Mum and dad and my brother drove me to Kingsford Smith Airport. We arrived hours early as is my parent’s way. Dad took me aside and had a friendly fatherly talk to me. First one ever. He said this is your opportunity, do not waste it. I assured him I was going to do exactly that. Mum was very emotional but excited and happy too. I kissed my brother goodbye and hugged him.
It was a quick flight and I found the taxi rink and soon arrived at my all female boarding house. It was in Mooney Ponds and was an old Federation house owned by a genteel elderly lady who loved the young company and also the income. I shared a room with a hostess from a few intakes ahead of me. She helped me a lot and showed me where everything was and how to get to the airport for training etc.
Melbourne proved to be very cold, windy and I loved it. It was so atmospheric with its clearly defined seasons and it’s fabulous trams. The shopping district was divine with the best Myer in the country. Parks were lush and museums abounded. I was in heaven. Training school was at Tullamarine Airport five days a week and on Friday nights a lot of us met up in St Kilda to eat and go nightclubbing. We were differing ages and skill sets. One incredibly beautiful girl was an ex Myer buyer. I really perked up at that! Felicity always had a haunted look to her, very thin. She was very well brought up with parents who were doctors.
At the weekends I went shopping, to Art Galleries and parks. I loved the River Yarra and walking along its banks. My weekends were more solitary as most of the girls were based with other hostess in the city. Younger ones like myself were placed in lodging which usually meant further to travel to work and the city.
We had a wonderful training and the only day I missed was due to a migraine. That was ditching training in water etc and that was arranged for me to do with the next intake. I was singled out of our training group three times that I can remember. One was for posture. The trainer said the girls needed to wear better foundation garments so their posture was better. Meaning their breasts were shown to better effect. That was so funny to me as I only owned two bras, one black and one white, to go with each uniform top. She made me parade around showing off my Hestia encased breasts. Felt like a Barbie doll. Only without the blonde hair. Or the long legs. Or the dumb look.
The other time was my at times English accent. I still said ‘just’ in a Northern English way. Hard ju not soft ju and a particular trainer took it as lazy speech. She made me stand in front of everyone on a mock-up aircraft and say just in the Australian way. She kept telling me to talk to the passengers about safety etc and the words on the card had just in them. In the end I simply removed the word from my instructions. Worked like a charm. Not sure the trainer liked it though.
The last time was at the end of our induction when our main teacher/trainer asked us to write a report on how they could better improve the training etc. Mine was read out as outstanding but sounded so harsh and unlike me. I was amazed I was applauded, however I had not thought to disguise my handwriting and the teacher/trainer was not impressed with me as I had critiqued her.
We were given a lovely buffet meal send off and assigned our ports. Mine was to be Brisbane where Ansett put us all up in a hotel at their expense for two weeks while we found somewhere to live. My friend Shirley, a tall friendly brunette with a pageboy haircut had a boyfriend prior to training. He lived in Dandenong and drove her car from there to Brisbane for her and she broke up with him when he arrived, right on the spot!
So Shirley from The Dandenongs, Judy from Adelaide and I shared a house near to Fortitude Valley Shopping Centre. It was three bedroom and brand new. We gradually filled it with essentials only, bamboo chairs, very seventies decor. Next door was a lovely couple, wife a teacher and husband a soldier in the RAAC.
We were assigned trainers to provide us with on the job training and how to manage overnight stays etc. Mine was Gail, a gorgeous reserved, yet with me friendly, hostess in her late twenties. Had a fantastic sense of humour and great patience. She introduced me to her husband and their very wealthy friend who was on the lookout for a no strings relationship. Turned out what I took to be that was not in fact that at all. His idea of no strings was sex in exchange for meals and outings. But no strings. My idea was really a platonic relationship where I shared the costs of outings. There was no spark for me and the last thing I wanted was a full on sexual affair. Plus I was very inexperienced and I did not want him to know that.
One day on an empty run back from Mackay Gail came running down the aisle to the flight deck. One propellor had failed. The Training Captain had stalled the propellor on purpose to induct me on the Focker Friendship. He thought I handled it really well, unlike Gail who shouted at him I just laughed.
We had a lot of fun on our days on Reserve at the airport. I spent my days embroidering, reading and meeting lots of hostesses in the lounge. Finding out who was on their flights was an entertainment in itself. It really did not feel like work, it was a way of life. The girls became family and took me under their wing. I was never called out on a flight the whole time I was there.
One day Judy returned from a flight with tickets to a Leo Sayer concert. He had been on her flight with his road manager etc. The concert was fantastic, we went backstage and met everyone. Judy went out with the road manager for most of the time she lived in Brisbane. Judy was a very unusual girl, she said housework was beneath her and refused point blank to do any, it was annoying. We saw where it came from though when her father came to stay. He was even worse, an insufferable snob. My sister popped in for an afternoon on her way through to Cairns, it was unexpected and she loved meeting all the pretty girly girls. For once it seemed we met on even terms.
