Ruthe Wheeler.

Jane, Stewardess of the Air Lines

Chapter One
Graduation Night

Jane Cameron looked breathlessly around the room where seventeen senior nurses of the Good Samaritan hospital at University City sat primly awaiting their diplomas. It was graduation night and Jane was among the seventeen who had completed all of the requirements for a certificate in nurses training.

Delayed half an hour by an emergency case on third floor surgery, Jane had just slipped into the room and taken the remaining chair on the end of the line.

Dr. Albert Anthony, trim, energetic young head of the staff, was speaking. Beside him was the little white stack of diplomas, all of them rolled and tied with blue and white ribbon. Doctor Anthonys sharp voice was informing the student nurses that they were about to embark on careers of their own. Jane smiled a bit grimly.

She wondered just what career was ahead of her. The girl next in line turned and a fleeting suggestion of a smile hovered about her lips. She was Sue Hawley, friend and companion of Jane through the long, arduous months of training.

Heres hoping hell tell us where we can get jobs, whispered Sue, the words so close-clipped that it was almost impossible to detect her lips moving.

Jane nodded. That was the one big problem facing most of the girls who were graduating from nurses training at Good Samaritan. As for herself, she had no idea what she would be doing after the following noon when she stepped through the doors of the great hospital.

Doctor Anthony finished his speech and the nurses applauded politely. He picked up the diplomas and called the roll of graduates. As her name was called, each girl stepped forward, her stiffly starched skirts swishing, and received the tube of paper.

Queer shivers chased themselves up and down Janes back. For three years she had been working toward this moment and now that it was at hand she suddenly felt cheated. Perhaps it was because she was grasping so desperately for something to do after she left the hospital.

Sues name was called and she stepped forward and received her diploma. Jane was the last and she walked slowly toward the rostrum. A mist clouded her eyes and her hand shook as she accepted the diploma. It meant cutting loose from the old routine, leaving the firmly established and venturing out alone.

Jane wouldnt have admitted, even to Sue, that she was scared, for she was far too proud.

Then the program was over. Parents hastened up to congratulate their daughters and Jane and Sue drifted away from the others. Their homes were in a neighboring state and it had been too far for their own fathers and mothers to make the trip.

Sue looked down at her diploma. She was slender, blond, with sparkling blue eyes and peach-bloom complexion.

Wonder if Ill ever have this framed? she sighed. Right now Ive just exactly $2 and Im not going to send an SOS home for money unless I get down to my last penny.

Ive a little more, confessed Jane, tucking a wisp of wavy, brown hair back under her prim little cap.

To be exact, theres $4.23 in my purse and I dont want to ask the folks at home for anything if I can help it.

Jane was a bit taller than Sue and her brown eyes matched the color of her hair. They had stuck by each other through all of the tribulations of nurses training; now, though both hesitated to mention it, each feared that graduation would terminate their close companionship.

Miss Hardy, the supervisor of nurses, broke away from another group and joined them.

Drop in at my office before you go to the dorm for the night, she said. Before she could explain what she wanted, an interne stepped into the room and called her away on an emergency case.

Rules had been lifted for graduation night and a kindly theater manager, realizing how little spending money most of the girls had, sent up passes for his show.

Jane and Sue slipped out of the assembly room, diplomas in hand. Hurrying to the dormitory on fourth floor back, they changed from their uniforms into street clothes and a few minutes later were on their way down town, the towering bulk of Good Samaritan with its scores of shaded lights behind them.

The show proved entertaining and they passed a pleasant two hours at the theater. On their way home, Sue slackened her pace in front of a drug store and looked longingly at the gleaming soda fountain inside.

Feel the urge of a chocolate soda? asked Jane, who knew her friends weakness.

Its practically irresistible, confessed Sue.

Then lets celebrate. The treats on me for Im at least two dollars richer than you.

The sodas were delicious and the newly graduated nurses sipped them in luxurious leisure.

My, but its going to seem good not to have to jump every time a bell clangs, said Sue.

I dont know about that. Im so used to bells Im afraid Ill miss them just a little bit, Jane said.

What do you suppose Miss Hardy wants?

Maybe its about a job.

Dont worry. If there was anything like that in sight, shed give it to one of her pets. Wed never have a chance, said Sue bitterly.

