I have never posted on this particular forum before and I am bored so I am going to take a trip down memory lane. I have really good memories of this trip as it was officially the last time I flew with "The Great Silver Fleet." My day began in Cumberland, MD at 6am on a corporate SAAB 340 operated by Goodyear Tires. My dad had a trip to Miami with the company and my mom and I were to meet him there so we could all visit my grandparents in Florida. Eastern offered a very affordable rate, so we bought round trip tickets from PIT to MIA. Anyway, we flew on the corporate SAAB from Cumberland to PIT and then transferred from the BizJet area in Pittsburgh over to the old passenger terminal. Even though I had flown Eastern several times, I remember not wanting to fly them that particular day because of their past labor disputes and maintenance problems. I was even more upset when I saw how much USAir had spent decorating their areas for the holidays and then seeing how worn Eastern's looked in comparison. Even more disturbing was seeing the proud faces of the USAir employees walking around in crisp navy uniforms. Then I would glance at the Eastern people. They were decked out in an old fashioned "get up", complete with a "sailor style" hat for women. Judging from the looks of it, I got the impression that Eastern could not afford new uniforms, so they had to pull old ones from the 60's out of the attic. This strange comparison of Eastern with USAir continued up to the time we arrived at the Eastern gate. There sat the plane that was to carry us on our first leg of the trip. A tired-looking DC-9 with the familiar two-tone blue stripes covering a "once silver" fuselage would be our wings to ATL. I say "once silver" because the aluminum was now turning a greasy black color, back toward the engines. Adding insult to injury, the USAir fleet sitting around us was bright and shiny in fresh red, blue, and white paint. "If only we could ride USAir", I thought. My daydream was interuppted when they announced, "boarding all rows to Atlanta". They called all rows at once because there were only about 12 of us riding to Atlanta on the DC-9. I recall actually hoping no one would see me board this airplane.
Standing in the jetway and facing the open aircraft door, I noticed the inside siding of the aircraft door was dark brown. I instantly remembered how every Eastern plane I had ridden on had that dark brown color inside the door. It sticks in my mind today because I have not seen anything like that since. This little detail reminded me of earlier rides on Eastern I had taken as a child to places like Disney World and the Florida beaches. The DC=9 interior was still the brown and orange vertical pinstripe motif of the 80's. The seats toward the front had tan in them, and as you walked toward the back the tan faded into burnt orange. The flight attendants averaged about 60 years of age. They did not crack a smile and looking back I can see why. They probably had lots of seniority and knew it would all be coming to an end soon. I was only 14 at the time.....not really old enough to feel their pain. Taxi and take-off was normal. From PIT to ATL we were served scrambled eggs, sausage, and hash browns. After a smooth landing in ATL, we deplaned. I remember the Captain standing in the doorway thanking us personally. Once inside the terminal, we took the "Eastern Shortcut" to our connecting gate to MIA. I was starting to feel better about flying Eastern. The Eastern facilities in ATL were being renovated with new ticket counters and purple carpet. I could tell that in a few short months, they would look far better than the USAir operation in PIT. Plus, the Eastern uniforms were starting to grow on me. They made me feel nostalgic, like I was flying back in the days of Clipper Ships and Connies. I even noticed that when several Eastern employees were together, they REALLY stood out. My excitement level peaked when I saw that a bright shiny L-1011 awaited us for our trip to MIA. I wrote down the tail number....N308EA. The gate area did not seem too busy so I figured I would have the whole bird to myself. However, once inside, the craft quickly filled up to the point where there was not one empty seat. Capt. Russel gave us a fond "Welcome Aboard" and told us the "New" Eastern was going to turn around into "something great." Then he told us that there were 20 other aircraft out ahead of us on the taxiway so we could expect a short delay. As we backed away from the gate, the FA's gave a live demonstration of the safety equipment, rather than using the video screens. Again most of them were around 60 years of age, but one was about 25. To this day I remember how pretty she was. Blond, thin, and that old-fashioned hat made her look like a 60's movie star. It was like flying in the "Golden Age" of air travel; back in the days when Eastern was one of the "Big Four". After takeoff, Capt. Russel told us our route would take us "over the western side of Florida, down past Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Fort Myers, etc. etc." Everyone laughed at the "etc. etc." part. For such a short hop we were were served a full lunch consisting of a large chocolate chip cookie, turkey served on a kaiser roll, chicken salad on a bed of lettuce, and chocolate candy that said "Happy Thanksgiving Day" on the wrapper. I wonder if I would get that sort of food today on the ATL-MIA route? As we approached MIA, Capt. Russel turned the controls over to his FO and again thanked us for traveling with Eastern. After a smooth touchdown we pulled into the gate. My L-1011 trip was over. It's funny, but disembarking I realized my mood had changed from the morning. I was so glad I got to fly Eastern instead of USAir. To this day I am ashamed I wanted to give up on Eastern and jump on one of USAir's shiny new planes.
Keep this in mind the next time you think you are about to experience something horrible. It may turn out to be the most memorable experience ever. I am living proof, as I can still remember this trip in detail after so many years. Never again will I judge a book by its cover. Next year I will write about my return trip to PIT on Eastern.