by Gene Marrano
Flight attendants for defunct Piedmont Airlines will gather at the 419 West restaurant in southwest Roanoke County this Sunday (Sept. 11) at 5 p.m. for the unveiling of a calendar that features photos of many former and current flight attendants. Linda Simmons became a Piedmont flight attendant in 1978. Now a mental health worker with Braley and Thompson, Simmons is coordinating Sunday’s calendar debut.
Simmons says Sunday’s launch for the Commemorative Airline Calendar “is the result of a local community initiative and reflects the dynamic history of the Piedmont Airlines staff from the Roanoke Valley.” Piedmont later sold its operations to US Airways; the Winston-Salem based airline had a major hub in Roanoke and all of the attendants pictured in the 18-month calendar flew out of Roanoke.
A regional carrier using the Piedmont name now is not connected to the original Piedmont, according to Simmons, who was with Piedmont for 31 years. The idea for the calendar began with a conversation Simmons had with Dan McDilda, the photographer who took senior pictures of her daughter for high school graduation. They met again at a fashion show and decided that a photo shoot of “my buddies … would be a lot of fun. We’re still such a family. [Most] of us have known each other for more than 30 years.”
The calendar features pictures of 18 former and current Piedmont flight attendants, taken at various spots around the Roanoke Valley. “It’s very much a regional calendar,” said Simmons, who will sell them at 419 West this Sunday and hopes to offer them elsewhere, perhaps at venues like Roanoke Regional Airport.
Each picture also includes tidbits about Piedmont Airlines. “Everybody loved Piedmont,” recalled Simmons of her days working there, “it was so [like] family.” That changed somewhat after US Airways took over. “We used to hold airplanes for people [at Piedmont].”
Several of the attendants still fly for US Airways now, including Carolyn Ward, according to Simmons. Ward only flies routes to London now “because she loves the Queen and all that.” Ward started with Piedmont in 1965. The photo McDilda shot in Ward’s home features tea and crumpets – very British. “It was a blast [to do],” said Simmons of the project. Debuting the calendar on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 “was real important to us.”
Another flight attendant is photographed on Bent Mountain – with the chickens she raises there. All of the pictures feature captions – and incorporate some insider terms only people in the airline business could love. Those who purchase the calendar “will have fun trying to figure out where these spots [for the photo shoots] are,” said Simmons. People who collect Piedmont memorabilia – Simmons said there are many – should appreciate the calendar as well.
Ten percent of the $22 price for each calendar will go to the Pegasus Project, a fund for flight attendants who can no longer work and have no other means of income. “They have no means of income because of illness … or national disaster,” noted Simmons. A chaplain will lead those gathered at 5 p.m. on Sunday in a prayer for the victims of September 11 – including the flight crews on the three hijacked jet airliners.
Contact [email protected] for more information about the calendar’s availability. Checks for the calendar ($25 total; $22 plus $3 for shipping) can also be sent to Linda Simmons- Piedmont calendar, PO Box 21211, Roanoke, VA 24018.