Glenwood native revels in Pan Am heydays
March 30, 2014
Terry (Terrell) Webber has had a love affair with Pan American World Airways since she was just a child.
The former Glenwood Springs resident and longtime flight attendant with the airline has written a book called “A Touch of First Class — Pan Am Recipes and Nostalgia.” The book not only contains recipes contributed from hundreds of former Pan Am employees, but pictures and personal stories including celebrities, movie stars, queens, princes and princesses and even a saint.
Webber’s tie to the Glenwood area runs deep with family roots from both her parents’ families.
Her paternal grandfather was Roy Terrell, who worked as the Garfield County sheriff in the 1940s. Her grandmother, Martha, was his deputy.
On Webber’s mother’s side, her grandparents, Cecil and Reba Huntley, homesteaded in this area.
“We go way back in Glenwood Springs,” Webber recalled fondly in a telephone interview from Hawaii. “But in 1959 we left Colorado — my dad moved us to Hawaii. But we’d always come back in the summers.”
It was the same year Hawaii became part of the United States.
So it begins
At the time, Pan Am, as it was called, was the largest international air carrier, and the Terrell family flew into Hawaii on a Boeing 707 Clipper.
“That was when my love affair with Pan Am began,” she said with a laugh.
In those days, air travel was a special occasion — getting there was almost as big of an event as the destination. Women and children donned their Sunday best, complete with white gloves, while the men dressed in suits.
Webber’s father, who worked for Caterpillar, also moved the family to Guam and American Samoa.
“Over the course of the years, Pan Am was our only connection to the world,” Webber recalled. “We had no real touch with home, and we got to be quite friendly with the crews — they were good to us.”
The family eventually moved back to Hawaii, and when she graduated from high school in 1966, Webber spent her freshman year of college in Peru and her sophomore year in Barcelona, Spain.
But what she really wanted was to be a “stewardess,” as they were called then, with Pan Am.
“I went to Pan Am to see if they would hire me,” Webber said. “But you had to be 21, speak a second language and have at least two years of college.”
She had two of the three — two years of college and Spanish as a second language.
“But I wasn’t 21. They told me to come back,” Webber said.
Then she saw an ad in 1968 that Pan Am was looking for Samoan-speaking stewardesses.
So Webber told a white lie, saying that she spoke fluent Samoan and was flown for an interview to the Pan Am headquarters in Florida. At one point during her interview, Webber was asked to speak Samoan. She clarified that she had said “Spanish,” not “Samoan.”
They dismissed the apparent misunderstanding, and she was hired.
“I was with them for 16 years, and it was a whirl,” Webber said. “It was fabulous.”
Fine dining in flight
Pan Am was well-known for its gourmet-style food, and Webber describes her first experience with beluga caviar in her excerpt of the book “Caspian Black Gold.”
“Growing up in a small Rocky Mountain town on a steady diet of my grandmother’s delicious, but basic, home cooking,” Webber writes, “I had no idea roast beef could be served rare, that green beans were not supposed to be gray and that fish eggs were anything more than bait my grandfather used to catch trout. So, imagine my astonishment when I arrived at Pan Am’s Miami training school in 1968 and began learning the Pan Am way via Maxim’s of Paris. Pretty heady stuff for a kid from Colorado.”
Webber was transferred from Miami to Los Angeles in 1969, where she tasted the “much-touted caviar” in the first class galley.
“I remembered exactly how the cart was to be set up — on crisp white or blue linen with smalls bowls of creme fraiche, finely diced onion, egg yolks and egg whites, thin slices of lemon, Melba toast and well-chilled bottles of vodka and champagne. The tin of caviar always took center stage on a bed of ice within a large silver tureen.”
Pan Am made its flight attendants “sophisticated,” Webber said. Not only with the fancy food, but the travels around the world and the code of conduct they were expected to follow.
“Pan Am was our oyster,” Webber said proudly. “Our routes went east or west around the world. It had a lot of effect on most of the young girls — it taught us what the world was all about.”
The flight attendants wore conservative uniforms and were expected to behave as representatives of their country.
Flying among the stars
The company they kept was impressive as well.
“We flew Roosevelt to Casa Blanca. Maureen O’Hara was madly in love with our pilot, Charlie Blair, although he was killed in a plane crash 10 years after they were married,” Webber recalled. “We flew everything to Mother Theresa in Calcutta for free — she had carte blanche with Pan Am. We called her Pan Am’s ‘patron saint.’ Princess Grace flew with us. We flew lots of famous people.”
It was several years after she retired from the airline when Pan Am’s Flight 103 was the victim of a terrorist bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, which killed 243 passengers and 16 crew members. The airline closed down in 1991.
“[The shut down] was the result of years of poor management. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the bombing of the airplane over Lockerbie, Scotland,” said Webber, who knew some of the employees on the flight.
Nevertheless, while the airline may have gone under, the thousands of former Pan Am employees keep the name alive to this day through their shared memories. They stay in touch with each other through regularly held reunions.
“We’re all getting older now,” Webber said. “They say the average age of a living Pan Am person is now 70. And we’re all over the world and in every country in the states.”
Pan Am’s logo still lives on as well.
“Pan Am was so iconic,” Webber said. “Pan Am and Coca Cola are still to this day the most recognized logos.”
Webber put together “A Touch of Class” with two of her former co-workers and gathered recipes and stories from 457 former Pan Am employees.
It took eight months to get the recipes collected. It was open to anyone who had ever worked for Pan Am, and every person in the book has their own page with a photo and personal experience.
“It’s been wonderful to put it together and take it to print,” Webber said. “It’s been a labor of love. And the proceeds are going to the Pan Am exhibit at the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor in Honolulu.”
Webber will also be selling the book at a Pan Am reunion being held next week in Honolulu. But when the book is gone, it will be gone — there will be no second printing.
Looking back, Webber has only fond memories of her time with Pan Am and her time in Glenwood Springs.
“Pan Am was just such a privilege,” she said honestly. “And I’m really proud to be a Glenwood Springs girl.”
To order a copy of the 547-page paperback book, visit panamcookbook.com. The book runs $20-$25 per copy.