First Stewardess from Howard County

The Times reported in July of 1929 that steps finally had been taken to provide an airport in Cresco, Iowa. A 22 acre plot of ground was leased from Robert Thomson. This area was northwest of the fairgrounds and marked according to regulations for such fields. A circle 100 feet in diameter and about four feet in wideth was to be marked on the ground in the center of the field with some white materials. Such markings would be immediately recognized by a pilot or any aircraft as a safe and proper landing place. No lights for landing at night were to be provided at that time. Purchase of ground for a permanent field was postponed until a later date. The landing field was completed in the month of July 1929 and was found to be easily recognized by air pliots. The word " Cresco" was painted in large letters on the roof of the grandstand at the fairground to serve the same purpose to air travelers as the town name on the passenger station did to the railroad travelers. Cresco was then listed in the Rand & McNally Atlas as a regulation airport.

A year later, 1930, a local girl, Ellen Church, was instrumental in organizing a Stewardess Service with the Boeing Company. Miss Church felt that institutional training should be combined with aviation. The Boeing Company was the first in the history of aviation to employ women as members of their flying force, and it was also the first to engage institutionally trained women as a third member of their crew.

According to Miss Church, the duties of the stewardesses were to look after the interests and comforts of air passengers and to take complete charge of such to the passengers' destinations. While enroute the stewardesses pointed out places of interest in cities, towns, rivers, mountains, passes, altitudes, etc. She was a licensed pilot and approached the Boeing Company with the idea that she could serve as a nurse and substitute pilot on their planes. Early specifications for flight attendants were that they be no taller than 5 foot 4 inches and must weigh less than 115 pounds. With these specificaitons they would be able to manuever around the plane with the lowe celings and narrow aisles. Attendants other duties were to take tickets, load luggage, gas the plane and help push the machine into the hanger. Ellen Church was instrumental in hiring the first team of attendants. Through her work and calming presence, she helped convince the public of the safety in flying.

Cresco constructed a new air landing strip in 1959. This landing strip was located west and south of Cresco. The airport today is on this same site and is named "Ellen Church Field" after the first stewardess.

The winter 1997-1998 issue of the Iowan Magazine features Ellen Church

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