By, Captain Nancy Aldrich
I have frequently been asked about layovers, what I would do, and which were my favorites. Well, those are actually hard questions. Some places, the hotel was wonderful, but nothing else. Some places, the food was good, some the scenery, some the activities, etc., I guess I had a lot of favorite places.
Here in the States, I had a few favorites. New York was fun when the layovers were long enough. We stayed at the MIlford Plaza for many years. It is only 1 1/2 blocks from Times Square. With a long layover, I would change clothes and get down to the Hot Tiks office to see if I could get any good tickets. I saw some pretty bad shows, and some really good ones. Another thing I liked about New York was the food. Within a couple of blocks of the hotel, you could get just about any kind of food you wanted. I was especially fond of a couple of Greek restaurants. I remember one afternoon, I was enjoying a very good Greek salad when a woman came running out of the back of the restaurant swinging a baseball bat, chasing a man, and screaming at him. It turned out that he was trying to rob the restaurant and she was the owner. She came over and apologized to me. Well, the salad was quite good!
On a couple of layovers, I took the Circle Line Tour around Manhattan Island. That was always fun. I also got a chance to tour the USS Intrepid, CV11, which is permanently docked in New York, and is a fascinating Air and Space Museum.
One New Year’s Eve we arrived at the hotel about 4 in the afternoon. The captain and I decided to go down to Times Square and watch the ball drop. We grabbed a bite of dinner, then headed out. The police had the place barricaded. They said there were already 3 million people in the Square, and they would not let any more people in. Well, I doubt that you could get 3 million people there if you stacked them up, but they were not going to let us in. We went back to the hotel and got with the rest of the crew. Once we figured out which room had the best view, we watched from the hotel window. We got to watch the ball drop from the warmth and comfort of a hotel room, much better than standing out in the cold and the crowd!
A man was stabbed to death right outside the door of the hotel, and shortly after that the company moved our layover hotel to the Helmsley. It was a very nice hotel, and I enjoyed being there, but it was not as convenient to Times Square.
I also enjoyed our San Francisco layovers. We stayed at a very nice hotel in Chinatown. A great place to be if you love Chinese food, which I do! I was there one year during Fleet Week, and the whole airshow took place right out my picture window – perfect! It was also an easy walk to Fisherman’s Wharf.
On longer SanFrancisco layovers, we would be taken down to San Mateo to a hotel that was only for UAL employees. The hotel wasn’t much, but the location was nice. I have cousin who lives near there. I called him and he came to pick me up and take me home for dinner. He arrived driving a Farrari. The looks of some of the other pilots faces as I got into the Farrari and was driven off, was priceless!! It wasn’t his car, but they didn’t know that.
In Los Angeles, we stayed in Redondo Beach. It was a long drive to and from the airport, but an easy walk down to the ocean. A good layover, and plenty of good food close to the hotel.
Chicago was another good layover, especially when the layover was long enough and they sent us to The Palmer House Hotel. That was probably my favorite hotel. It is right on the Miracle Mile. Lots of good shopping, good food, and plenty to do. I remember a particular captain who would always be excited to have a Chicago layover, so he could get pizza. That puzzled me because you can get pizza anywhere. However, on one trip I went with him to Pizzeria Uno and found out why he was excited about getting pizza in Chicago. It was exceptional!!! I was at the pizzeria by myself one afternoon. The bill was $8, so I gave the waiter a $10 bill, and told him to keep the change. This was when a 10% tip was standard. He was very pleased, which puzzled me. Well, it puzzled me until I got back to my hotel room and realized I had given him a $20 bill, not a $10!
An couple of interesting tidbits about the Palmer House – it was the first hotel in the world to have phones in the rooms. Back in the 40s, my father frequently stayed there when he was on business trips. He said that there was a matron stationed by the elevators on every floor. They were there to make sure that any woman coming into the hotel belonged there. They would ask for identification to make sure the woman was the wife of the man she was with. Things have certainly changed over the years!
We were also close to Meigs Field ( which Mayor Daley illegally destroyed in the middle of the night ), Navy Pier, and the Shedd’s Aquarium. All were really interesting places to walk to and enjoy.
All my layovers in Miami were short, so I never got much of a chance to do anything there. However, I do have a Miami story. I wear a sapphire ring which has been appraised at over $5,000. One morning, as I was starting to taxi away from the gate, I realized that I did not have my ring. My habit was to put an ashtray in the bathroom of the hotel and put all my jewelry in that ashtray. I called the Miami office and told them I was missing my ring and that it would be in an ashtray in the bathroom, and gave them my room number. I asked if they would check to see if the hotel staff had found it. I described it is a large, woman’s ring, with a sort of gray stone. The hotel had the ring, and I got it back in the mail about a week later. WOW!!! I was certainly happy to get it back.
