All Those Wonderful Stories...
Transocean Air Lines 1946 - 1960
SFO to Honolulu (9 hours) was long and uneventful – crew change with 1 or 2 days there.
Honolulu to Wake Island (8 hours) was also uneventful – crew change again. Unlike the other
crew members I did not waterski in the lagoon. There are sharks out there…are you crazy! But
I did ride in the boat pulling the skiers. Wake Island to Guam (about 6 hours)was again a crew
change and overnight. The last leg was Guam to Naha (7hours) and we left Guam at night
about 9pm. This was a do nothing flight, just coffee, tea and a small snack after takeoff and
breakfast before landing in the morning. The passengers had been on the plane since
Oakland. A few had left or boarded in Honolulu and were all asleep after our snack service.
Daisy and I cleaned up, had a little coffee, checked the passengers and took turns sitting in the
empty seats by the rear galley reading. The rear galley in this aircraft was at the very end of the
aisle. The galley door was the last thing you saw if you looked down the aisle. On either side
were the rows of seats. Two seats per row both sides of the aisle back that far. We were
convinced that the Boeing engineer who designed this galley and its location had probably
been mistreated by a stewardess sometime and was getting even with all of us. In any
turbulence the airplane "fishtailed". The up/down, sideways bumping around made holding
onto trays of poured coffee, juice, etc., and keeping your balance a bit of a challenge. About half
way to Naha it started getting a little bumpy and then the seat belt sign went on. The galley
intercom "ding-dinged". I answered it and a cockpit voice said to check the passengers for seat
belts and then sit down and put seat belts on ourselves. So Daisy and I checked everyone in
our cabin. We also checked the bar downstairs (no one there). Everyone was sound asleep so
this meant climbing in the rows and making sure belts were fastened under the blankets. Then
we went to the last rows on the left side. Daisy sat down in the second to the last row in the
aisle seat and I sat behind her in the last row. It started getting interesting with the up, down
and fishtail bumping and I saw a hand waving in the aisle. A small voice said, "Leez..may I
have a cigarette?" When Daisy got nervous she always asked for a cigarette. I don’t think ever
smoked one though.
The bumping got worse and we saw the wings light up with a bluish glow – St. Elmo's Fire!
Then the entire rear of the airplane got one big bump that you would swear some giant had
kicked the whole fuselage. We heard some noises coming from the galley but didn't worry as
we had put everything away and locked all the service doors. I saw Daisy's hand waving in the
aisle and she was saying, "LEEZ, LEEZ…put your feet up!" She was pointing down the aisle
and there, moving rather slowly, rolling down the center of the aisle, was a blue ball of St
Elmo's Fire! We watched it roll past us and disappear into the galley door. Daisy asked for
another cigarette. We kept our feet up for awhile. The turbulence became less in a few minutes
so I ventured out of my seat. We were not, NOT going to touch that galley door. I walked up to
the cockpit but did not see the first class crewmember. (I always wondered where she went to)
I reported the "blue ball" incident to the crew. When they stopped laughing, the engineer got out
of his seat and followed me back down the aisle. I stepped into the last row where I had been
sitting. He put out his hand, touched the galley door handle and jumped back when he got a
little shock, and then opened the door.
Well no breakfast ladies and gentlemen...the massive tray carriers had moved half way
across the galley. There was fruit cocktail dripping from the ceiling, doors had sprung open on
all the other tray carriers and cups, garbage bags, spoons, etc., were all over the floor. We
closed the galley door and did not open it again. St Elmo's fireball was nowhere to be seen.
The passengers were still asleep – they slept through the whole thing. We woke everyone up
when we were descending into Naha. After the passengers had all deplaned, we, the crew,
went down the stairs and walked around the aircraft. From the tip of the right wing, all across
that wing, across the fuselage and across the left wing was a very large and wide black scorch
We had been hit by lightening.
Sometime in July or August of 1959 I was
scheduled on a flight out of Oakland across
the Pacific with a crew of 3 (maybe 4) in the
cabin and 4 guys up front on a TAL Boeing
Stratocruiser. My assignment was rear cabin
(steerage) with Daisy Chun. We had almost
a full load in our cabin, first class was
maybe half full. I seem to remember that
Tom Dooley was seated up front, going back
to Vietnam where his orphanages were. He
would beg free rides from whoever could
take him, which was us, PANAM or
NORTHWEST in those days. He would go
as far as he could on one airline then switch
to another. TRANSOCEAN would take him
as far as Naha, Okinawa or Tokyo then he
would catch a ride on CAT to SAIGON.
|St. Elmo's Fireball
Elizabeth Lambert Kearins