A Glamorous Trip Back in Time

 

IMG_0608-001Farmgirls re-purpose! I  love finding new uses for vintage and antique items from the forties, fifties and early sixties, when things were meant to be aesthetically pleasing as well as made to last! My latest re-purposed “treasures” harken to an era when traveling by plane and train was a glamorous occasion!

I was thrilled to find a set of vintage hard suitcases recently. The seller’s mother came to America from Germany in 1947, and purchased the set in Manhattan to move to Connecticut. The cases are hard and sturdy, a beautiful robin’s egg blue.

I’m a knitter. Not only is it one of my favorite pastimes, but I’ve been teaching knitting and crochet for years. Like any passionate crafter, I have several projects going simultaneously, as well as a stash of yarn beginning to take on a life all its own. One suitcase now holds a crochet project, while the other holds extra yarn, utilizing wasted space under my coffee table, in the playroom. Sturdy, vintage hard cases could hide all sorts of things in almost any room.

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I also found a vintage, silvery-blue train case to use as my go-to knitting bag, after seeing my friend Andrea carry one for knitting. My train case holds several knitting projects, while the tray easily organizes all the little tools like stitch markers.

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I love using this vintage 50’s train case by American Tourister as my knitting bag. The inside still softly smells of Chanel No. 5.

IMG_0614The case is easy to transport, holds more projects than a tote bag can, and is way more durable. The one I found was in really good shape. To clean years of grime and bring back the shine, I used a little homemade glass cleaner, a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, and an old toothbrush for the crevices. (Always test anything you use to clean a case in an inconspicuous spot first). I’ve seen train cases adorably “glammed up”, but my case from the 1950’s was in such good shape I didn’t feel it needed anything other than cleaning (and a vintage hankie – tied on for a farmgirl touch). I get smiles wherever I go with it.

Leave an opened vintage train case stocked with toiletries in your guest room. p

Leave an opened vintage train case stocked with toiletries in your guest room.
Photo courtesy A. Von Amelunxen

My friend Andrea’s mother, Brenda Clinton, was a flight attendant fifty-two years ago. Like many young women of the time, Brenda received her first train case from her parents as a special birthday gift when she was a teen. Matching pieces would be added on other occasions. Andrea uses that train case as a decor piece with hidden storage. Typical luggage sets were wood with leatherette, and nothing had wheels!

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Love the red lining! Two above photos courtesy A. Von Amelunxen

Brenda says when she was a stewardess, travelers would never have dreamed of traveling in casual attire. Everyone dressed up to fly. Flying was a special event, and to serve as a flight attendant was considered a glamorous profession, if you met the requirements. Women had to be 5’2” to 5’9” with weight in proportion to height. If you went over the weight limit, you were grounded until you lost the weight. No matter how thin you were, a girdle under your uniform was required, and you wore white gloves. Merle Norman consultants paid by the airline came in to teach hair (kept at a certain length) and makeup, and your makeup and summer and winter uniforms were provided by the airlines. You just had to provide your shoes (heels, of course), and they had better be shiny! The uniforms included a hat, a symbol of authority.

 

The summer uniform.

Summer uniform.  Courtesy A. Von Amelunxen

Brenda in uniform

Brenda in uniform. Photo courtesy A. Von Amelunxen

Despite the regulations women had to follow, it was still a sought-after profession. Women could not be married, either, and Brenda remembers several of her friends having two phone lines in order to keep their jobs after marriage: one for the household, and one for the airline.

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Courtesy A. Von Amelunxen

Brenda says the planes were full of luxury and glam, too. She flew on DC6 planes, holding 64 passengers, and DC7 planes, which were a little larger with a lounge so passengers could play cards. Both planes were propeller-types. There was also the Viscount, a turbo prop plane. One could tell it from other planes by its high shrill sound.

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Courtesy A. Von Ameluxen

Silver wings were earned when you graduated. Once, Brenda was late and was going to miss a flight from Newark, New Jersey. The airline arranged for her to be ferried via helicopter to Manhattan, where they landed on the Pan-Am building to pick up more passengers en-route to Newark!

Later on, the Supreme Court ruled that men should also be allowed to serve as flight attendants. Travel’s changed in many other ways, as well. Vintage suitcases and train cases are no longer useful or handy for travel, but certainly useful for things like crafts or storage, and a fun way to decorate!

Have you re-purposed vintage luggage? Tell me how!

Until Next Time, Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

 

Leave a comment 32 Comments

  1. Dori Troutman says:

    Nicole, First off I LOVE those vintage suitcases (you’re not surprised are you?!)! I have several that I use in my craft room to hold fabric! I love how they look stacked up. Using the train case for your knitting supplies is fabulous. I love that idea.

