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Harry Frahm, born in Germany, took a lifetime-opportunity to work and travel „above and below the clouds“ - it was the early 1950s, and going to America to work as a flight attendant for the biggest airline in the world, Pan Am, first was considered only to be a „girl‘s job“. But he already knew, he once would have unnumbered funny and exciting stories to tell. After 33 years of working for Pan Am in the skies and visiting the most exotic places in the world, he reviews his impressions and experiences he had the chance to make - and tells us one charming and funny story after another.Let him take you on a journey to times when aviation was young and layover trips always an adventure! Of course, names are changed - but he swears, each and every world is true.
Release dateFeb 1, 2013
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    This book was written to entertain and inform of real-life stories some time ago, when aviation was young. These are non-fiction tales with all names of persons slightly changed, to avoid possible legal complications. However, the names of the pursers are made up and are in reality portraying Harry Frahm, even the Puerto Rican Manuel Rodriguez.

    The author

    Harry Frahm, formerly Horst Frahm, was born in Berlin, Germany, to a police officer and his wife. After the war, Berlin was divided into four sectors, British, French, American and Russian. His home belonged to the Russian part. He worked as a professional mechanic on projects the Soviet Union administration was interested in. He was offered a position to move to Russia. Not enthusiastic about it, he decided to go westward. Having relatives in Hamburg made the choice easy. This was at a time before the wall, and travel from east to west was not too difficult, which thousands of people made use of. The problem was to obtain a working permit to be able to stay in the city. At the Arbeitsamt (Office for Labor affairs,) being a mechanic, the permit was denied. He inquired which occupation will get this document and was advised:

    You have to be a motor mechanic and master the English language in order to get a job at the British Forces. So he left and went to a different line of applicants. When asked for his occupation, he claimed to be a motor mechanic with excellent knowledge of the English language. Of which, the second part, was not a lie. He received the precious permit and was given the address where to report the following day. Luckily no one asked him for his driver’s license, which he did not have, neither did he know how to drive, which would have been very incomprehensible for a motor mechanic. He got the job regardless! To his luck, two men were assigned to work together as a team. He confessed to his coworker the predicament he was in and was assured not to worry. Two hours lunchtime each day, with a hot meal, courtesy of the British Crown, (which was a blessing in itself,) took care of all problems. His teammate showed him how to drive and Harry was left alone with an Army jeep, a perfect vehicle, able to take a lot of abuse from a beginner. Later a jerry-can of gasoline, (better than gold) as payment, produced his driver license. A few months later he became a driver for the same unit at the Royal Navy which was taken over later by the Royal Engineers. Another change took place when he was a driver for British Forces Network. After work he attended an evening school to become an engineer. Some years later, being again with Royal Engineers, he received an offer to get employment with Pan American World Airways, Inc.

    The way it was called in those days. Two years thereafter he immigrated to the USA, sponsored by the airline, to become a flight attendant. Until 1988 he flew as purser and took his retirement after 33 years of spanning the globe. Ten years out of New York and the rest out of Miami, where he still resides today.

    Edited by:

    Stasia Todd



    The Beginning

    It was a gray frosty winter day, dirty snow piled up on the sides of the streets. The roads were slippery with icy patches here and there; it was a typical winter morning in this otherwise attractive town of Hamburg, on the Elbe River, all frozen now.

    Herbert Frank was sitting behind the steering wheel of this Opel Kapitän, which belonged to the British Royal Engineers. He was waiting for his Colonel, who was having an early luncheon engagement in the Streits-Hotel on the Jungfernstieg. He had the motor running to operate the heater of the car. Nice and cozy, reading a book.

    The year is 1955 and only a few days ago the church bells were chiming for the New Year.

    Suddenly, Herbert was interrupted in his reading.

    Somebody had knocked at his side window. He thought it was his boss, but a friendly smiling, familiar face of a pretty woman looked at him.

    "I know her, surely," he thought.

    It was the former secretary of the British Forces Network.

    He jumped out of the car and they had such a friendly warmhearted hello, like two people who have known each other for a thousand years.

    The truth was, they had never spoken more than ten words to each other.

    Inge von Borstein and Herbert were both employed at the B.F.N. before, but had nothing in common while working there.

    Good morning! at the start of the day, and Good evening! before heading home was about the extent of their conversations.

    Herbert was driving an old beat-up Bedford Army truck, which used as much engine-oil as it used gasoline. The main feature of this vehicle consisted of a measuring device to receive radio transmissions from BBC London, which had to be probed at numerous locations in Northern Germany and Holland. It was to find a site, where the reception was most favorable, in order to place receiving antennas there.

    This truck, like all British Military vehicles, was painted green.

    There was a sign with big letters on either side advertising: B F N Fieldstrenghts Measuring Team, on a bright yellow background.

    Wherever British soldiers saw this entity, there was admiration and wonderment.

    The German population, on the other hand, didn’t know what the heck to make of it.

    It was nothing else but a German engineer and Herbert: the TEAM.

    Those two traveled a lot all over the place, having a good time.

    So, Inge and Herbert had a lot to talk all of a sudden.

