Standing to the immediate right of President Dwight Eisenhower (center), Helen Hall waits her turn to meet the 34th president of the United States. She was one of five flight attendants who spent 16 days with the president on his Good Will Tour of South America in 1960. Courtesy photo
I was one of five Pan American World Airwaysflight attendants chosen to fly with President Dwight Eisenhower on his Good Will Tour of South America. It was 1960, his last year in office. We visited Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay as well as Puerto Rico. The president was on Air Force One with his personal staff attending him.
On our plane, we had reporters, cameramen, Secret Service, and some White House staff. We would land an hour before the president so the Secret Service could get ready for his safe arrival, which was always a very exciting event. Each country had a spectacular parade honoring the president when he arrived.
One of my most exciting times on this trip was getting to ride in the parade with the president in Santiago, Chile. All five of us rode in a convertible waving at the crowd as if we were the celebrities!
There are so many things to tell about this experience that it would take a complete book, so I’ll end my story by telling you that when we arrived back in Washington, we were honored with a tea party in the White House. The staffers who traveled with us came by to tell us that we had done a great job. President Eisenhower presented each of us with a commemorative coin.
Needless to say, those 16 days with the U.S. president proved to be an extraordinary “brush with fame.”
Helen Hall worked as a flight attendant for Pan American World Airways after graduating from Baylor University. She postponed her planned teaching career to fly the friendly skies. She trained in Miami and flew regular routes to major cities in South America and the United States.
“I actually felt like I was on vacation most of the time,” she said.
After a few short years as a flight attendant, Helen married, raised kids, and taught school. She and husband J.B. retired to Kingsland in 2011 from Dripping Springs. J.B. was the chaplain for the Texas Legislature’s House of Representatives at the time.
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