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Flashback Fridays: A Look at Houston Hobby Before It Was Houston Hobby

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This week, we flashback to Hobby Airport in Houston before it was Hobby Airport and before Southwest was a twinkle in Herb’s and Rollin’s eyes.  I confess that I owe the inspiration for this post to Michael Bludworth who is a volunteer with the 1940 Air Museum at Hobby.  (I’m saving that building for a future Flashback because it is a unique gem among aviation architecture.)  Michael, who is a regular reader of this feature, shared some photos he took during the mid-60s and some earlier ones from his collection.

Let’s start with a photo before the current terminal opened.  Michael pegs the date at 1954 for this photo, and those of you familiar with Hobby will notice that there are only two concourses.  As built, the building bears a huge resemblance to the now destroyed Amon Carter Field in Fort Worth.  Both airports opened about the same time, and they both featured a semi-circular restaurant between the concourses.  Although jetbridges were many years in the future, the concourses are double decked, like those at Amon Carter.  Passengers would walk from the terminal on the upper level until they found the stairway leading to the gate hold room on the lower level.  As this point in time, the airport was known as Houston International Airport, and it wasn’t until 1967 that it was renamed for William Hobby, former Texas Governor (and father of Bill Hobby, former Texas Lieutenant Governor and a member of Southwest’s Board of Directors).

The photo above was taken about a year later, and it shows an Eastern Constellation parked at the concourse, and you can just make out another unidentified aircraft behind it.

Michael’s picture from 1965 shows the layout of the terminal with three concourses, which remained until the recent remodeling with its one central concourse.  I know it’s hard to see with the small blog-size photos, but the top concourse belonged to Braniff, and that is a BAC-111 parking at the gate.  On the center concourse, Trans Texas has three aircraft, a DC-3, a Convair 240, and a Convair 600 parked at the close-in positions with two Eastern 727s on the far end of the center concourse.  Michael’s caption says the aircraft on the bottom concourse is a Continental 707, but I think it is more probably a Delta DC-8. Be sure to notice all the oil stains on the ramp from all the piston-powered aircraft.

Pan Am put the “international” into Houston International with their daily Boeing 720 flight to Mexico City, which continued to Guatemala, San Jose, Costa Rica, and Panama City.  Four days a week the flight also stopped in San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, and Managua.  Here N781PA waits for the trip south.

Trans Texas Airways (TTA) was headquartered at the airport, and Michael’s photo above captures DC-9 N1301T, which was the prototype for the DC-9 series.  After flight testing was done, Douglas refurbished the aircraft and sold it to TTA.  Airline geeks will know that TTA morphed into Texas International, whose parent company acquired Continental. 

And then the magnificent photo below captures Hobby today.  Thanks again to Michael Bludworth for sharing his collection with us.  And hopefully, we will be able to share some vintage photos of the airport’s art deco masterpiece original 1940 terminal, which is located across the airfield from the current terminal.  The building has been restored to its original glory and now houses the 1940 Air Terminal Museum—a must see for any airline enthusiast.

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I have a lot of memories about Houston International. I took my first flight from there in 1957 on a Delta CV-440, my first four engine flight on a Delta DC-6, and on the day I joined the Army, I flew to basic training at Fort Bliss in El Paso on a Continental DC-9. I also took a lot of photos there of DC-6s, DC-3s, DC-7s, and Lockheed Electra turboprops, Boeing 707s, and even a Continental Airlines Vickers Viscount. Those were the golden years of aviation.
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As a music teacher in a school very close to Hobby, I would take my students there to sing and play Christmas music at this time of year! Always a very warm welcome from the SW people! Good memories!
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Brian, Thank you for sharing this. It is great to see Hobby in it's former glory and I am glad that you added in the tidbit about Amon Carter Field. The postcard showing the Art Deco terminal just screams magnificence and a uniqueness in building designs of era's past. I remember when I was a little kid and my first commercial flight was on Southwest from Love to Harlingen via Hobby. The old terminal was so fun to traverse through, even though it was a pain at times. The new concourse there is very nice and I cannot wait to see the finished project at Love. I just wish that we could bring a little bit of the Art Deco back to Love however. It fits so well with Dallas' history and would surely make it unique along with an homage of aviation's golden age.
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Thanks for those kind words, Brian! All I can say is that there is a lot of Luv at Hobby Airport!
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Brian, my girlfriend flies for Southwest. Small word! I was just in Clovis, NM and Amarillo simply watching the BNSF transcon. My dad worked for the Santa Fe for 41 years and his ashes are along the Santa Fe mail at Hereford with a nice sign. Just read your great article in Trains. Not sure where you live but I own two private railraod cars that we travel on for business out of Houston. Would like to invite you down sometime depending where you live. You can view the cars at Best wishes, Patrick Henry
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Patrick, AMA is one of my favorite train watching spots, and I try to get back to Clovis every once in a while. We left there when I was very young, but I later found out our hose was about a block from the transcon. Then we moved to AMA until I was 10, and our house there was just a few blocks away. Before I-40 was built, the road from our part of town to the airport passed by the southern end of the SF frieght yard, and I remember FTs and F-3s and F-7s. It is a small world. I live in Dallas. and will check out your web site.