We always flew Delta when I was a kid. The Old Man was a travel agent, and we made the pilgrimage to Disney at least once a year. These trips were the start of a life-long love of travel, adventure, going someplace else and coming home, and this romance is for keeps.
Our trips began at PWM; Portland International Jetport. “International Jetport” conjures up images of Jetsons-esque space flight (or at least early ‘60s post-modern optimism) around the world, like the swoops of latitude on the old Pan Am logo. In fact, “international” means maybe one flight per day to Montreal, and the
airjetport was, until very recently, an extremely small, extremely dated relic. Sit in the Staples parking lot next door for five minutes and you may see take-offs from JetBlue, DSL and a Cessna taking a father-and-son hobbyist team to the north Maine woods for a camping trip. Still, it was and is my home point of departure, and I’d umpteen million times rather be at PWM than Hopkins in Cleveland.
The ticket counters were always a haze of impending adventure and cigarette smoke. I’d hand over my bag to a sky cap in a blazing red blazer, and we’d hit the escalator. There was a restaurant at the top level called Jonah’s Place, and the J was a fish hook. Clever. On the other side was a news stand, and then the terminal, with endless rows of vinyl seats embroidered with the Delta logo. We were on our way.
It was mostly 727s back then. I liked the planes with the symmetrical Delta logo on the tail-fin, the navy and red widget forming a perfect triangle like on the front of the plane and all signage. But I really liked the ones with the more angular widget, with the bottom apex of the blue about ¾ of the way over to the right side of the fin. This logo was much sleeker, and suggested that our plane may get us there much faster.
Regardless of logo angle or plane speed, the cabin décor was seemingly always 1970s gold. The seats were a gold and red, a scheme I would imagine Marco Polo would have approved. I always got a Coke, a set of pilots wings and a pencil, and I could amuse myself for hours reading the safety placards and the vomit bag.
We almost always had a layover at Hartsfield in Atlanta, and in addition to all the wares featuring the logo of the Atlanta Braves and this new-fangled (Ted) Turner Broadcasting System, there was a guy in the terminal selling a Styrofoam plane called the Super Looper. He would throw the plane while giving a spiel like Vince from ShamWow, and the plane would do a loop and return to him. It was equal parts boomerang, model plane and infomercial, and it was magic.
Eventually we would get to Disney, and those trips were always great. But I remember getting there as much as I do being there. I was fortunate to have these trips during my formative years, when life-long loves and habits and associations are made. An airport means the beginning of an adventure. A plane means escape. A logo means a brand you trust, in spite of drastic changes to the company and the industry. (There were no frequent flyer miles then, but I now have maybe enough to get from PWM to LaGuardia.) I’ll never have a free lunch and peanuts on a plane again, but Delta still means flying to Disney and getting free pilots wings and going to that magical, mystical somewhere else.
And I still look for the Super Looper Guy every time I’m changing planes at Hartsfield…