    They hadn’t seen each other for a long time.

    The last time they met was in Cologne, after B.F.N. had moved there from the Hamburger Musikhalle.

    Neither lasted long at the Rhine River and had moved back to Hamburg.

    Herbert went to the British and Inge to the Americans, namely to PAN AMERICAN WORLD AIRWAYS.

    She told him.

    Why don’t you come to PAN AM? she inquired.

    And continued, There is an opening at the moment, why don’t you come with me? It is only a few steps, across the street at the Colonnaden.

    The District Traffic Sales Manager is in his office, a good opportunity for an interview!

    And so they went!

    Inge went to the DTSM, and he asked Herbert to join him in his office.

    You come highly recommended by Frau von Borstein, is how he opened the conversation.

    Have a seat, pointing to one of the chairs opposite his impressive desk.

    Herbert was fascinated by the jovial manner of this American big boss.

    "What a difference from my British officers!" he observed.

    The conversation was short and friendly.

    Herbert was under the impression that it was only to test his English, and was more than surprised when he was asked, When can you start with Pan Am?

    He opened his eyes wide in disbelief, not quite realizing what he had heard.

    You mean, he stammered, I can have this job?

    That’s what I said! he spoke in response with a big grin.

    He stood up and offered his hand.

    Herbert jumped to his feet and grabbed the hand with both of his, completely befuddled and baffled.

    I have to give fourteen days’ notice, he heard himself saying.

    No problem, said his new employer, smiling.

    Herbert walked out of this office and closed the door.

    "What has happened in the last few minutes?" I don’t know!

    Inge waited for Herbert to find out how the interview had gone.

    Now what is going on? she investigated.

    I’ve…got the job! Herbert mumbled, still not understanding.

    Congratulation! she exclaimed and hugged him spontaneously.

    When do you start with us?

    I have two weeks’ notice to give! he whispered.

    What about the money situation? Inge wanted to know.

    I never asked for it, he admitted sheepishly.

    It doesn’t matter, he went on. I don’t have a future with my present occupation anyhow, he commented.

    That’s true, for sure, she agreed.

    With Pan Am you have a secure future ahead of you, she proclaimed triumphantly.

    (Little did they know what the future had in store for this company…)

    With all this excitement, Herbert had completely forgotten his Colonel and the parked car across the street.

    He said a hasty goodbye and rushed out of the door.

    Immediately he saw his Colonel, who paced impatiently next to the vehicle with a grim face, bent forward with his hands clenched behind his back, like being handcuffed there.

    Herbert saw a raging bull with steam or fire blowing from his nostrils and murder on his mind. As soon as he saw his driver, he shouted: Where in the hell have you been? Are you out of your mind? I’ve been waiting here for half an hour. Herbert apologized in the proper Queen’s English fashion and decided to tell the truth about the interview he just had. He added that he was accepted to start working for the Yankees.

    Herbert did not expect any comment from his Colonel, he who mumbled something under his breath while he threw himself into the back of the car the moment Herbert had opened the door for him. Herbert slammed the door shut, a little too hard, once both feet of her Majesty’s officer were safely inside. He slowly walked around the back of the automobile, with a big grin on his face suppressing the urge to shout Yippee! and swung behind the steering wheel and started the engine.

    The grouchy man in the back muttered the next destination to Herbert, who was singing in his mind, We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz, trying to keep a straight face, knowing it would be seen by his passenger in the rearview mirror.

    He tried to visualize how he would look in the uniform of this prestigious airline, when he was suddenly interrupted by the voice coming from the back seats.

    Fourteen days!

    Yes sir, I know! he answered, driving past the Gänsemarkt. He made a half right turn towards Dammtor, when he saw a truck standing there in his way. He slowed down and hit the brakes, nothing happened, so to speak, because a lot of things transpired. The sedan was sliding very slowly over an ice patch. Herbert tried to simulate anti-lock brakes, (which cars did not have at that time,) by pumping the brake pedal tenderly in a rapid succession, to no avail. The vehicle was determined to kiss the huge bumper of this monster truck very gently. It didn’t even produce a noisy impact. The grill over the cooler in the front of the car was history, nicely bent inward. No damage to the truck, of course. As a matter of fact, the truck driver never left his cabin to investigate. In all probability, he wasn’t even aware of an accident, it was much too soft to be noticed. But it was not soft enough for the Opel Kapitän. Both Colonel and Herbert investigated the damage, while the truck disappeared over the horizon. A few onlookers joined to see what happened, but left moments later. It was too cold to stand still for a long period, and there was no blood anyhow, so why waste precious time. The Colonel must have felt a big loss at this moment, sort of an insult to the British crown and their possessions.

    He growled at Herbert:

    You are fired!

    (And that’s a long time before Donald Trump made it a famous phrase, on the TV show The apprentice. Or did the Donald copy Herbert’s Colonel?)

    Surely, the two statements: Fourteen days and You are fired were not more than one minute apart from each other. How fast the scenes change on the stage of the real world. It is amazing! On the one hand, he was happy to be free to start now with the Americans. On the other hand, he was, somehow, insulted by the inconsideration of this British officer. Surely he must have had some understanding why this accident had happened. And surely should comprehend; there was nothing Herbert could have done to avoid the calamity.

