September 25, 2023
Reminiscences of a Nineteen Forties Hawaiian Airways flight attendant

(CNN) — Earlier this yr, Gwendolyn Bruhn, 94, traveled from her dwelling on the Hawaiian island of Oahu to the Hawaiian island of Maui to attend her great-granddaughter’s wedding ceremony.

Within the inter-island departure terminal at Daniel Okay. Inouye Worldwide Airport in Honolulu, Bruhn got here nose to nose with an sudden shock. On the terminal wall was a big {photograph} from 1947, depicting Hawaiian Airways flight attendants lined up in entrance of an plane, every carrying the uniform of the time: crisp shirt, mid-length skirt, flowers pinned of their hair.

For Bruhn, this {photograph} wasn’t simply an attention-grabbing glimpse into aviation historical past. It was a glimpse into her personal previous.

“I believed, ‘Oh my god,'” Bruhn tells CNN Journey. “I noticed my image, as I used to be years again.”

Bruhn is without doubt one of the Hawaiian Airways flight attendants within the {photograph}. She’s on the far proper, within the prime nook of the body, gazing simply previous the digicam.

“I used to be shocked and flattered {that a} image of me was on the wall,” she says at present.

Bruhn was touring to Maui with a few of her relations. After they noticed the {photograph}, Bruhn’s granddaughter, Samantha Beaumont, requested the passenger sitting beneath if they might thoughts briefly transferring so the household may take an image of Bruhn along with her youthful self.

The passenger obliged, and Bruhn posted for the {photograph}, including one other sudden chapter to her Hawaiian Airways legacy.

“I did not anticipate to see myself as I regarded years again as a flight attendant, however I used to be very honored,” says Bruhn.

Getting her air legs

Gwendolyn Bruhn pictured at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, Hawaii earlier in 2022. Bruhn is looking at a photo of herself (she's top right) taken during her time working for Hawaiian Airlines.

Gwendolyn Bruhn pictured at Daniel Okay. Inouye Worldwide Airport in Honolulu, Hawaii earlier in 2022. Bruhn is a photograph of herself (she’s prime proper) taken throughout her time working for Hawaiian Airways.

Courtesy of The Bruhn-Faria-Smith-Conmackie Ohana

Hawaiian Airways launched in 1929, only a yr after Bruhn was born. Bruhn was a flight attendant for the airline from 1947 to 1950.

Bruhn is her married title — when she began flying, aged 19, she was nonetheless Gwendolyn Kamai, residing in Honolulu along with her mother and father and siblings.

Whereas at present Hawaiian Airways transports passengers the world over, within the early years the service solely flew inside Hawaii. However the airline was already making waves, connecting islands by air that had beforehand solely been reachable by boat.

Bruhn was thrilled when she discovered, through a flight attendant pal, that Hawaiian Airways was trying to rent extra employees.

“At the moment they wore lovely grey uniforms and yellow blouses, they usually had been very hanging, and I would admired them from afar, not realizing that sometime I used to be going to be fortunate to be carrying that very same uniform for Hawaiian Airways,” she recollects.

“I used to be shocked and flattered {that a} image of me was on the wall”

Gwendolyn Bruhn, former Hawaiian Airways flight attendant

Earlier than Bruhn obtained the job, she’d by no means stepped on board an airplane in her life, however she brushed over this lack of flying expertise within the interview.

“They requested me if I had ever flown on a aircraft, and I believed I higher say sure,” she recollects. “After which they requested me, “Had been you ever air sick?” And I stated, ‘Oh no, I used to be nice.'”

On Bruhn’s first flight, she fought again nausea because the propeller plane made its manner from Honolulu to the city of Hilo. She did her greatest to cover her discomfort from passengers.

“I would inform myself, ‘I am unable to present them that I am airsick, as a result of I am alleged to be somebody they will belief,” she says.

Regardless of this shaky begin, Bruhn cherished her job from day one.

“I used to be so honored to be accepted as a flight attendant,” she says.

She provides that her nausea step by step pale “as I obtained my flying legs.”

Bruhn labored all of the routes on supply on the time, and located one thing to take pleasure in in all of them.

“The Hilo flight was lengthy, however it was very attention-grabbing,” says Bruhn. “The volcano would erupt generally, there have been instances that the captain couldn’t go over, however close to sufficient, in order that the passengers would be capable to see the lava erupting.”

She cherished flights to and from Hawaii’s Large Island.

“It was recognized for its lovely flowers and leis, each time somebody would come on board, they might all the time have a gorgeous lei on,” recollects Bruhn.

Celebrities and tough passengers

Douglas DC-3 aircraft pictured at John Rodgers Airport, now Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, in Honolulu. This photo is from 1947, the year Bruhn started working at Hawaiian Airlines.

Douglas DC-3 plane pictured at John Rodgers Airport, now Daniel Okay. Inouye Worldwide Airport, in Honolulu. This photograph is from 1947, the yr Bruhn began working at Hawaiian Airways.

Courtesy Haiwaiian Airways

Bruhn recollects assembly passengers from everywhere in the world. It was certainly one of her favourite elements of working as a flight attendant.

“You meet so many great individuals on flights,” she recollects.

Bruhn additionally helped ferry celebrities round Hawaii, together with actor Jimmy Stewart and swimmer Esther Williams. Bruhn says flight attendants had been suggested not to attract consideration to celebrities on board, and to deal with them with the identical politeness and respect that they might every other traveler.

“I all the time thought to myself that if I used to be of their place, I’d really feel the identical manner too — I would not wish to be overwhelmed with individuals taking footage or one thing like that,” says Bruhn.

Bruhn additionally navigated conditions involving tough vacationers, suggesting that disruptive airplane passengers have all the time existed in some type.

“They simply did not hear once we defined you needed to maintain the seat belts on,” says Bruhn.

Whereas Hawaiian Airways did not supply alcohol on board at the moment, that did not cease some vacationers making an attempt to sneak on little bottles of liquor.

Bruhn must firmly and politely clarify they weren’t allowed to drink on board.

The plane operated by Hawaiian Airways within the late Nineteen Forties had been small, and Bruhn was usually the one flight attendant on board.

Generally passengers would fall sick, and it might be on her to deal with it.

“However, , we overcame all of that and we all the time made the passengers really feel that we had been there to serve them,” she says.

In the course of the interval during which Bruhn labored for the airline, Hawaiian, like many airways within the mid-twentieth century, had strict grooming requirements which Bruhn and her colleagues needed to adjust to.

“We all the time knew that we needed to keep slim, and never look sloppy,” says Bruhn.

Bruhn says she was proud to signify Hawaii, on the time not but a US state, to the world.

And she or he all the time loved representing Hawaiian Airways.

“I used to be additionally lucky to be in one of many yearly huge floats in Hawaii, and we represented Hawaiian Airways,” recollects Bruhn. “They requested a number of of us if, since we had been off that day, we might thoughts being on the float, and simply waving at everybody.”

Forging friendships

Bruhn turned good pals with a lot of her colleagues at Hawaiian Airways. In addition to bonding along with her fellow flight attendants, she additionally obtained to know a number of the mechanics and engineers who labored behind the scenes.

One among her coworkers, an airplane mechanic, supplied to take Bruhn on a non-public flying journey. These flights quickly turned a daily staple of Bruhn’s week.

“I’d go a number of instances per week, fly over what we referred to as the excessive mountains and we might go over to Bellows [in Waimanalo, Hawaii] the place they’ve the navy base now,” recollects Bruhn.

Her days of airsickness behind her, Bruhn cherished the sensation of hovering over the hills and seashores beneath.

“I believed, ‘That is what I wish to be, a pilot.’ However then it by no means did actually occur after, as a result of I obtained sidetracked with assembly my husband and whatnot.”

Someday, Bruhn and her flight attendant pal Lois had been enjoyable at Lois’ household dwelling following an extended day at work.

“I occurred to see this handsome particular person, and I stated, ‘Oh, who is that this?’ She says, ‘my brother,'” recollects Bruhn.

Gwendolyn Kamai married William Carl Bruhn in 1950.

Gwendolyn Kamai married William Carl Bruhn in 1950.

Courtesy of The Bruhn-Faria-Smith-Conmackie Ohana

The Hawaiian Airways Christmas occasion was on the horizon. Bruhn requested Lois if the brother, whose title was William Carl, wish to go as her date.

“That began our relationship,” says Bruhn.

Gwendolyn Kamai and William Carl Bruhn III, who labored for the Hawaiian Electrical firm, had been married in 1950. Bruhn gave beginning to her first youngster the next yr.

Again then, it wasn’t frequent for flight attendants to be married with youngsters, so Bruhn closed the chapter on her time at Hawaiian Airways.

She and William Carl went on to have 4 extra youngsters. The couple had been married for 62 years, till William Carl handed away in 2012.

At the moment, Bruhn has 11 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

70 years later

It could be a number of many years since Bruhn labored on board an plane, however she nonetheless likes to journey by airplane.

When she’s on board, Bruhn usually displays on her time working within the air. Flying has modified, however she nonetheless sees herself in at present’s flight attendants.

“Perhaps a few of them went by means of the identical as I did after they began, while you needed to fake nothing bothered you,” she says.

A number of of Bruhn’s relations adopted in her footsteps and labored for Hawaiian Airways over time.

Her granddaughter Samantha Beaumont labored for the airline from 2007 to 2008.

“Persevering with her legacy was undoubtedly an enormous deal,” Beaumont tells CNN Journey. “I keep in mind being excited to inform her after I was employed after which after I truly made it by means of coaching.”

“Once I see youthful women now in uniforms, I smile to myself. And I say, ‘I do know precisely what they must undergo too.’”

Gwendolyn Bruhn, former Hawaiian Airways flight attendant

When Beaumont labored with Hawaiian, she flew internationally.

Her grandmother was just a bit envious.

“I all the time needed to go to different locations,” says Bruhn. “The stewards at present are very lucky that point has gone on, and that extra enhancements have been completed within the journey world now. I envy them.

“But, I am glad that I had my time with Hawaiian Airways,” she continues. “I by no means will overlook how fortunate I used to be to have all these reminiscences to take a seat down with. Once I see youthful women now in uniforms, I smile to myself. And I say, ‘I do know precisely what they must undergo too.'”

Prime {photograph}, Gwendolyn Bruhn. Photograph courtesy of The Bruhn-Faria-Smith-Conmackie Ohana.

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