This week, we take a break from our series on the history of the Boeing 737 because I recently found more (and somewhat bizarre) photos of early Southwest promotions. Don’t worry; we will resume the 737 series next Friday with a look at the 737-300, -400, and -500.
Ask most people what first comes to their mind about Southwest’s early days, and they will probably mention Flight Attendants in hot pants. However, if you go by the photographic record, giant stuffed animals should be a close second. Many of you will remember our look at the stuffed characters from the ill-fated Houston children’s superstore, Kid’s Kounty. On October 14, 1973, these “kharacters” from the store took over our operation at Houston Hobby. Our records show that calm was quickly restored, and no “kreature” lost any stuffing in the process.
In our early days, we also carried nationally known characters like these two guys from the cast of the children’s television show, “H. R. Pufnstuf.” The show went off the air in September 1971, but this photo could have been taken after that date because the characters lived on after the show ended. The younger boy in the photo looks like he can’t decide whether to laugh or cry.
Robots have a charm (and a lot of hyphens) all their own, whether it is R2-D2, C-3PO, or the Class M-3, Model B9 robot from the television show, “Lost in Space.” The show had been off the air for three years when Southwest took to the air in June 1971, but a local Houston television station made their own robot, which was a Space City homage to the Robinson family’s steel servant. The television station’s robot wears number 13, which is KTRK’s channel. The Houston station had a children’s show named, “Cadet Don,” and it appears that one of our original Flight Attendants made a visit to the show with a Southwest airplane model (featuring our original titling). From the look on her face, it would appear that Channel 13’s Robot had a certain metallic charm.
While one of our original Flight Attendants was the center of a robot’s infatuation, another was being carried away by a gorilla. I have no idea what was behind this photograph, or why a big ape was allowed around the aircraft. (Note the original lettering style on the tail of the airplane.) Hopefully the final line from “King Kong” doesn’t apply here: “It was beauty that killed the beast.”
In probably the most surreal photo of the bunch (and considering the photos in this group, that is quite an accomplishment), we have a stuffed cat with an appetite for whiskey. I can only guess that this is a promotion with Early Times for a “Tom Cat” cocktail.
In 1973, we had live “entertainment” on our flights, so I guess airborne concerts have been a Southwest tradition for almost 40 years. This suave crooner has a slight resemblance to Robert Goulet, but does he have the same panache as Mr. Goulet? Maybe the answer to that lies in the woman’s expression. She looks enamored, amused, and trapped, with trapped being her primary concern. Upon first seeing this photo, I was reminded of Bill Murray’s old lounge singer skit on Saturday Night Live. Aviation geeks may want to take note of the Southwest birthday sign in the background. The woman is wearing a “Save Love, Beat Braniff” button. The fight for Southwest to stay at Love Field was very hot at this time.
With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, we close with this early St. Patty’s Day promotion. Our Flight Attendant wears a shamrock on her uniform, as she offers a tasty Southwest shamrock mug of Irish Mist. Don’t forget, we pick up the 737 story in the next edition.