Sydney 1976

I found a room in a luxe place in Rose Bay, it had blue velvet flocked wallpaper and lots of chandeliers. Not really my style but clean and in a secure building. A friend from training school had nowhere else to go and shared my mattress there. Everyone thought we were gay, which was funny as she was extremely religious and left a few months later as the lifestyle did not suit her. Eventually though we all moved out and I shared a flat in Waverley with Judy, an older hostie from the flat who used to be a hairdresser.

I had been going to the Edward Beale chain of hair salons in Melbourne and then in Brisbane and finally in the city in Sydney. They regularly did model’s hair for advertisements. There I met Rodney Skepper the incredibly talented manager. He asked me to do a hair show for him at the Hilton where he cut my Purdie hairstyle and added an owl type peak at the front. Incredible precision cutting. After the show he brought me home and kissed me passionately and belched in my mouth. Then he went off to gargle and looking sheepish, went home. I had to crew the next day so Edward Beale himself cut the owl peak off. Crooked, Rodney’s work of art. I rang him and he was so upset. He tidied the fringe for me and we started going out. As with a lot of male hairdressers he was well ahead of his time, a metrosexual. We made love on our second date, had a great time going to movies and meeting each other’s friends. He was seriously funny. I always stayed at his place as was uncomfortable at mine with Judy there. No boyfriend, with a big sister hangup. First time I stayed over she met me at the door and hugged me and called me a dirty stop out. She liked him a lot and went in to get her hair cut by him regularly.

Rodney picked me up from Noraville in his Porsche. Mum was very shy but Dad came back early from work to meet him and loved the car. My nickname was “springy pom-pom” and Rodney was a lot of fun. I loved him. After several months he got funding from backers in Melbourne and while he waited for his salon to be opened he cut hair in his home. Judy came to get her pageboy length hair done and in front of us both called me a boy because of my shorter hairstyle. Rodney, who I had never heard a nasty word from, told her tartly that I had a perfect oval face and could wear my hair in any style. Hostesses used to introduce me to people as the one with the hairdresser boyfriend, however I blow dried my own hair, not an easy job with my geometric cut and thick hair.

Eventually Rodney was going to Melbourne regularly to meet his backers and working erratic hours to get things going at his new salon. He expected me to fit in with him but my own schedule also needed fitting around. I did not like going for a quick shag. I felt it demeaned me. So I broke up with him.

During the year I saw a top Professor at The Women’s Hospital in Paddington for breakthrough bleeding. When he came into the waiting room he beamed at me in my Pru Acton shirtdress with splits up to the thigh on each side, the one Rodney loved diving headfirst under and had me laughing hysterically. The Professor said to the room first in best dressed and pointed at me. Apart from Prue Acton I loved Trent Nathan clothing, and sometimes Vogue designer patterns to make my own clothing. The Professor put me on straight oestrogen due to the severe period pain needing treatment. He knew Dr David Bennett I met during my previous job regularly gave me buscopan shots . However a consequence of the Oestrogen was that the migraines worsened, horrifically.

One day I was going from the Hostess lounge down some steps and literally flew through the air, landed on my feet minus one shoe. I had guys saying nobody had ever fallen for them quite like that before. While I was laughing one of them went to get my shoe and others picked me up and brushed me off. I then thanked them and on the way back I took the escalator and I suddenly looked up and recognised Stuart Cameron from school. With Trent Nathan who he assisted. After lots of hugs and kisses and oh my gods from Stuart I found out they were to be on my next flight. I told them I would see them soon and when on board offered them a complimentary drink. My crew leader was married and in her thirties and far more sophisticated than I and gave me the idea.

I met up with my old trainer Gail a lot, we were so close Shirley said people were saying we were gay. Seriously. One day a Qantas board member praised me on a flight. Said I looked perfect and even better had handled a really difficult situation with the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar very well. And he gave me his card asked me to seriously consider Qantas as a career pathway.

Some highlights of that year were ABBA coming to Sydney. We also heard in the Hostess Lounge about this amazingly beautiful woman on a flight with Lee Major. The girls said she dazzled she was so beautiful, though she seemed shy. Daryl Summers was a favourite passenger as was Sky Hooks Shirley Straughn. Red was also on board but I did not like him at all. He got right in my body space and ogled me up and down as if he was going to eat me or something. It was horrid. However I got so many praise letters to my superiors from these people and others that I got told off for working above the team.