We used to stay in a place called Jumer’s Castle, in Peoria. Very interesting place. It looked very much like a castle from the outside. Inside all the rooms had red velvet wallpaper and poster beds. The corridors were red and black. It had a very good German restaurant. There was a large stuffed grizzly bear at the entrance to the bar. It was a kind of bizarre place, a little interesting, and a little spooky, but with excellent food.
I remember one night, after dinner, we all met in the bar to relax and visit after the long day of flying. A very well dressed young man came into the bar and sat down close to us. He almost immediately either passed out or went to sleep. In any case, he was slumped over. After a few minutes a young lady in a wedding gown came in, dug into his pockets and got his wallet, then left with her friends. Somehow, I don’t think that marriage lasted very long!
In Columbus, Ohio, we stayed downtown, right on the river in a very nice hotel. I really enjoyed being there. My crews and I would frequently walk about 2 miles to German Town for dinner. It is a very nice city. I always felt comfortable there and enjoyed the long walks along the river.
I only stayed in Richmond once in my whole career. It was right before Christmas. I was still a first officer ( co-pilot ). The weather was horrible the night we flew in. We were the last airplane to get in for two days. We were scheduled for a short layover, but because of the weather, all flights were cancelled the next day. The city was beautiful with all their Christmas decorations displayed. We spent the day going shopping and eating. It was a great layover!
Two other places I really enjoyed were Portland and Seattle. Both are beautiful cities where I could go for long walks and enjoy great food. Another really good layover was Monterey, California. One month, I had four 30 hour layovers there. We would fly in late at night, spend the day there and fly out early on the next morning. I toured the Aquarium one week, and found it to be one of the best aquariums I have ever seen. Several times, I went on whale watching tours. We did see some whales, but I found the dolphins more fascinating. They surrounded the boat for hours! One week, a friend, Donna, who also worked for United came out with me. We had a great time watching whales, and enjoying wonderful seafood.
On one Portland layover, after picking up our room keys we were waiting for the elevator. We were surrounded by a group of some of the ugliest women I have ever seen. Now, my mother raised me to be considerate and understanding of unfortunate people, but these women were remarkable ugly. I tried hard not to stare. When the elevator finally came, and we all crowded in, I was close enough to read the name tag on one of these women. It said, “International Convention of Gay Square Dancers!” That certainly explained it! They did have on some beautiful dresses and jewelry, but that could not make up for the 5 o’clock shadows on most of them!
In Boston, we always had a good time. I would tell my crew that I was going to “No Name’s” for dinner, and they were welcome to come along. Most thought I was pulling their legs, but I wasn’t. I would ask our driver, “where is the best seafood in Boston?” Without fail, the reply was always, “No Name’s.” If you are ever in Boston, make sure you go there for dinner. Their seafood is excellent, and reasonably priced. Of course, I haven’t been there in the last 15 years, but I’ll bet it is still good!
Domestically, that leaves Hawaii and Alaska. In Honolulu, UAL owns a small hotel that is 2 blocks from the beach. The hotel is not much, just a place to sleep and shower, but the location is great. When I first started flying to Honolulu, my brother was playing piano at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. The flights out there gave me a great opportunity to spend time with him. It is also a good place to get in a lot of walking, which I did. After sitting for about 6 or 7 hours to get there from Denver or Chicago, it was good to get out and get some exercise. And, of course, it is a great place to go swimming, which I did! I also had some Maui layovers. The ocean views are spectacular, and so is the seafood!
Alaska is always fun. My layovers there were in Fairbanks. Years before, I had been in Fairbanks when I was working for John and Martha King. We stayed at the Captain Bartlett Inn. Now, when I was there in the early 80s, it was a kind of wild place. I remember one evening when the restaurant was full, I went into the bar for my dinner. After sitting there, by myself, for a few minutes, a gentleman came and sat at my table. He called me by name, said he was the manager of the hotel, and was going to escort me out of the bar. As we walked out, he said, “You have no idea how much trouble you were in. Do not ever come into this bar unescorted again!” Now, in the mid 90s, I talked my first officer into going over there with me for dinner. Much to my disappointment, it had become civilized. Good food, but not as much fun as it used to be!
It seems like I judge places by their food. In fact, most of the time about all crews have time for is to get some dinner. When I could, I would get out and see a little of the sights, but frequently, it was just going out to dinner. In the States, I guess my favorite layovers would be Chicago, or Portland. There is a lot to do in Chicago, and Portland is beautiful!
Stay tuned, my article next week will be about my favorite International layovers!
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