We mixed a lot with our neighbours, exchanged meals and went shopping together. Eventually though Judy decided the lifestyle was not for her and resigned. Our lease was up at the same time and Shirley quickly found a room in a flat in New Farm. I stayed next door with our friends who were really happy with the rent money I gave them and the company for Carol when Jack was away with his Army duties. It worked super well until Carol’s mother and aunt came to stay and saw me as some kind of threat or intrusion on the marriage. They were vile and I did not want to be the cause of fights between Carol and her mother so I moved into a singles complex.
There were radio announcers, account executives and all sorts of successful singles living there. I made friends very quickly with Janice who drove an open topped sports car. We had a wonderful time together. Had great philosophical talks with a talk back radio announcer who lived next door. The only real problem was the woman I was flatting with was an embittered woman in her thirties. She was really put out that I was dating a Captain fifteen years older than me, ex military and very sexy with blonde hair. I went out and about with him for several weeks. He visited me regularly at the flat and we had some seriously sexy moments while keeping our clothes on. Mum was sending knitted wedding dress patterns within four weeks.
He arranged to have us team up on flights on several stopovers up north. On the first night we had dinner and he walked me back to my room. We started kissing and making out. This time taking our clothes off. He was beautiful. We fondled each other and I really enjoyed it but when I held his erect penis and he tried to enter me I started shaking. Uncontrollably. He stopped and wrapped me in a blanket and asked what was wrong. I could not talk about the rape, it had felt like it was my fault so I said instead that I was a virgin.
He held me and stroked me through the blanket and said that my first time should be with someone I really love. Not just a boyfriend to have fun with. It’s what I had believed before as well, being terribly old fashioned. He got me to put my nightie on and he stayed with me that night, cuddling me until I stopped shaking. He was so sweet and precious, but I did not love him.
Within a month we had gone our separate ways. I did have to watch one chap, a Senior Flight Engineer who showed everyone his vasectomy card as evidence that he could have lots of sex and not get anyone pregnant. The most senior Hostess there had warned me about him as had Gail. He was a bit like the Anaesthetist at Gosford Hospital, he talked to everyone about me. Arranged stop overs so we would both be there with the crew overnight. Loved to have me up the front in the jump seat in the cockpit. Called me The Estée Lauder Lady as I always wore the makeup and Youth Dew perfume. It became my hallmark for many years.
One of the routes I loved the most out of Brisbane was the Milk Run. Up and down the coast of North Queensland, all really short legs on the twin propellor Focker Friendship aircraft. I also loved going to Gove and Mount Isa and we even went to New Guinea a few times though were not allowed off the aircraft as the political situation was too dangerous there at the time. When the new Prime Minister of New Guinea came to Brisbane he travelled on my flight and I was shown on the news, as a hostess was always standing at the bottom of the stairs as passengers disembarked.
When overnighting in Cairns I was by the pool in my skimpy bikini with several girls from other crews when a huge entourage of suited men surrounding other suited men rushed by into a marquee nearby. The girls talked to staff and once they realised it was Bob Hawke in there somewhere they took off muttering about being Liberal voters. Bob Hawke, I was really excited as he was well known in the Labour movement as being someone to watch for politics in the future.
One of the very officious suited men came over to me, though there were several TAA hostesses sunbathing nearby, and asked if Bob could possibly speak to me. I adjusted my bikini pants, feeling very self conscious and said of course. They got me a cold drink and Bob Hawke came over and chatted about his daughter who wanted to be an air hostess, and could I truthfully tell him about the life. We had a long chat, a lot of laughs, he asked about my family and was generally totally charming. I enjoyed the chat so much and was glad to have been able to help. His daughter did indeed go into Ansett in the next intake.
We did not have many Sydney overnights so when I did get one I rang mum to say we were in Kings Cross and we chatted for a long time. The next morning there she was with my little brother at the hotel door. Shirley had arranged it as she was my flying partner for the month, so we all had breakfast together. This was a HUGE thing for mum. Train. Taxi. Without dad. My brother was goggle eyed at the bars and the scantily dressed prostitutes wandering home.
We took a lot of football teams to their away games and award ceremonies. One nice player for Brisbane asked me if I would attend the award presentation dinner etc. We had a fair bit to drink as it was a long evening and as I was not scheduled on until the afternoon I could indulge. The next day I woke up up with semen all over my sexy sage green nightgown. I remembered then. And it happened again the next night too. Once I had a few drinks I was not shy or scared or in any way trembly. I gave back as much passion as I received. It was not love but it was something, and I felt empowered because I chose the man.
A jarring moment though was my being woken by security the third morning there, they proceeded to search my room to try to catch me out with someone. Obviously the semen stained nightgown had given me away. I was very, very angry at their intrusion and let them have it.
Eventually my Sydney transfer came through. And it was timed so well as my English Grandparents were there. I arranged my holiday for over Xmas to have time with them and to find somewhere to live. It had been an incredibly full 1975.