Jane and Sue had steadfastly refused to court the favor of the supervisor of nurses and as a result many unnecessary little tasks had been heaped on their shoulders. It had been just enough to arouse their determination, and they had finished near the top of the class despite the apparent prejudice of the supervisor.

It was nearly midnight when Jane and Sue pushed open the double doors of Good Samaritan. Only the night lights illumined the halls and the strained quiet which pervades a hospital at night had settled down over the building.

The elevator boy had left his post half an hour before and they walked the four flights of stairs to fourth floor back where the nurses lived. Most of the girls were in the dormitory and the hall was almost deserted as they neared the office of the supervisor. The door was closed and they knocked discreetly. An irritated, tired voice bade them enter. Jane opened the door.

Miss Hardys cold, blue eyes held little welcome for her visitors as she peered up at them through steel-rimmed spectacles.

You asked us to stop here before we went to bed, Sue reminded her.

Oh, yes. So I did. Its a pity you couldnt have come in a little earlier.

It isnt often that we have a night off and passes to see a show, replied Jane tartly.

Miss Hardy made no comment, but shuffled through a pile of papers at one corner of her desk. She selected a letter and scanned it rapidly.

Either one of you girls decided what youll do when you leave tomorrow? she asked.

I havent been able to learn of a single job, said Jane, and Sue has been no more successful.

Then here is something that might interest you.

Miss Hardy tossed the letter across the desk. Jane looked at the letterhead and her eyes blurred. It bore the name of the personnel manager of the Federated Airways.

Chapter Two
Opportunity Knocks

The pulses of the young nurses quickened as they read the letter and they hardly heard Miss Hardy saying, Of course, I havent had time to fully investigate this company and it seems a little foolhardy for any young woman of common sense to seek such work.

That was typical of Miss Hardy. She was so conservative that anything new seemed foolish.

Jane read the letter rapidly and Sue, looking over her shoulder, kept pace with her. It was from Hubert Speidel, personnel manager of Federated Airways.

My dear Miss Hardy, the letter began. For some time Federated Airways has been considering a plan to improve its service to passengers and to provide even further for their welfare and comfort while they are guests aboard our transport planes. We have come to the conclusion that the addition of a stewardess to our flying crews is essential and at present we are contacting young women who might be interested in this work. Our first requirement is that the prospective stewardess be a graduate nurse. Hence, this letter is directed to you.

I have consulted a number of eminent physicians and they have highly recommended the nurses training school of Good Samaritan hospital for the high calibre of young women who are graduated. I will appreciate your contacting any of the girls who might be interested in joining our air line as stewardesses. On your recommendation, we will provide passage for them to come to Chicago where they will undergo the necessary examinations. Girls who weigh more than 120 pounds or who are more than five feet four inches tall can not be used.

Sue looked expectantly at Jane when they finished the letter.

Well, what do you think of that? she asked.

I think its a great opportunity, replied Jane. Its a real chance to get into a new field for girls. Air travel is developing rapidly and perhaps we can grow with it.

Jane handed the letter back to Miss Hardy.

It seems to me like a very dangerous type of work, the supervisor of nurses said.

I dont think it would be any more dangerous than the everyday things we do. Ive noticed advertisements of the Federated Airways. Their planes have flown thirty-five million miles without a fatal injury to a passenger. If I can go that far without getting hurt very seriously, Ill consider myself lucky.

Youve always been lucky, retorted Miss Hardy, as a seldom-seen smile flickered over her face.

I guess both of you have thought me pretty much of a tyrant, she went on, removing the spectacles and smoothing back her straight, grey-streaked hair. Ill admit Ive been unnecessarily harsh with you on occasions, but it was all a part of my system. Some day youll thank me for it for you are the best young nurses Good Samaritan has turned out in many a year.

But, Miss Hardy, protested Sue, we thought you had a grudge against us. Usually we had all of the mean little things to do.

I know, but I was just testing the kind of spirit you had. You came through fighting a hundred per cent and even now, when I spoke discouragingly of this possible work with the air line, you showed your determination. I am convinced that this is a real opportunity and I should have been greatly disappointed if you had not shown a keen interest in its possibilities.

Miss Hardys eyes were twinkling and Jane and Sue were astonished. Behind the hard, outer shell of the martinet they had known beamed now a very warm and friendly personality. For the first time in three years they felt they really knew Miss Hardy and each was a little ashamed of the harsh things they had said about the supervisor.

Are you both interested in going to Chicago and personally applying for positions with the Federated system? asked the supervisor.

