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Flashback Fridays: The Start of Southwest's Long Tradition of Serving Houston Hobby

Aviator C

Every so often, there are reports about someone discovering a long-lost masterpiece of art in their attic.  Well that happened to me during the past week or so.  I found a big box of uncut black and white negatives, and most all of them were taken before 1974.  Amazing to me is that many of these photos have never been seen before.  I will be sharing these images with you over the next month or so to celebrate our 41st birthday.  Let’s begin with Houston Hobby.  The current terminal site opened in 1954, and all the airlines moved to Intercontinental (now George Bush Intercontinental) in 1969.  Those airlines spent at most 15 years at the site.  Southwest initially began service at Intercontinental on June 18, 1971.  However, on November 14 of that year, Southwest reopened Hobby.  Last November 14 marked our 40th Anniversary of continually serving Houston’s close-in, south side airport.

Our first home at Hobby, was the old Customs building, which was a small temporary building that was located near the roadway ramp to the upper level of the main terminal,  When we began serving there, we shared the main lobby with Braniff, and the main lobby served as the gate holding area too.  I wrote about this arrangement in the April 1, 2011, “Flashback Fridays."  This week’s slightly later batch of photos are a result of the need for preboarding screening of all airline passengers and their carryons that went into effect on January 5, 1973.  The photo above shows one of the new separate gate hold areas under construction.  Note that the light fixtures are just fluorescent tubes.  Original Employee Dan Johnson, who worked at Hobby, recognizes Ollie Ross, who is the Ticket Agent on the right.  Unfortunately, Dan didn’t recognize the man wearing an “extreme” early 1970s wardrobe that mixed diamond pants and striped shirts.  Only a few chairs have been installed in the gate.  (The second gate area is visible through the glass.)

Above, we see the construction crew taking a break.  The man wearing the cowboy hat doesn’t leave much doubt that this is Texas.  The door out to the airplane and the crank-operated windows are at the back left corner of the room.  We ran some photos of this completed gate area in the September 9, 2011 “Flashback.” 

On the same role of negatives, is this outside shot on the Hobby ramp.  The Flight Attendant is another Original Employee, Deborah Stembridge.  I asked her help in identifying the Employee, and Deborah sent me back a humorous e-mail saying that, while she hadn’t seen the photo, it was definitely her.  Given the timeframe of the photo, I am guessing that the aircraft is N23SW.  This airplane, which was delivered in November 1971, arrived without the “Airlines” title on the tail; the remaining two original aircraft carried those titles into at least mid-1973.  N23SW was the last non-advanced 737-200 that we purchased, and behind Deborah, we see the “blow in doors” around the intakes of the non-advanced -200s.  Unfortunately, the angle of the photo cuts off the registration number and the area of the fuselage where the main deck cargo door was located on N23SW.

We close with this photo from the front of the roll showing Customers in the lounge area.  The photographer probably snapped it on the way down to Houston.  Longtime Employees please correct me, but I think this is the lounge at the aft of the aircraft due to the bulkhead.  The very last row contained only two seats with a table-like area in between the seats.

Almost from the day it opened, Houston Hobby has been one of our most important airports, and we have continually updated our facility there over the past 40 or so years.  This week’s photos illustrate the start of that journey.  Remember, we have many more “lost” images coming to you in the weeks ahead.