassuring, steady drone.

It was still only 15 years since those same engines powered the Hellcats and Corsairs and Superfortresses that helped your dad and uncles whip the bad guys in the big war.  And even though they couldn't go down and have a big time in Havana anymore since that Castro clown took over, and even though the Russkies were rattling their sabers and sending stuff into space and you had to do duck and cover drills at school and your dad looked over brochures for backyard bomb shelters as he smoked his pipe, you still liked Ike and it was still an idyllic and exciting time, full of ideas and pregnant with possibility.  And on a day like today, bobbing on invisible currents of air between puffs of blinding white cloud in the achingly, impossibly blue heavens, even the Russians couldn't spoil it.

High Flight

Oh!  I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
my eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor eagle flew-
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer John G. Magee, Jr
American flier with the Royal
Canadian Air Force.  Died in
aerial combat on December 11, 1941


  1. Love this post, Jerry! Wow.... talk about nostalgic. I love the descriptions; your imagery by word choice takes me there. (sigh) What a happy read. Awesome.

  2. Thanks for the kind words. You and I aren't old enough to remember that era, yet if you don't write off the past and you expose yourself to enough of it through books, movies, TV, etc., you can pull enough from all of it to paint a credible picture. And if you you use your imagination, you can feel the excitement and write from that place, right?

    On the subject of nostalgia, for me, it's not a case of wishing I was born in a different era. I'm in the time where I belong and I don't want to go back to the time of Jim Crow and iron lungs. But to go on a trip when flying was a big deal? That would be great.

  3. Jerry... is that a new photo you just posted with this blog entry? It's AMAZING, actually, and well worth the time spent looking for it.

    Regarding this blog... (sigh)... can you please find somewhere to publish this? It's too good to idle here in blogland.

    Your fan,


  4. Ah, Dana, you always get it. Thanks for the kind words. It is a killer picture, isn't it? Captures how massive those old birds must have seemed to the '50s traveler, and showing it on the ground conveys the anticipation one might have felt on their first-ever flight on an airliner.


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