    Regardless, Herbert didn’t know to either laugh/cry.

    This show was set on FAST FORWARD.

    For sure it will take some time to digest.

    The engine of the car purred normally, and this twosome continued to go as planned. Upon arrival at the Beatty Barracks (Mackensen Kaserne) in Alsterdorf, where the garage and the officer’s quarters were located, Herbert informed his foreman of the incident, and the fact that he was immediately fired. He couldn’t contain himself to mention the news about his future job, which, to his surprise, produced congratulations by his coworkers.

    All of this happened on the first Thursday of the New Year 1955.

    Early the next morning he was at the Pan Am office to announce his immediate availability. When he talked to his new boss and informed him that he would be able so start coming Monday. He was surprised, the DTSM suggested starting work the next day, which was, a Saturday. At that time, Saturdays were 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM working days in Germany.

    Gladly Herbert agreed, and so his 33-years career began with this airline.

    The familiarization training to become a Reservation-Representative started full swing precisely on the dot at 09:00 AM that Saturday morning. Airlines, like railroads, are trying to be very punctual.

    Frau Grulenska was assigned to present and inform Herbert of procedures and material important to his new job. She did it with greatest professional finesse and too fast a speed; his head was spinning after a few hours of having words fired at him in fast succession, like a machine gun, while she was coffee-sipping and chain-smoking. A big pile of printed matter, with instructions assembled in front of him and explanations were given at the same time. He tried to absorb all this, like a sponge. It must be a test of his stamina and ability to comprehend, he told himself. She pursued relentlessly to finish the whole program on this half day, what would take about two days otherwise, so it seemed. At 12:50 PM she handed him a book with phrases used to communicate within the company on Teleprompters. Computers were not available locally. The one and only computer for this airline was located at the Pan Am-Building, New York City. This monster occupied two stories and handled all worldwide business for this company.

    Oh, one more item, she added. A list of abbreviations for the airport and/or Cities in the world, you MUST remember.

    These are three letter codes, like: NYC for New York City, or CHI for Chicago, easy stuff, but what is: IDL, LGA, NEW and EZE?

    That is Idlewild (Now JFK, John F. Kennedy, one of the three airports for New York, namely: LGA for La Guardia and NEW for Newark in New Jersey.)

    And: Ezeisa, the airport for Buenos Aires, Argentina.

    This is some list, for the whole world!

    Take it all home and study it over the weekend so you will be a full time, complete member of our office on Monday!

    "Monday?" Herbert thought. What do they expect from me? But he didn’t say anything.

    The next ten minutes were spent shooting the breeze and precisely at 1:00 PM, she stood up, shook his hand, wished him good luck, a pleasant weekend and was gone.

    "A pleasant weekend?" My foot!

    Herbert was bamboozled from this NIAGRA FALLS of info and sat there for a little while. He collected the pile of data and climbed up the stairs from the office in the basement to find a coworker waiting for him, with key in hand, to lock up the establishment to start his weekend.

    The day and a half to read, understand and remember everything, was indeed no picnic and Herbert showed up there on Monday with a throbbing headache, wondering if every one of his coworkers had to go through this learning process in such a short time. He found out later, it was not so. It was Frau Grulenska’s understanding of what she was supposed to do.

    Pan American World Airways, good morning, he heard himself saying, answering the telephone at the reservations center. He was sitting at a round table, like King Arthur, only much smaller. As a matter of fact, only three other colleagues were placed at this device being equipped with two rows of compartments on a large Lazy Susan. Each box represented a flight and had a cardboard in it to hold the names of confirmed passengers with their names and contact information, telephone number or address and travel agent, if applicable. The entries were done in pencil because of constant changes. These pencils had a short life span. The erasers at the top end were used up much faster than the writing end. This office had the exclusive control of operation for flights from Hamburg to Berlin. Anyone in the world had to contact this place to get their passengers confirmed. Berlin controlled flights in the opposite direction. London took care of Europe and New York for the rest of the planet Earth with their huge monster computer. As mentioned before, most of the communication was done per teletype, some by means of the telephone. Pan Am’s Intragerman operation was a colossal money maker with these flights. There was an obstacle, called the Berlin Wall, and the only competitions were Air France and British European Airways with much less flights. No other airline was permitted to fly over the Russian occupied territory. German travelers did not forget the Berlin Airlift where Pan Am had the most airplanes dedicated to it, and their appreciation manifested itself in choosing to fly with this airline.

    Since the teleprompter was the major communication tool, it never stopped hammering message after message, day and night. Sending text was done by typing the document on a punched hole ticker tape, then transferred to a sending apparatus which enabled the message to be send in seconds much faster than anyone could type. It intrigued Herbert, and he was using this device any time the teletypist was busy doing something else. After a few months he was offered to become the operator for this communication appliance, which he took gladly. To him it was a promotion. Since it was not a constant busy task, he was helping out with: FARES & TARIFS. This is a complete science in

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