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Flashback Friday: Remembering Our Birthdays

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This week marks Southwest Airlines’ 42nd birthday, so for this week’s installment of Flashback Fridays, I wanted to share a few photos and artifacts from the archives that show how we have celebrated our landmark birthdays in the past. 

Archives are not only places for fact-checking history, but also function like a company keepsake box, preserving items that allow our Employees and Customers to recall memories of past events.  I hope showing these items from our archives will trigger a few “flashback” memories for all of you who have participated in Southwest’s birthday celebrations and that you will share your special memories in the comments section below.

Browsing the archives’ large photograph collection of our Employee anniversary parties revealed a plethora of themed events, but they always show Employees having a great time.  If you’ve read our Flashback Friday posts before, you’ll recognize the photo above of some of our first Flight Attendants, then Hostesses, performing for our first birthday party in 1972.

A few decades later (or perhaps a few centuries earlier?) for our 25th anniversary in 1996, Southwest threw a medieval-themed “Still Nuts Party” fit for a king, or at least Sir Herb, as he was knighted “King of the Triple Crown” by Miss Texas Carly Harmon.

Southwest has always passed along our birthday FUN to our Customers, because without them we wouldn’t have these milestones to celebrate.  For our past major birthdays, Employees worked hard to decorate our gates to welcome our Customers and participate in our gate-decorating contests.   Some Employees even went above and beyond by creating scrapbooks to showcase their designs.  Our archives has a sampling of these scrapbooks, and they are fascinating mementos that chronicle the creativity, dedication, and pride our Employees put into sharing Southwest’s history and Culture.

Commemorative and collectible items from our birthdays provide us with a nostalgic way to remember our history, but also present a few challenges for the archives staff to preserve these items!  Here, you see everything from napkins, watches, and pins, to classic Coca Cola bottles with each birthday’s special logo.

Since we are an airline, is there any better way to celebrate our birthday than with new planes?  We’ve had several specialty planes debut during our anniversary years.  For our tenth birthday in 1981, The Winning Spirit was dedicated to our Original Employees, shown above.  Lone Star One, our first flagship plane, was unveiled in a celebration for our 20th birthday.  Our 25th birthday saw the arrival of Silver One, a commemorative plane with a polished silver fuselage, which has since been repainted Canyon Blue. 

In 2001, some months before our 30th birthday, we introduced our new Canyon Blue livery.  The first plane with this new livery, dedicated to our loyal Customers, was named Spirit One.  For the unveiling, captured in this photo, all 59 stations were represented by an Employee with signs designed to look like the current baggage tags in that year.

Happy 42nd Birthday, Southwest.  Here’s to many more!