My father's father Abraham Krakauer is shown to the left, in a picture probably taken in Tannersville, New York in the late 1930's. The fish has nothing to do with the story in this Entry - I just thought it was an interesting photo. You can click on the photo to see a version that's twice as large, and then return here with your "Back" button. I first introduced my grandfather to this blog in Entry #0077, Abe.
As rail travel gave way to travel by air in the forties, Abe appeared to be afraid to fly. Since he was president of Kay Manufacturing Corporation, a company that ultimately had seven factories in far-flung cities in the United States, a certain amount of travel was required. He always took the train, even on long cross-country trips. Although his sons urged him to get on a plane, and thus to join the modern age, for a long time he resisted. Note 1
One day in the late forties or early fifties, however, some event in Houston, Texas required rapid attention. I know that Kay Manufacturing eventually had a factory in Houston, so perhaps it was some problem there. In any event, there was no time for a two-day train voyage, and my father Daniel decided that this might be a good occasion to get his father onto an airplane. Under time pressure, Abe agreed, and my father quickly booked first-class tickets. First-class travel for the top executives was common in business in those days, and it was certainly the practice at a family-owned business such as Kay. In addition, my father volunteered to drive Abe to LaGuardia airport, secretly fearing that he might otherwise sabotage the trip by missing the plane.
They arrived at the airport well before the flight. It appeared that despite his insistence that he did not have a fear of flying, Grandpa needed to bolster his courage with a drink or two. LaGuardia airport had no shortage of bars, so they sat down to pass the time, and he had a couple of drinks.
At boarding, if I'm remembering correctly, my father actually got on the plane, and handed his father over to a stewardess. In those days, there was no security at all boarding a plane. If you were seeing someone off, you were sometimes allowed to briefly get on the airplane with them, say goodbye, and then leave. Of course, the propeller aircraft of the day were quite a bit smaller than modern-day jets. On one occasion, my sister Phyllis smuggled a live monkey onto a flight in a carry-on bag. I helped her stuff it into the bag, not an easy task, because it didn't want to go. (September 7, 2012 update: this incident is described in more detail in my blog entry The good old days.)
Back to Grandpa: my father stayed at the gate to watch the door close and the plane begin taxiing for takeoff. He then got in his car, and drove back to our home in Great Neck, New York. Of course, in the first-class section, Abe was no doubt immediately fed a free drink or two. It's only about 13 miles from LaGuardia Airport to our house in Great Neck via Northern Boulevard, and the trip might take only half an hour under the best of circumstances. But adding the time to walk to his car and possible traffic delays, it probably took my father a bit more than an hour to get home.
Shortly after he arrived, the phone rang. We picked it up, and lo and behold, it was Abe! "We made it!", he said. Grandpa!!?? The flight had left only about an hour and a half earlier. He couldn't possibly be in Houston. "We made it to Wash-ing-ton", he said gaily, his speech rather slurred. We had forgotten that the flight was not nonstop, but rather had a brief layover in Washington, DC. He had apparently gotten off the plane, and called us from a pay phone. "Grandpa," we said, "get back on the plane. You need to go to Houston." "Don't worry," Grandpa replied, "they're boarding now. Flying izh great!!" Apparently, flying is especially great for passengers who are higher than the plane, and feeling no pain.
Grandpa did get back on the plane, and arrived as scheduled in Houston. And after that initiation, he flew happily for the rest of his life.
Note 1: The first long trip I ever took was a train trip to Texas in December of 1944, when I was almost three years old. Of course, I don't really remember any of it.
Well, when I was much younger, I had a vague memory of some man giving me an orange under a Christmas tree in a hotel lobby. But now, that's just a memory of a memory. [return to text]