    As for the Stewardesses. I just finished a book written by my mother’s childhood friend and later college room-mate, Argie Hoskins. She was an American Airlines Stewardess in 1957 until she married in 1960. (Back in those days when you couldn’t be married and be a Stewardess.) Anyway, her book is fabulous – it is all about her experiences as a Stewardess. She was on the Inaugural flight of the first 707 commercial jet flight and it is so interesting to read about. The name of the book is: More Than A Ticket, by Argie Ella Hoskins. I have read it twice I loved it so much.

    So… once again, here we are on the same wave length, Nicole – Farmgirl minds think alike?! :-)

    Hugs – Dori, the Ranch Farmgirl –

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Dori, Using suitcases for fabric is another awesome idea! Love that.

      Interesting sounding book. I will have to check it out. The airline that my friend’s mom Brenda worked for was United. All of the regulations and requirements are so unheard of today (unless maybe you are a Rockette, right?) Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  2. Denise Ross says:

    Love the vintage thins from those eras and the stories that go with them.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Denise! I do too! I remember you said you are from Australia. Have you ever heard of the Leopard Lounge Vintage Hair salon in New South Wales? I want to go there! Wish we had a salon that specializes in vintage hair! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Very interesting blog, Nicole. Nice story about Andrea’s mom and life in the early days of being a stewardess. It was more fun to fly or ride a train to my grandmother’s farm in the forties. I remember dressing in a suit and high heels to fly in the 60’s and even 80’s!
    When I was younger I had a train case too but I do not remember what I did with it. Also a Neiman Marcus makeup travel bag with their white and beige designs on it.
    Enjoyed reading this very much. Love you
    Mother

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thanks, Mom! Do you know I still can not bring myself to wear denim when traveling? I’ll do casual, but not denim! Love, Nicole

  4. Marci D says:

    Awesome ideas. I have a blue circle vintage case that was my mom’s that I am using right now in my daughter’s room as a wardrobe for all her doll clothes. I would like to find another and mod podge it with my old paper dolls.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Marci, I love both of those ideas! I wish I still had my old paper dolls…I spent hours playing with them as a child.Thanks for sharing today. :) Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  5. Karen(old cowgirl) Montoya says:

    Hi Nicole,
    One of my favorite memories is receiving American Tourister luggage set for my High school graduation. Mine were blue also. I loved that set. I found out it was made in Seattle Washington which I had a Grandmother and two Aunts that lived there. I have lived in Oregon most of my life. We went to Seattle in the summer most of my growing up years. When I found out they were made there I called them and told them how much I loved them. They sent me some special tags that only there workers got. Through the years they got lost and so when my husband asked me what I wanted for our first anniversary, I told him some American Tourister luggage. Well, he bought me a beautiful maroon colored set. I still have the small plane case and the “make up case” that you have. We used to put our makeup and all the other products that would spill in it. Along with our hair things. We were aloud to carry that one with us and put it on the floor. When I was out of school I wrote to United to become a Stewardess. I was 5′ 8″ tall and weighed 120 lbs. I never heard from them until one night a phone was for me and it was one of the ladies from United. They wanted me to go with her, take the schooling ( which was 3 months) and become one of there attendance’s. It would cost $300.00, which at the time was a lot of money and no one in my family had it so I had to decline. I have never forgotten it. I would have loved it.
    Hugs Farm/Ranch girl style
    Kay

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Karen!
      What great stories you have! Thank you for sharing another with me here. Funny, my hubby bought me some luggage when we first got married too. I still have my train case but it is small and not as cool as the more retro ones (it’s from 1992). You must have been so disappointed to decline the offer from United, but thing always happen for a reason, I believe. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  6. CJ Armstrong says:

    Love the cases! I have a few myself, one of which is from the set my parents bought me for my high school graduation, a very long time ago. I use one traincase that I embellished with a lot of lace for my personal toiletries when traveling. Another case I embellished with “farmgirl” fabric prints is my project case, with papercrafting, embroidery projects, etc. in it. The others all store and get used for glamping trips.

    You talk about dressing up to fly. I did dress up in a suit to fly from my college to my sister’s one time back in the last 60s. Yes, I believed that was the thing to do in those days. I really prefer comfortable clothes for flying, especially for long flights. You need to be able to relax, sleep, etc.

