A Moment in Time
Jo Reader (then Jo Baker) was a stewardess with Jersey Airlines for less than a year but she has vivid memories of the summer of 1960. While most airline staff were too busy to worry about it, Jo was careful to use her camera to capture all that was going on around her. Her photograph album provides a frozen moment in time in the history of the airline.
The irony that she runs a dairy farm in the south of England with Jersey cows is not lost on Jo Reader. In the autumn of 2002 she came on holiday to the Island which she had last known as a stewardess over forty years earlier. You can imagine her astonishment at seeing G-AORG Duchess of Brittany parked at the Airport: she had often flown in this very aircraft yet she thought, correctly, that Jersey Airlines had gone out of business in the early 1960s. During her stay she visited Bel Royal Stores: it was in lodgings with Mrs Le Sueur next door that she had spent part of 1960. And here she found out more about the restored de Havilland Heron and its supporters. She was re-united with Captain Derek Lane and others who had bought the aeroplane at auction in 1990.
How did she come to Jersey in the first place? "My Uncle Bob flew Spitfires during the War. While he was stationed in South Africa he met Wing Commander Pickford - known to everyone as "Pick" - who became Chief Instructor at the Jersey Aero Club. In 1959 Bob thought a spell as an air hostess might complete my education and enlisted Pick's help. I don't remember having an interview, or even any training, but I was taken on in 1960 and my first flight was with Marna Amy." Jo recalls that it was a bitterly cold day in February and the sector was between Jersey, Guernsey and Southampton. Looking at the Heron today she wonders: "How did we both fit in?"
As the weather improved so did Jo's experiences: she looks upon those summer months of 1960 with affection. "My memories are entirely happy ones. Flying over to St Brieuc to collect day trippers for the Duty Free, or French farm workers for the potato and tomato harvests. They brought their forks and bikes with them. Flying low over the waves, zooming up over the beach on a Sunday morning we would get a complaint from the irate mayor of St Brieuc. Later in the season these same workers would go home, again with forks and bikes, but this time full of cheap Jersey booze!" Inevitably, there were incidents and Jo recalls one inebriated worker trying to open the rear door in flight, thinking it was the lavatory.
Not so exciting were the special charter flights for the boffins of the Atomic Energy Authority between Bournemouth, Manchester and Aldermaston. Sir William Penny was one. They were always deep in their work and ignored the flight crew. The only bonus was a night-stop at the King's Arms in Christchurch. The stewardesses also felt 'surplus to requirements' - in Jo's words - on the Honeymoon Specials. "In those days there was tax relief on anyone getting married before April 5th. So, on Saturday nights during March the Honeymoon Specials would bring couples over from England, wordlessly holding hands across the aisle."
Jo thinks back to the camaraderie of that summer and includes in her memories the early-morning newspaper run. The aeroplane would undertake the last flight of the day to Gatwick. After a night-stop, there was an early start with the load of newspapers, the hostess either sleeping among the papers or joining the captain on the flight deck to bid a breezy 'good morning' to the air traffic controllers in Jersey. She has fond recollections of characaters such as Dick Cole in Air Traffic and Jackie Patterson who handled the JAL aeroplanes.
Jo graduated from the Heron to the DC3 with its thirty-six passengers. Her abiding memory is of biscuits and lumpy coffee. It was so bad that the hostesses threatened to strike unless it improved. Their threat had the desired effect and, as Jo says: "To this day I can't eat a Custard Cream without thinking of Jersey Airlines!"
And her last flight? "It was with Peter Dyson to Paris in a terrific westerly gale. The little Heron took almost three hours to get home, battling against the storm." In November, Jo left to be a stewardess with Cunard Eagle at Heathrow. "It was, of course, a much bigger operation. But it was not nearly as much fun!"
Every picture tells a story. From top to bottom: