by Dr. Denise R. Ames
My visit with my daughter’s family, including my three grandchildren, was coming to an end! But one more adventure before taking-off on a Jet Blue flight from JFK in New York City to Albuquerque, a visit to the renovated old TWA terminal at JFK.
Many of you may not recognize the acronym TWA, it stands for Trans World Airlines. It was a major American airline that operated from 1930 until 2001.
The infamous and fascinating Howard Hughes acquired control of TWA in 1939, and after World War II led the expansion of the airline to serve Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Although headquarters of TWA was located in St. Louis, MO, its transatlantic hub was the TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport. Named after the charismatic president John Fitzgerald Kennedy on December 24, 1963, the former Idlewild Airport in New York City commemorated the slain president just a little over a month after his assassination.
In the 1960s, TWA was in its heyday, and traveling was glamorous. I remember taking my first airplane flight in September 1963 from Chicago to Dallas (I think on TWA). For the occasion, my mother made sure I had a new outfit (blue plaid pleated skirt and color-coordinated blue sweater).
To showcase TWA’s prominence and the New York airport’s significance in the world, renowned architect Eero Saarinen and Associates were commissioned to design a new Flight Center for TWA. It was erected between 1959 and 1962. Saarinen is also known for designing the soaring Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
During the deregulation frenzy of the late 1970s, TWA experienced many troubles and several bankruptcies. It was ultimately bought by American Airlines and sadly the legendary airline ceased its operations in 2003.
The NY terminal closed in 2001—along with its namesake Trans World Airlines—because it could no longer support the size of modern airplanes. Nearly two decades later, the once abandoned landmark building reopened on May 15, 2019 as the TWA Hotel, JFK’s first on-airport hotel.
Midcentury modern best describes the style of the renovated Flight Center in all its nostalgic splendor. The sweeping lines and suspended overhangs scream the 1950s and 1960s architecture.
My family and I were excited about seeing the old TWA Flight Center. Since my Jet Blue flight and the Flight Center both operated out of Terminal 5, it made for a convenient and leisurely time before taking off. The kids loved the swivel stools, spinning around until dizzy. The classic red color of TWA adorned the seating and carpet. After touring the lobby, we headed to the bar to order some snacks and drinks.
Out of high school, I applied to be a stewardess (the name back then for flight attendant) with American and TWA Airlines. I was interviewed in Chicago, but alas I didn’t make the cut. Although my waitressing skills were a plus, I measured 5’8” tall and the cut-off was 5’5”. They also had weight restrictions, but at 18 years old I easily slipped under that number. I sat in the terminal imagining my life if I had become a stewardess. Perhaps I would have made a career out of it and not gone to college. Perhaps I would have traveled the world rather than have read about it. Alas, that path did not open to me. Instead, I finished college, got married, had a family, and pursued at career in education (grade7-university).
Watching my rambunctious grandchildren race about the bright red carpeted lounge area, I felt happy about the path I had chosen. My dear daughter and sweet grandchildren would not be tearing around if I had chosen differently.
Finally it was time to say good-bye. My grandchildren accompanied me through the renovated tunnel to the Jet Blue terminal. Lots of kisses and hugs as I waved good-bye. I reminisced about my short walk through memory lane inspired by the TWA renovation.
The 1960s were a long time ago, but I remember them vividly. Much has happened since then, some good and some bad. One thing I do realize is that even though many choices are made through one’s life, it does little good to second guess them. What is important is living each moment with what one has and being grateful for it. I felt a sense of contentment realizing that being a stewardess probably wasn’t as glamorous as it seemed, and I would have probably become bored with it after a while and quit.
At least now I can say that I was happy seeing my grandchildren run through the tunnel back to the red-carpeted lounge and their loving parents. I turned the corner to pass through security and board my flight.
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.
Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.
Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books