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Family Roots of the Archival Kind

Aviator C

I had written this before breaking my arm on vacation.  Even though I am still recuperating, I would like to thank Marie and Tiffany while the visit is still somewhat fresh.

--Broken Arm Blog Boy

It seems like my life at Southwest Airlines primarily consists of this blog, but I do have other duties.  One of those duties is very close to my heart, and also very exciting, as I try to corral all of our archival materials.  When I uncover something rare--like the pictures of our one-year anniversary celebration--I like to share them with everyone else who is "Nuts About Southwest."  I admit that I am not a professional  archivist, but those who know me will say I do have a great grasp of, and respect for, our history and airline history in general.

Since I am not an archivist, I ask questions of those who are.  You may remember the post from our Intern, Sarah Arriaga, who worked with me this past summer. I also love reading history posts on other blogs.  One of my favorite locations in the blogosphere is Delta's blog on Fridays.  That's  when their archivist, Marie  Force, shares a treasure from the  Delta archives on their blog.   (Here's where I have to add a disclaimer in that I worked for Delta for 18 1/2 years in what seems like a long time ago.)  Among those treasures have been posts about being a flight attendant on DC-3's and a recent post about the Delta's introduction of jets with the world's first scheduled DC-8 flight on September 18, 1959, which was also my seventh birthday.

Marie was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule recently to meet with me in the Archive area of the Delta Museum in Atlanta, and to answer my many, many questions.  She showed me how they log and catalog new items, many of which are donations from current and former Delta folks--the archives and museum is an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.  The archives consist of five major collections, corporate records (inclcuding Delta Founder C.E. Woolman's letters), art (original art works, etc), print (company and industry publications), media (audio tapes, photos, etc) and objects (furniture, signs, and 2,000 uniform pieces).  These artificats reflect not only Delta but the airlines that make up today's Delta:  Chicago and Southern, Northeast, Western (and its component airlines), and Northwest (which includes Republic, which in turn included another Atlanta airline, Southern Airways). The photo below shows the area with new items yet to be worked.

The breadth of the collection is amazing, and I'd give anything to have our Southwest archives as well orgranized and as centrailized as Marie's efforts, but I think we will get there eventually.  After lunch, Tiffany Meng, gave me a tour of the Museum itself, which is housed in Delta's two original Atlanta hangars.  The first hangar contains a full-size reproduction of Delta's original home in Monroe, Louisiana. 

It also consists of three airplanes, a Stinson Travel Air (which was used during the airline's 75th anniversary to recreate Delta's first flight from Dallas to Birmingham), a Stinson Reliant which belonged originally to Northeast Airlines, and one of Delta's original DC-3s, which was returned from Puerto Rico and restored to flying condition by a team of volunteers.  Inside Hangar One is also part of the fuselage of the Lockheed TriStar prototype, which contains the museum store.

When we turned the corner into the second hangar, there was "my history," and it was an emotional event for me...and one I hadn't expected.  Hangar Two houses Boeing 767-232 N102DA.  This was Delta's first 767 and the airplane that I, along with the other Delta employees, purchased and donated to the airline. It has been repainted into it's original The Spirit of Delta livery, and it looks spectacular. 

I felt the same surge of pride that I had when the aircraft made its first trip to Portland.  Alone in the hangar with Spirit, I had an urge to start organizing the ramp for unloading and loading.  Moving inside the cabin, the galleys, some of the lavatories, the cockpit, first class cabin, and forward coach cabin have been left intact.  The aft cabin contains a conference room that is rented out to various groups for meetings, and the rest of the cabin contains exhibits about Delta's history and the history of the airplane.

On my drive back to Birmingham from Atlanta, I had the time to reflect upon my visit, and I realize how much I use everything I learned at Delta in my daily job here at Southwest.  But seeing The Spirit of Delta reminded me most of the people with whom I worked at Delta.  This includes those who also made the switch to Southwest; those who left us far too early in life; those who taught me how to organize a gate, those who taught me how to bend the rules in favor of a Customer, and those who shared stories of a time when airplanes had props.  My Delta history is part of who I am, and I am proud of it.  I firmly believe that it has made me a better Southwest Employee. 

A huge thank you goes to Marie and Tiffany for their hospitality and assistance, and I hope that I can repay the favor.

Explorer B
Hi Brian, Sorry to hear about your arm. Hope you get well soon.
Explorer A
Brian, Sorry to hear your arm landed on the wrong side of the tracks (so to speak). Hope you recover quick!
Aviator C
Thanks for the well wishes y'all. Brian
Explorer C
Hi Brian! I'm so happy to see that your trip to the archives/museum brought back such warm memories. Archives are the best! - Sarah
Aviator C
Thanks Sarah, and it was an opportunity to publicize your post again too. BABB (Broken Arm Blog Boy)
Explorer C
Brian: Thought I replied earlier - but must have had too much turkey on on the brain with the Thanksgiving holidays coming on 🙂 Hope you are doing well. I had such a great time meeting you, walking around the Delta collections and talking archives and airline history. Hoping to return the visit soon. Loved Sarah's post, too! Marie