One memorable flight was when One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest was released here. I was in the front gallery securing everything ready for takeoff and knew someone was taking their time in the First Class Toilet. Eventually the door opened and I smelled marijuana and Jack Nicholson came out, smiled cheekily and moved into the cabin. A little earlier I was waiting for passengers to board and observing the top of my shoes when I realised there was a pair of men’s shoes in front of me. I looked up and Michael Douglas loomed into view. He was smiling, tired looking but friendly.

During the flight Jack monopolised my attention. He was aware of everything that was around him, especially me! He asked me if I was aware that after I asked passengers if they would like a drink I lowered my eyes. Each time. I said I was not aware of that. He said he adored my hair cut. Said it made me look cheeky. Was I cheeky? I said my boyfriend would know. He smiled and asked me about my life. My flight partner said she would take care of the passengers to give me time to concentrate on talking to him. I also tried to talk to Michael Douglas who was charming and said he had been listening and had not been able to get a word in. I told him my 11 year old brother loved Streets of San Francisco, as did I and he signed a coaster for my brother. So did Jack, along with a lot of cheeky looks. Eventually Jack asked me if I was frightened of him, as he quite liked that. I said not at all, unconsciously lowering my eyes as I said it damnit. He was charming, cheeky and fascinating, I was so glad I had a boyfriend at the time as am not sure what would have happened otherwise.

During the middle of the year I went overseas to UK to see my grandparents. I arranged to meet Rodney over there, I had missed him and we had reconciled as friends. While over there I babysat my young cousins Anna and Emma. Went around a lot with their mother who was a hairdresser and had married later in life. I also stayed with one of mum’s sisters and regularly went from there to Chalfont St Peter to see mum’s other sister and family. The sister who was there when I was born.

I celebrated my 21st birthday that year. On one leg of the day’s flights the Captain announced it was my 21st and the whole cabin exploded in applause and then sang Happy Birthday To You and various other ditties. We had a get together of friends that evening at my flat in Clovelly. Dad gave me some money for drinks and several school friends came including Stuart and some boys from my Tech Drawing class. Rodney brought several single hot guys and asked me when he left when I was going to bed with him again. I smiled and kissed him and went back inside, alone.

Several of the trainer hostesses I flew with who asked the cabin crew to their rooms for drinks on stop overs stripped naked once everyone had gone and tried to come onto me. I met one of them later when I visited a friend. She loved my thick hair and liked caressing it.

Towards the end of 1976 I met the owner on a Perth flight of several huge fashion shops on the North Shore. He offered me a job as his showroom collection model. I was living in Edgecliff then in a huge art deco apartment with a roommate who was an account executive. The owner of the boutiques came round and brought a whole lot of clothing around for me to try on for him. Then he arranged to meet me at the showroom shop. He brought out a lot of cream cheesecloth maxis with lace inserts. Totally incredible and I tried them all on with only my bikini panties under them. Strange feeling of being covered yet with a suggestion of being naked. I became a bit uneasy as he kept saying how sexy I looked. How the innocent dresses on me cried out for someone to fuck me. I do not know if it was a selling tool or what. I just felt very uncomfortable as when he came over to my place next he would not leave the room when I changed. All I had on were skimpy lace knickers. He helped me into everything and zipped me up very slowly while watching me in front of the mirror.

I knew he was married with children. He again offered me the job and I was tempted but I did not know what else came with it. I was not going to have sex with my boss for a job as I had a great job anyway. A few hostesses warned me I would not like it because they said I would became a piece of meat. But none of them had the experience of an incredibly wealthy employer treating them like their personal possession.

For the last three months of 1976 my migraines set in with a vengeance until I did not have a day without pain. The takeoff and landings were agony and after a lot of thought I resigned as I could not do the job properly while in such pain. I was heartbroken as I loved my life and indeed my lifestyle.


Brisbane 1975

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.











Waiting Game

Mum had a huge operation and lost a lot of blood. My friend Ann later told me she was told to prepare theatre with the necessary instruments etc for a really high risk patient. She was surprised at the resuscitation equipment that was needed and knew this was going to be a risky operation for someone. Then mum was wheeled in and she was stunned. It never showed though, my mum never forgot how my old friend, one of my best friends ever, had looked after her. She said Ann was so tender, so kind, so professional. She said Ann promised her she would be okay, that she would look after her. And she did though I did not see Ann again for some years.

My mum’s previous Pulmonary Embolism nearly killed her and they always expected it to happen again. Mum never knew, apparently when she had her gallbladder out the same preparations were made. Denise Lethbridge also told me about it years later. Mum really suffered a lot with her surgeries and arthritis and her “nerves” and was never 100% in good health.

