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Best of Flashback Fridays: Sequels to Iconic Images

Adventurer C
Whenever I set about selecting another of Brian’s Flashback Fridays posts to re-air as a “Best of,” I occasionally purposely try to tie the subject of the post to something that’s also relevant right now—like last week, when I chose the post about Boston Logan to run on the fourth anniversary of BOS. When the historical “calendar” doesn’t  provide me with an immediate  prompt, I just go looking through past posts until I find something that grabs my attention.  And that’s where we are this week—with some truly iconic photos that not only made me sit up and take notice, but which, as Brian tells us, grabbed some serious national publicity as well.  One of the things I love about his posts is that there are always little clues that revealed Brian’s true passion for his subject.  As we “listen” to him explain how he reached conclusions on a photo’s likley timeframe, you can almost hear a child’s gleeful voice as he places the last puzzle piece into place, saying with equal parts of pride and wonderment, “I did it!” In the early days, Southwest Airlines created more iconic images than an upstart carrier with just three airplanes should have generated. I don’t think anyone ever said:  “Today, we’re going to make an icon.” It just happened naturally. FF1 Some of those images include the early television advertisement where a model dressed in our first Flight Attendant uniform strolls down a runway as a 737-200 screams by just a few feet above her head. Another iconic photo shows our original Flight Attendants decked out in hot pants lined up on a 737’s air stairs. And my favorite is the 1972 photo (above) showing a line of Flight Attendants holding hands and running toward the camera. The last-mentioned photo was so popular that it has been recreated for almost every landmark Southwest anniversary. FF2 However, it wasn’t the only early Southwest iconic photo to have a remake. I thought it would be fun to compare some of the more obscure “reshoots” with their better known originals. Let’s start with the photo above. Prior to beginning service on June 18, 1971, we took a series of publicity photos with our Flight Attendants walking behind all three of our original aircraft. Note that “Southwest” is written on the fuselage, and the word “Airlines” is displayed on the aircrafts' tails. The location was our original hangar located near Bachman Lake. FF3 Just a few years later in the same location, we took a newer version, only in black and white. There are a couple of clues that allow us to put an approximate date on the scene. “Southwest” has been moved to the tail and “Airlines" has been deleted. This revision to the original livery began with the delivery of the fourth aircraft, N23SW, in November 1971, but the remaining original aircraft (N21SW and N22SW) kept their full titles at least until mid-1973. (The delivery of N23SW was the event that triggered the sale of N20SW and the establishment of the ten-minute turn.) Since we only had three aircraft at the time of this photo, one of these airplanes has to be an original with the modified livery. This means that the photo must be mid-1973 or later. And, because the original uniforms were worn until September 1974, the photo has to be earlier than that date. That puts it in the 1973/1974 timeframe. FF4 The same day that the running Flight Attendants photo mentioned in the first paragraph was taken, the photographer used a cherry picker to take photos that included representatives of each Employee workgroup. The chosen image (above) had a wide distribution, and it is another favorite of mine because it shows Original Employees that normally didn’t get a lot of publicity. Note the hangars in the background. FF5 The photo above recreates the 1972 scene. My guess is that this is from the early 1990s, and the location is the taxiway leading to our Dallas Maintenance Base. The hangar in the distance above the nose can also be seen in the 1972 version. Like some of the other photos in this post, we have clues that help us date it. Many of the Employees appear to be wearing their blue nautical style uniforms that were introduced in February 1990. At extreme enlargement, it appears that the airplane is 737-200, N54SW. This airplane left the Southwest fleet in September of 1990. Based on that and that there are so many folks wearing shorts in the photo, it was probably taken in the spring or summer of 1990. It’s even possible that the photo was taken after N54SW ended its Southwest service but before it left the property. FF6 Yes, that’s Herb in the front row, and he appears to be wearing an Air Force flight suit. FF7 And, remember that commercial with the airplane screaming over the actor portraying the Flight Attendant walking down the runway? The photo above pays homage to that ad as it shows a Flight Attendant in the original uniform walking down the runway (actually, it is a taxiway) next to an Employee wearing the uniform introduced in 1980. This may have been a publicity shot for our tenth anniversary in 1981. Scroll back through these photos and you see confidence, energy, and a bit of swagger in the images. We see personification of the attitude that would later be described as Living the Southwest Way: a Warrior Spirit, a Fun-LUVing Attitude, and a Servant’s Heart. Considering our humble beginnings, Southwest could have labored in anonymity down in our little corner of the Texas sky. But thanks to these photos and the Employees illustrated in them, our national reputation grew to a dimension all out of proportion to our size. Frankly, it would be impossible to take (or retake) most of these photos today with the way airport security has changed.  That’s one of the reasons these images are so unique and important. They are symbols of our beginnings and reminders that our work is far from finished.