Title: Book Chronicles The Glory Days Of Flight
Author: Joseph Orovic
Publisher: Queens Tribune
Think of the hours before a flight from LaGuardia. You anticipate the security checks, baggage hassles, seemingly endless lines, crying babies and cramped seats (that's if your flight isn't delayed or cancelled). Has the dread crept in yet?
Now imagine a time when the airport was the cat's meow. Throngs gathered to watch planes like exotic birds. Ooo's and Aaah's filled the air, children laughed and if hunger struck, you gladly grabbed a meal in the terminal. It's not a fairy tale.
Joshua Stoff invokes such days in "LaGuardia Airport," a collection of photographs beginning with the airport's construction in 1939 and chronicling an era of friendly skies we will never see again.
"People actually enjoyed flying, believe it or not," said Stoff, who is also the curator of the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Long Island.
The author and airport go back almost five decades to Stoff's childhood, when his parents would take him to a "day at the airport." There, he stood atop the long-gone promenade and gawked in awe at the fleet of planes a stone's throwaway.
"Parking wasn't a problem. There were fewer flights, fewer people, everyone dressed up," Stoff said. "Going to the airport was an event."
Inside the terminal, travelers and visitors were greeted with art deco architecture. Terminals were filled with high-end retailers like Cartier. Flying, at the time, belonged
to the rich and pampered.
And pampered they were.
"Every passenger was first class," Stoff said.
Leg room? Try a full bed. No unbearable meals. Passengers ate gourmet cuisine prepared in the airplane's galley and served in a restaurant style dining area. The posh bathrooms actually required more than one baby step to enter and didn't induce claustrophobia.
Steeped in nostalgia, the book also brings back LaGuardia's golden age as the busiest
airport in the world (before John F. Kennedy International stole the spotlight). It was so important, the military shored up the airport with anti-aircraft guns following Pearl Harbor.
The book itself represents a defense of history. In researching the book in 2000, Stoff combed the archives of the Port Authority and copied archival photos of the airport.
Those same photos were lost after the attacks on Sept. 11,2001 but remained preserved
in the book.
Today, Stoff says not much can be done to bring back LaGuardia's fledgling days. Flight has become the domain of the many.
"It's totally oversaturated, but there's not much that can be done at this point," Stoff
The skies are now about quantity, not quality. Unlike his book.