    CJ

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi CJ! I remember your amazing cases you did up! So cool. I still think I may do something like that to my black case from the 90’s. If you still have the link to the page where you decorated your cases, please post it here. I’m sure everyone would love to take a peek. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  7. Heike says:

    I just bought a red hard cover American Tourister at the Flea Market :). I worked for TWA before they closed, and we would hear great stories. Our oldest international stewardess who flew into Frankfurt was 88!!! 😉 Great piece, love the pictures!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Heike, Awesome story. What a neat lady that stewardess must have been! Glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you! Enjoy your case – do you plan to do something specific with it? Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  8. Meredith Williams says:

    I remember as a little girl, my mother dressing up my little sister and I whenever our family flew anywhere! And I remember the first flight I took by myself after college, not dressing up and feeling strange about it. Times sure have changed!
    I still have my grandmothers train case as well as my own. I will have to dig them out and give them a job! Thanks for the ideas Nicole!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Meredith, Glad that you enjoyed the post. Thank you. How special that you have your train case, and your grandmother’s! I love sentimental items, too. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  9. Brenda Towsley says:

    What a lot of great info you have provided with your post. I love your train case. I also have one I have re-purposed to carry hand stitching with me. Although mine is not as nice and the insides had to be re-done. The outside is more of a fake alligator paper look. I may one day recover with mod podge.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Brenda, I just saw one recently on the “Glampers on the Loose” Facebook thread all done up so pretty! That’s the fun thing…some look great “as is” while others are fun to change up. Glad you “stopped by”! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  10. Vivian Monroe says:

    Hey Nicole, How great your timing on this article. I myself have fell in love with these train cases, and I just recently purchased from an estate sale, 3 train cases and one med size case. The med size samsonite is almost in perfect condition inside and out. I am actually going to use the train cases to turn into sewing/knitting/crochet cases to sell. I have seen so many great ideas on pinterest. Can’t wait to get started on this fun project, but also will be keeping one for myself. :) Be Blessed. Neta

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Vivian, Lucky you! Sounds like you found a treasure trove! They are all just so versatile. I am now on the hunt for a red/burgundy train case myself. Thanks for “stopping by” the blog! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  11. Marge Hofknecht says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading the information regarding flight attendants. I never aspired to become one but I did know of some girls in high school who had attaining that profession as their goal. Many of my high school friends had applied to the telephone company to be telephone operators. Good job, Good pay. I was a little girl in the Fifties and when I see something from that time period in a thrift store or in images online, it takes me back to those little girl days. That period was the last of what I consider the “elegant years” where besides dressing up to fly, you dressed up to go shopping in the big department stores in downtown Philadelphia and elsewhere. Men were well-mannered gentlemen and held doors for ladies who were respectful and considerate as well. The age we live in today is far too casual, I think. I hate to admit it but I remember my parents buying some of that “vintage” luggage in brand new condition when I was preparing for my first flight to Jamaica with my friend, Denise — the year? 1971.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Marge, I am so glad you enjoyed the post. I always loved seeing the flight attendants dressed up so chic, but like you, I did not aspire to do that. I’m a “white knuckle flier” who is easily affected with motion sickness! Thanks for commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  12. susana says:

    Neat idea fir suitcases. I fir a few neat overs when I was in Europe and they/are just sitting in my attic….ya gave me and I think I will put my yarn in one.
    Like the scarf touch for the bathroom. I have one that size. It would be a great cache place for my ladies toiletries. Probably look better than plastic containers in the bathroom. Thanks for those ideas.

    Love the story about the airlines…. wanted go be a stewardess at one time as I had a friend that became one. Neat story! Thanks for sharing. I think a neat idea fr a gardener would to plant some posies in one….susana

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Susana, I LOVE that idea, especially for a case that is missing the tray! Adorable. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  13. Jill says:

    Nicole,
    Oh I love your vintage suitcases! Not long ago, I was lucky enough to find 4 matching ecru ones. The insides are a beautiful satin fabric, with gathered pockets along the sides and a separate compartment for hanging clothes. I use 2 of them for matching night tables in my bedroom – i just stood them on their ends. They are the perfect height! The other two have been holding out of season clothes and shoes in my closet, but now you have given me some other ideas for them!! Thanks so much!

  14. Jennifer says:

    That’s fascinating about how the airlines used to be run. I think I have my grandmother’s train case in the hall closet . . .

  15. Argie Ella Hoskins says:

    Nicole, Thanks for your interest in that which is near to my heart. My vintage suitcases are at the moment holding my Christmas decoration and will continue to do so until I make my journey to the real Christmas. Nicole, you will see one of my suitcase in my Inaugural Flight picture. Are we friends on facebook? I will look for you. Thanks, again, Argie

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Argie, thanks for reading and commenting! I love that you are using your vintage suitcases for Christmas decor! I have a red train case that I open up and put old Christmas photos in…now it will hold vintage Valentine’s. Aren’t the vintage suitcases and train cases so useful? I love them. I would love for you to connect via Facebook. I do have a ‘Suburban Farmgirl blogger’ facebook page. Thank you for reaching out! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  16. Rachel says:

    I am touched by your precious memories. I found some modern days makeup train case review . What do you think of them?

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