By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Picture arriving at the airport a few minutes before takeoff, and boarding the plane without going through security screening. No one has a cell phone, and some passengers are smoking cigarettes.
For those who flew during the 1960s and early 1970s, when Janet (Nawrocki) Angell was a flight attendant, this scene was commonplace.
Angell, a 1959 graduate of Lester Prairie High School, recently published a book about her experiences, called “Jump Seat.” In it, she covers everything from the job interview, to dating and boyfriends, to maternity uniforms and discrimination lawsuits.
The rules for becoming a flight attendant then called a stewardess were highly restrictive when Angell accepted her job with Northwest Airlines in 1963.
“Marriage was not allowed, and we had to agree to ‘retire’ when we reached the ripe old age of 32,” she wrote.
Angell’s book notes that a job posting might have looked like this: “Young, single girl (105 to 135 pounds) wanted for stewardess job. Bring your smile and bubbly personality. . . your pretty uniform is waiting.”
As a girl who grew up on a 130-acre farm between Lester Prairie and Silver Lake, Angell was looking for an opportunity just like this a chance to see the world.
Initially, Angell had planned to become a teacher, like her mother. But, after graduating with a degree in elementary education in the spring of 1963, she decided to first take one year to work for the airline.
After six weeks of training at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, Angell and her three roommates were flown to the Washington, DC stewardess base to begin their careers.
Previously, Angell had only been out of Minnesota twice, including a trip to the border of Iowa.
“Arriving at the nation’s capitol, needless to say, was very exciting,” she wrote.
The base pay was $290 per month, plus a per diem based on flight time. Angell noted that “airlines didn’t have to pay us much for this experience.”
Although she only planned to be a stewardess for one year, Angell loved the job so much she stayed for 13 years.
Afterward, she helped build and operate a retail business while raising two sons. Now retired, Angell still enjoys traveling, and splits her time between Florida and the east coast.
The idea to write a book came to Angell in Florida, after taking a memoir writing workshop through the YMCA.
“I started writing my life story,” Angell said.
Others in the class seemed particularly intrigued by the airline part, so Angell continued to develop that piece.
“Once you start writing, you start remembering things,” she said, adding that brochures, memorabilia, and hearing bits of history have helped along the way.
After she had enough for several chapters, Angell worked with an online self-publishing firm to complete the book.
“They were great,” she said, explaining that she sent the editors her rough manuscript, and they worked with her to get the book ready for print.
“Jump Seat” was released May 5, and is now for sale on Amazon.com for $14.95. Copies can also be purchased by emailing Angell at firstname.lastname@example.org.