Transport: Women on Wheels

  • Share
  • Read Later

The pleasant young women who are graduate nurses and serve as hostesses on U. S. airlines are a fixed institution of the air and are considered a profitable investment by their employers. U. S. railroads, long addicted to the Negro porter as a factotum, have seen the signs of the times in the sky.

After advertising its needs and interviewing some 300 applicants, New York, New Haven & Hartford R. R. last week started training classes in Boston for a handful of young women to act as dining car hostesses on its crack runs, mostly between Boston and Manhattan. Candidates are required to be unmarried, 5 ft. 7 in. to 5 ft. 10 in. tall, aged 24 to 35, 115 to 135 lb. in weight. College graduates are strongly preferred. They must pass a "personality test"—i.e., be reasonably personable as well as amiable. Because Superintendent H. W. Quinlan of the New Haven's dining cars believes that grace of carriage and movement is important, he insists on modeling experience as well as hostess experience. Candidates must learn correct diction, how to greet incoming diners, how to make menu suggestions, how to keep tabs on cooks and waiters. The dining car stewards will be free to spend most of their time in the 2x4 kitchen.

Six hostesses, having shown so much desirable experience that they were allowed to skip training school, were already at work last week on New Haven dining cars—four on the Merchant's Limited, one on the Bay Stater, one on the 4 p. m. (E.D.S.T.) express from Boston to Pittsburgh. They are paid $30 weekly plus meals while on duty, work six days a week, live in women's hotels specified by Superintendent Quinlan at each end of the line.

Starting more than a year ago, the Union Pacific installed women attendants which it calls "stewardess-nurses." Union Pacific now has stewardess-nurses on all of its streamliners and on the Challenger between Chicago and Los Angeles. Like airline hostesses, these girls must be registered nurses. The Baltimore & Ohio has five hostesses (nurses) on Manhattan to Chicago runs. The Rock Island and the Southern Pacific have hostess-nurses on their joint run from Chicago to the California coast.

The Santa Fe provides "courier-nurses" on the Scout (Chicago, Kansas City, California), a coach and tourist sleeper, economy train designed to compete with busses. Sociability is subordinated to taking care of the old, the ill, youngsters traveling alone, helping mothers with infants. But in order that the Santa Fe's hostesses shall be interesting conversationalists, at least about the scenery, their training includes trips through scenic parts of the Southwest.

The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy calls its hostesses "Zephyrettes." They wear pearl-grey uniforms, overseas caps, flowers in buttonholes. Before the train starts they greet passengers on the platform, show them to their locations, go through the train with the conductor to see that everyone is comfortable. The Burlington once had 1,500 applications (some from Mexico and Canada) for twelve jobs. A Burlington requirement, in addition to amiability and pleasing appearance, is "self-confidence."

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2