You’re Giving The Passengers Free WHAT?


It’s interesting to see what the airlines used to think of as appropriate amenities for their customers. I don’t know what year this Pan Am inflight service card was printed, but from the graphic style I’d guess the very early 1950’s. Let’s see, they’re giving passengers free toothbrushes, sewing kit, chewing gum, and… what’s that circled item?Oh yes, benzedrine inhalers. And in case you were wondering what they looked like, here’s one:

And why might they be passing these little speedy treats out to all who wanted one? In that era before the problems with amphetamine addiction was widely known, they were regarded as a great antidote to altitude sickness and nasal congestion. They might have even worked, but the side effects might make this something you’d regret later. Thanks, but I’ll deal with the stuffy nose…

A Strange Beginning For Asian Fusion In Flight

In my book I mentioned the ways in which airlines created themes aboard aircraft to make the flying experience more alluring and exotic. The most interesting of these was probably Northwest Orient’s “Fujiyama Room” which was the upstairs lounge aboard their Stratocruiser aircraft. In 1955 to celebrate their service to Tokyo and beyond in Asia, the airline put live bonsai trees and Japanese dolls aboard, painted Japanese calligraphy on the walls, and created a space that looked like this:

This looks like kitsch nowadays but was edgy in its time – remember that the US and Japan were at war just ten years before. The food was more reminiscent of a tiki bar than anything actually Japanese – here’s a description:

In the center of the large colorful tray was a pineapple cut flat on the bottom. The following items were skewered onto the pineapple with Asian type picks – shrimp, cheese, ham, cherry tomatoes, and various types of fruit cut into squares. Tray decorations included small wooden Asian dolls and other oriental trinkets, parasols and ribbons… 

Note that this meal service and decor was only offered on US domestic flights so that there was little danger that many actual Japanese people would see it – the flights to Tokyo offered standard service. After a few years the Stratoliners were retired in favor of jets, and the theme wasn’t replicated there. It remains an odd little milestone in air service, an exoticized Oriental fantasy to enjoy when flying between Minneapolis and Seattle.