Dad drove my brother and myself to visit mum in the evenings at Gosford Hospital. As soon as I walked into her shared ward the first time I saw James who I knew from Terrigal. He waved and after mum got a bit tired I went over and said hi and recognised the patient he was visiting as one of my girlfriends I used to know from around Terrigal. She gave me a huge hug and was so pleased she had seen me as I had basically disappeared from the pub circuit. James and Jennifer were together which was wonderful, though her having miscarriages was not. They were so perfect together, and gave me their phone number.

Dad rarely said anything at the hospital, in fact mum and dad rarely spoke in front of their children so it was always a strain to visit mum as I did most of the talking. I found myself going back into nurse mode very quickly and helped mum get comfortable and introduced myself to the other female surgical patients. Some of the staff were girls I had worked with and some I had gone to high school with. It was all very familiar.

Once mum was home it was hard to get her to relax and recover. Nothing I did was done the right way. She tried to do the washing which was downstairs. I decided the time I was there would be an unpaid job and tried to get things into a routine to suit mum but she slipped into a really deep depression. I managed to get my brother off to school in the mornings and be ready for him after school. Mum filled her day with watching Days Of Our Lives and The Young And The Restless. I used the time to read or sew. I also drank a lot of coffee to fill me up as I needed to lose the ten pounds I had put on because I was not using up the kind of energy I had been using up with nannying and nursing. The weight came off with long walks to the beaches and down to Canton Beach and to the shops and library at Toukley .

Mum was recovered physically but emotionally was another thing. It took all my tact and love to cope with everything. I was beginning to feel despondent myself. Seeing my nursing friends, an old boyfriend having moved on and all living their lives made my own seem empty by comparison. I knew I could have a great trip with Daphne and family early next year but I wanted a proper long term career.

I applied to The Navy and also answered a full page advertisement in The New Idea for Ansett Air Hostesses. One day just after I had applied I was walking back from Jenny Dixon Beach and as soon as mum saw me she came outside and told me three Naval Officers in a Jeep had been to see me! They knew that an older school friend of mine, Narelle Halverson had been in the Navy and that she had told me a lot about it. Mum was so excited, she said they looked fabulous in their uniforms and came in for a cup of tea and the tea bread I made especially for dad. At the same time I heard back from Ansett to go for an interview in Sydney next month.

I chose to go to the Ansett interview before I went on with the Navy. Mum was disappointed, though she thought I would not get in with Ansett. The interview was in a hotel near Hyde Park and I walked through the park afterwards on the way to shop in Myers and Centrepoint. It had seemed to go well, they seemed more interested in how happy and jolly I was than anything else. And how I would respond to people who were not pleasant to me. They actually scorned nursing, as if it did not matter the demeanour one used on ill people.

Once inside Centrepoint I went to see Daphne and Des in their shop to let them know I might not be able to come back. I remember saying to Daphne that I wanted to do something important, to have a career. She said that I was important to her and to Des and the children. I was so immature to say that to her and apologised instantly. She understood and we had a lovely long chat.

I heard back from Ansett that they needed me to come in for a second interview. This time I wore more makeup and a figure revealing dress. It was summer so they could see I was the right weight and could hold a conversation. They said they had been a little worried about my self confidence last time but had no issues now and wanted to offer me a place in the next intake.

Cannot even begin to say how excited I was, and even more excited than me was dad. He had been asking me weekly how my diet was going! The next intake was not for four months so I had to let Daphne know I could not come back to them or go on their trip. She said to come for the weekend and I had a lovely time with the children, and babysat so the adults could go gambling in Double Bay again. While I was there Daphne told me my sister had come to see them when I first left them to look after mum. She said some really nasty things about me and said it would be better if she took the job and went overseas with them. I guess I should have not been hurt but I was. She always wanted what I had but we had different personalities. She would not have patience with the children or the adults for that matter. Daphne said she let her have it and told her that I was a friend not just an employee.

So over the next four months I helped mum and babysit my young cousins, including the little toddler, born when I first went nursing. Their mother had just gone back to work hairdressing and mum loved this little girl so much, it also helped her depression to have her there each day. I knitted jumpers for winter for my brother and an all over cabled 8ply camel wool coat to wear in Melbourne as I imagined autumn would be cold. I could have used the camel coat Daphne and Des had given me but I had given it and the bag to my sister when she had gone on and on about how I did not know how lucky I was to have such things.

I did however know that I deserved this opportunity and I was not going to squander it.