Jane and Sue replied in unison and Miss Hardy picked up the telephone directory and after ascertaining the number of the local field of the Federated line, dialed the airport.

The night operations manager answered and Miss Hardy informed him that she had two graduate nurses who needed transportation to Chicago for an interview with the personnel officer.

When do you think well go in? Sue whispered to the supervisor.

That will depend on when there is space, replied Miss Hardy. I expect that since you will be traveling on passes it will be a day or two.

Sue thought of the small sum in cash she had and wondered just how she would subsist in Chicago if she failed to get the job as stewardess.

Miss Hardy jotted several notations on the pad beside her phone, thanked the operations manager, and looked up at the girls.

The first plane eastbound for Chicago with room for you will be through at three oclock this morning. That will get you there shortly after seven. Can you get ready by that time?

We can be ready in half an hour, gasped Jane.

I thought you could. Thats why I told the operations manager to arrange for your passage on the three oclock plane.

Ill have to finish packing, said Sue.

Miss Hardy looked at the clock.

Its midnight now. If I were you Id go to the dorm and go to bed. Sleep until two oclock. Ill come in and call you in plenty of time to get dressed and get to the airport. Dont pack anything except what youll need for a night or two. If you secure the positions with Federated Airways, you can write to me and Ill have your things sent in.

Thats kind of you. Thanks so much, said Jane.

Im just making up, a bit, for the grind I put you through in the last three years. Now get along to bed and dont wake the rest of the girls by talking. A couple of hours of sleep will be the best for both of you. Ill call you in plenty of time.

Jane and Sue left the supervisors office and hurried down the hall.

What do you think of it? asked Sue.

First of all, I think Miss Hardys an old dear, and as for the chance to become a stewardess, my vote is unanimous.

So is mine, but Ive never been up in a plane before. Im going to be just a little nervous.

Ive never been up, either, confessed Jane, but it certainly wont be any worse than riding in an express elevator. Why, the pit just drops out of my stomach every time I get in one of those things.

They entered the dormitory and went quickly to their own beds. They undressed in the dark and hung their clothes in the lockers which stood at the head of each bed.

Jane slipped between the cool, crisp sheets and closed her eyes. But sleep did not come readily. She was too tense, too excited at the events of the last few minutes.

Earlier in the evening she had been wondering, a little desperately, just what she would do. Now there was a fair chance that she would become one of the pioneers in this new profession for girls. And Sue was going with her. That was what made Jane supremely happy. It would have been tragic to disrupt the bonds of friendship that had grown so close through the trying days of their training.

Then there was Miss Hardy. What a revelation she had been. Jane smiled as she recalled the friendly look in Miss Hardys eyes. After all, the supervisor had been doing the best thing for them even though many of the tasks she had placed on their shoulders during training had been extremely disagreeable.

Jane wondered what her father and mother would say if she got the job in Chicago. It might take more than a little diplomacy to win them over to her side.

In the next bed, Sue was breathing regularly and deeply and a little later Janes tensed nerves relaxed and she slept. It seemed as though she had been asleep for only a minute when Miss Hardy shook her gently and whispered, Its two oclock and I have lunch ready in my office.

Sue was already dressing, and Jane hurried into her clothes.

Jane had a pretty brown suit with beret to match while Sue wore a two-piece dress of heavy blue crepe. She had a spring coat of similar material and a close-fitting toque, also of blue crepe.

They tip-toed to the door of the dormitory and looked back for just a moment. This had been their home for three long years and there was just a touch of heartache as they stepped into the hall and Sue pulled the door shut.

Miss Hardy was waiting for them in her office. Spread on top of her desk was an appetizing lunch which the supervisor had prepared in the tiny kitchen which adjoined her office. There was a large plate of sandwiches and cups of hot chocolate.

You shouldnt have gone to all this trouble, protested Jane.

It wasnt any trouble. I wanted to do it for I want you to have pleasant memories of Good Samaritan.

Were going to take away a very pleasant memory of you, promised Sue, as she finished a sandwich.

I have written my own recommendation and a letter of introduction for you and I am also enclosing Mr. Speidels letter, said Miss Hardy. This should insure your seeing him tomorrow morning in Chicago. Ill be anxious to know the outcome.

Well telegraph, promised Sue. Then, remembering how little actual cash she had, she added, That is, well try to telegraph you.

