The best part of my job is opening a box of photographs or negatives and finding images that haven’t seen the light of day for decades. Late last week, I found a box full of some great scenes that I can’t wait to share with you in this and future editions of Flashback Fridays.
Above we see the start of a treasured Southwest tradition and a key annual Culture event, and I wish I had found it before this year’s 39th and Last Chili Cookoff. This is the First and Last Chili Cookoff from 1973. Southwest Cofounder Rollin King was one of the judges, and he is in the middle with the white hat and dark jacket. To his left sharing the winning trophy are Provisioning Employees Ken Hargrove (our current Amarillo Station Leader) and Steve Spurrier (no, not the head football coach at South Carolina) to Ken’s left. On the far left is another judge, Hondo Crouch, the “Ambassador from Luckenbach, Texas.” Hondo, who passed away in 1976, was a Texas legend, and he also went by the self-proclaimed titles of “Mayor of Luckenbach” and the “Crown Prince of Lukenbach.” To Rollin’s right are two more judges, Charlie and Gordon Fowler, sons of Texas chili legend, Wick Fowler. Take a look at the case of long necked Lone Star beer on the table. I doubt if those bottles in the carton will still be full when the night is done.
Back in the August 26, 2011, edition of Flashback Fridays, I wrote about the January 1974 weekend when all the other airlines moved from Love Field to the new DFW Regional Airport (it wasn’t called DFW International until later). That same weekend, Southwest moved its Love Field operations from the original ticketing wing and North Concourse to the baggage claim area and the old American gates on the West Concourse (which are still used by us). Coincidentally, Super Bowl VIII was being played that Sunday, January 13, in Houston at Rice Stadium. A temporary ticket counter was set up in the middle of the claim area with two ticketing positions until a permanent one could be constructed. The picture above shows the back of the temporary counter, and there is so much to see here, I am going to break the photo up into sections.
An ash tray in the top of the ticket counter shows how society’s views on smoking have changed since 1974. The Ticket Agent had to keep her purse with her because the permanent counter facilities had yet to be constructed. She has a big stack of our original reusable boarding passes. These passes were laminated paper, and they didn’t carry the big numbers that our later trademark solid plastic boarding passes would feature. The bottle is some kind of cleaning fluid, and be sure to check out the rotary phone dial.
Left of the Agent is one of the original NCR cash registers that dispensed perforated receipts. The larger portion was used as the ticket, and the smaller end was kept as the receipt. To the right of the Agent’s head in the background, we see the old tunnels that ran from the baggage claim area to the double-layer parking lot. These tunnels disappeared when the lot was rebuilt with multi decks.
And finally, we close with this mystery man. I think he may be the comedian and actor Alan Sues from Laugh In fame. The show had gone off the air in 1972, and he was doing plays in dinner theaters around the country, but I couldn’t confirm that the photo is of Alan. Either way, the man is wearing a Vikings Super Bowl VIII button, and it looks like he is holding two tickets of some sort. The man next to him has a Viking “Purple Power” button on his lapel, and a “Sock it to Em Vikes” button on the jacket. Since “Sock it to me” was a recurring phrase used on Laugh In, it may indeed be Alan Sues. (The Dolphins beat the Vikings 24 to 7 for a second straight NFL Championship.)
Both of this week’s photos unlock important turning points in our history. We remind our new Employees why each year’s Chili Cookoff is a named “the XX and Last Chili Cookoff,” by telling them the story of our first Cookoff. Our financial situation was so perilous in early 1973, we weren’t sure we would be around a year later for a Second Cookoff. We did survive, even prosper, but the Cookoff’s title reminds us that nothing can be taken for granted. The photo I found documents that Culture milestone. In the same vein, the weekend the airlines moved to DFW marks the turning point in Southwest’s development as a singular kind of airline. This was the beginning of that adventure, which continues today. Our right to stay at Love wasn’t assured by any means in 1974, and 1979’s Wright Amendment was just around the corner after the rest of America’s skies were liberated by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. However, those early years after we were all alone at Love really served to define the future nature of Southwest Airlines. Remarkable in both photos is their candid quality. I’d wager that none of the Employees in either photo knew that they were involved in a remarkable, singular, and historic event. It also goes to show that our daily routines can be of great importance to future generations of Southwest Employees.