Monday, October 08, 2007


Today, we look at travelling the skies of 1961 -- when flying in a plane was something that you got dressed up to do. This is GORDON'S JET FLIGHT, a Little Golden Activity Book, by Naomi J. Glasson, with pictures by Mel Crawford. Golden Press, New York, 1961.

Above, this is the way it used to be: you walk off the jet, onto the tarmac, waving like you're on an old newsreel. I note that Gordon's flight did not have any people of color aboard.

Above, you can see that the "authentic 707 Astrojet* to punch out and assemble" was long since torn out, played with and lost; thereby destroying the collectability of the book! And, yes, gentle blog reader, you guessed correctly: this is our title character, dressed as a corporate businessman, looking up at the 707 Astrojet.

"This Little Golden Book is for every boy and girl who wants to know what it's like to travel by 'jet.' The story and pictures were carefully checked by one of out leading airlines." Aha! Corporate propaganda!

Uh ... so where is Homeland Security and the X-ray machines?

"There was a blue truck with oil, and an orange truck with cargo. A green truck brought water for the passengers to drink." I hope those silly workers don't get the trucks mixed up! Good thing they're union!

It's creepy that Dad and son are wearing the same Van Heusen overcoat. Later on, and creepier still: we see that Gordon's blue blazer sports a prissy little crest over its pocket.

Here is an opportunity for a "B" story: what is Daddy doing while he stays home? That would have been intriguing. Perhaps a torrid affair with one of the union ground crew? Ahh, that story, alas, would never be told.

And here is, what they call in movies, the beauty shot of that Astrojet.*

Everything looks so spacious and everyone is so happy. Gordon pushes his chair back, and experiences real Astrobus* comfort. Of course, the poor slob seated behind Gordon gets his vodka tonic spilled in the process, natch.

Gordon looks at the train, far, far below. "Only little people take the train, Mummy!"

Please note how he delegates the responsibility of amusing himself by ordering his mother to get a magazine for him.

My frame of reference for the above picture on the left is, of course, Peter Graves as the pilot in AIRPLANE! (1980) who incessantly asks the little boy visiting their cockpit if he likes "gladiator movies."

On the facing page, our well-fed, well-dressed, over-privileged title character is given a "pilot's ring." A ring? I guess it's that other airline that passes out those pins.

The airplane appears to be emitting some kind of transmat anti-particle beam from its fuselage. At least that's what's Geordi LaForge, in his best technobabble, might remark upon seeing this picture.

Illustrator Mel Crawford, who worked for Disney, is alive and well. He has a gallery show opening on October 27, 2007 in Washington, CT. More of Mel Crawford's work is here, at the ASIFA blog (scroll down a bit). His Lambiek page has bio information.

*Service Mark of American Airlines, Inc.


Jack Ruttan said...

As a snotty little boy flying on airplanes, my favourite things were the little plastic jets you'd sometimes get.

But trying to collect the whole set was a pain.

Unknown said...

Oh my gosh... I had this book. I distinctly remember some of the illustrations. We flew quite often when I was younger. I loved going to the cockpit and meeting the pilots. It was quite freaky seeing them with their shoes off, stocking feet on the instrument panel, smoking cigars, while the autopilot controlled the aircraft. Made quite an impression on my 10-year-old psyche.

Anonymous said...

You've been bOINGbOING'ed.


Johnny C said...

That book is a treasure. The drawing of him in front of the cockpit seems menacing for some reason. Flying really was something special back then.

You should watch High and the Mighty for a look at 50s flying.

Ger Apeldoorn said...


Found you through Boingboing! Great looking blog!

Ger Apeldoorn

TC said...

Notice how much he looks like an miniature JFK. This is 1961, all right.

Frederick Paul Kiesche III said...

Didn't this book have a paper replica of the ring that you could punch out and wear? And it was either this book, or something similar, that had a paper model of the airplane that you could punch out and assemble. Great memories, thanks!

richardcthompson said...

Aw, I had this book too. I remember making the little airplane. I still hate flying, too.

Kip W said...

I thought the name was familiar... here's a link to another Mel Crawford book that I remember seeing, singled out for praise by John Kricfalusi (of Ren & Stimpy fame). Note the link at the bottom: Crawford is still painting.

Kip W said...

(Please pardon the duplication of info -- I thought I'd read to the bottom, but... whoops.)

Liz said...

As a snotty little 30-something-year-old, I would very much like a hat like Mamma's. It strikes me that the age of ecology has impinged massively on my ability to buy excellent hats.

mod*mom said...

i flew round trip from stockholm to nice,france on a small plane like this (excellent food) + you get on + off the plane like this in nice.

Sparkina said...

Back in the day, an airplane trip was something special indeed, to the point of being the stuff of fantasy. Nowadays, not so much