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Flashback Fridays--Southwest Airlines' Heritage in a Photo

Aviator C

One of the cool things about trying to organize our historical archives is that, out of the blue, an amazing photo, clipping, or other artifact will spring to life.  Since June is our birthday month, the next four Flashback Fridays will be devoted to our earliest beginnings.


We have always made a big deal about June.  The photo below was in a pile of negatives, and it shows our original Flight Attendants performing at a Second Anniversary party.  Take a look at the posters behind them, they read, “June Is Our Birthday Month.”  So who am I to argue with history?


The big gem for this week’s column is this photographic poster below.  As far as I can tell, the photo was made mid-1972 because one of the Flight Attendants wasn’t hired until April 1972.  The location is our original hangars over on the Bachman Lake side of Love Field.  If you look closely, you can see a Frontier 737 parked at the very end of the North Concourse, just to the right of our 737’s tail.  A Braniff 727 can be seen just about the wingtip of the 737, and judging from the long shadows, this was shot in the evening.


As to the purpose of the photo, I can only guess, but it appears to show all of the Employees involved in one flight.  If we were to recreate this photo today, it would look very similar—minus the hot pants and (for the most part) big hair.  It really does take a village (or more aptly, an army) to put one flight into the air.  We have the First Officer and Captain in front, with the three Flight Attendants to the right of the Pilots.  In the back row are Ramp and Provisioning Agents, Mechanics, and Aircraft Appearance Techs.  There are also what appear to be several Customer Service Agents (back then, their title was Ticket Agent) and Operations Agents in uniform.  As to the folks in “civilian clothes” these probably included a Reservations Agent, a Dispatcher, and perhaps Schedulers and/or Admin Staff.


What gives me chills about this photo is that it freezes for all time a slice of Southwest life from a late afternoon in 1972.  And it really is a representative slice because there are 18 Employees in the photo, and this was ten percent of our entire staff at the time.  The Employees you see probably weren’t thinking about the legacy they were leaving; I would bet that they were most likely wondering when the photographer would let them get back to work.  However, in going about their daily jobs with passion and dedication, they gave us a legacy of the Southwest Way.  This photo reminds us that the legacy of Southwest wasn’t born of spectacular events; it was born of daily routines completed by ordinary people with an extraordinary approach to their job.

Adventurer C
That's 10% of the workforce Brian and 1 in a handful of planes. How many were in service in mid-1972? Sorry, I'd chat more but I was just online checking my flight status...... Gotta run. SWA, of course.
Aviator C
JJG we had either three or four aircraft. I'm not sure because I don't know the exact date. We had to sell the fourth airplane to Frontier, so I don't know if this was before or after that. So the aircraft represents either 25 percent or 33 percent of our fleet.
Explorer C
My Birthday is also in June , June 5th. Does that mean that I can get a Gemini discount on Southwest... Lou
Explorer C
Amazing post.