Miss Hardy smiled for she knew how little money most of the girls had when they left training school.

They finished the lunch just as the horn of a taxicab squalled in the street below.

Theres your cab. Its a fifteen-minute ride to the airport. Youll have to hurry.

Miss Hardy handed the letter of recommendation to Jane, who folded it and placed it in her purse. They hurried downstairs, the girls carrying the small week-end bags with them.

Miss Hardy walked to the cab with them. Farewells were brief.

I know youll both make good, said Miss Hardy. Then she turned and hurried back inside the sheltering walls of Good Samaritan.

The cab lurched ahead, gaining speed rapidly as the driver headed for the airport.

Jane and Sue settled back on the worn leather cushions. In another half hour they would be aboard an eastbound transport plane, speeding toward Chicago. Their hospital days were definitely behind them and new careers, holding the promise of great adventure, were ahead.

Chapter Three
Adventure Ahead

The cab sped through the sleeping city. The business district was soon left behind and the paved road bordered the Wapsipinicon river, which skirted the south edge of University City. The road swung across the river and ahead of them gleamed the red, green and white lights which marked the boundary of the airport of Federated Airways.

The taxi slowed and drew to a halt in front of the administration building. The driver helped Jane and Sue from the cab. Jane opened her purse to pay the fare from her slender funds, but the driver waved the money away.

Miss Hardy at the hospital said to charge it to her account, he said, and Jane and Sue were given another glimpse of the warm heart which beat beneath the grim exterior of the supervisor of nurses.

The driver led them into the waiting room and left their bags there. Jane looked around. It was her first visit to the administration building, although she had been at the field a number of times.

The waiting room was furnished with modernistic wicker pieces. Soft tan drapes were at the windows and a rug of tan and black squares covered the floor. At a large table in the center was a neat stack of magazines while at a buffet along one wall was a silver tea service.

The ticket office opened to the right and Jane stepped up to the window. The night manager looked up from his desk.

We are the nurses from Good Samaritan that Miss Hardy phoned about. Were to go out on the eastbound plane for Chicago, she explained.

The night manager swung around to his ticket rack and made out the passes for their transportation to Chicago. He was efficient but pleasant.

Youll have to sign permits releasing the system from liability in case of accident. Of course this isnt required from regular passengers, but you are traveling free.

Both Jane and Sue signed the papers he placed before them.

Im making out round trip passes, he said. In case you dont get the jobs, youll be able to get back here.

Jane wasnt sure there was much consolation in that for there was probably more chance of getting a job in Chicago than in University City.

The night manager stepped into the dispatchers office to inquire the position of the eastbound plane.

Your ship will be here in about nine minutes. How about baggage?

We have small pieces, replied Sue.

The baggage was weighed, checked and placed on a small cart to be wheeled into the hangar when the plane arrived.

The dispatcher stuck his head out of the operations room.

Charlie Fischer wants the flood light, he said.

Jane wondered who Charlie Fischer was and just why he wanted the flood light, but to the field manager that message appeared important for he hurried into the hangar. A moment later a flood of blue light illuminated the field and the drone of engines could be heard.

Lights flashed on in the hangar and Jane and Sue left the waiting room. Two stars appeared to be descending out of the west and the hulk of a great tri-motor biplane drifted into the brilliant light of the field.

The plane settled gently and rolled smoothly along the crushed-rock runway. Its motors boomed as the pilot swung it into the hangar.

Jane and Sue looked at the big ship apprehensively. It didnt seem possible that the three motors could lift the great plane off the ground and hurl it through the air at two miles a minute.

The ground crew wheeled the portable steps up to the cabin and the pilot and co-pilot came down. They were young, clean-cut chaps.

The pilot hastened into the operations room to obtain the latest reports on the weather between University City and Chicago while the co-pilot supervised the refueling.

Jane saw the baggage cart wheeled alongside the plane and their bags disappeared into the forward hold. Then the night manager was at their side.

You have seats eight and nine, which places you together on the right side of the ship. This way, please.

The girls followed him across the concrete floor and into the spacious cabin. Lights inside were turned low for several of the passengers were dozing.

Jane was amazed at the roomy interior. Along the right side was a double row of comfortable reclining chairs, very much like those in a railroad coach. There was a single row along the left side, with the aisle running the length of the cabin. Overhead were baggage racks for parcels and wearing apparel and there were individual lights for each chair.

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