Like a lot of people these days, we never realized how much we traveled until somebody told us we couldn't. Last week we joined the rest of the country in contracting a severe case of dialer's twitch trying to reach airline offices on the phone, and we also got a new appreciation of how many miles it takes to put out an issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
When five national airlines were struck and the Friendly Skies became the empty skies, we suddenly had staff members trying to get out to or home from Seattle, Atlanta, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and the Florida Keys, just to name a few—and excluding those going to easy places such as London, Madrid and Marcilly-en-Villette.
Soon "How did you get to...?" became one of those conversation starters like "Where were you the night of the blackout?" or "What were you doing when Bobby Thomson hit his home run?" The airline strike created a modern folklore character—the master traveler who was able to get from Spokane to New York by flying to Mexico City—and we now have our share of them. It also increased the agility of some of our younger staff members, whose dependence on air travel came as something of a revelation.
One young writer, after spending a fruitless day at an airport, telephoned his editor to ask for advice. The editor suggested that he take a train—a day coach. "Train?" said the puzzled writer. "Suppose I can't get space on it?" Another was intrigued by the mechanics of lowering a sleeping berth, was pleased at being allowed to read instead of being held captive by an inflight movie and was mortified at not having the slightest idea about how much to tip that nice man who kept folding down the sheets and taking away shoes to shine.
There were some unexpected annoyances: a set of photographs of Woody Fryman, the Pirate rookie, was shipped by air express from Pittsburgh to New York. It took five days to get here, by which time the issue containing the Pirate story was on sale at Pittsburgh newsstands. A courier bringing proofs of artwork from Chicago to New York went to O'Hare airport at 11 a.m. so he would have ample time to catch his noon flight, only to find that it had quixotically taken off at 10 o'clock.
Other problems were even more serious. Hugh Whall, in Milwaukee when the strike started, was due in New York to cover the Long Island powerboat race (page 16). Desperate, he hitched a ride in a private plane that took him to Richmond. Missing the last train out that night, he caught a bus to Baltimore, where he missed another train. He eventually arrived in New York after being 40 hours on the way.
Nobody solved the travel problem any better than Robert Boyle, who was working on a conservation story concerning the Florida Keys. Boyle found he could not possibly get south in time for a meeting with Herbert William Hoover, an industrialist who has been trying to preserve the Upper Keys from exploitation, so he telephoned Mr. Hoover his regrets and explanation. "Be at La Guardia field at 5 o'clock," said Hoover. There Boyle found waiting for him the DC-3 owned by The Hoover Company of vacuum-cleaner fame. With a pilot, a copilot and a Hoover official as the other passenger, Boyle reached Miami in six restful hours. On the way back to New York he ended his successful mission by picking up Photographer Walter Iooss, who had been stranded in Miami.
Once the motto was "Keep 'em flying." Now it is "Keep 'em moving," and we will. By the way, how much do you tip that fellow who...?