THE KAERU KID: Coffee, tea or Ron?



My favorite mode of travel is flying, and one of the prime reasons is the great attention from most flight attendants.

Do any older readers remember Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA), one of the first discount airlines that operated from 1949-1988?

BACK IN THE DAY — Ron as a teenager photo courtesy of Don Coulson

My fond memories were during the airfare wars PSA cut prices to $10 between Los Angeles and San Francisco. But even more memorable was in the ‘60s PSA’s young attractive flight attendants wore miniskirts and then in the ‘70s changed to hot pants.

Flight attendants in those days were called stewardesses and two of them, Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones, (along with Donald Bain) wrote a memoir, “Coffee, Tea or Me? The Uninhibited Memoirs of Two Airline Stewardesses,” that confirmed every fantasy men had about these ladies.

There were few male attendants and many were stereotyped as being gay.

Too many passengers think of flight attendants as being waitresses because airlines decided to include serving of food and beverages to passengers as an added duty.

The FAA requires that a flight attendant work on planes that have 20 or more seats. They must go through rigorous training and re-training for certification. They are equipped to aid passengers in case of emergency evacuation, with firefighting, first aid, response to security threats, and insuring that all safety measures are followed, including seat belts being buckled, and electronic hardware being shut off during takeoffs and landings

Surprisingly, I recently learned that there is no age limit for pilots flying domestic. I learned this from 82-year-old Ron Akana, the oldest working flight attendant, whom I was fortunate to meet.

United Airlines hired Ron on Dec. 16, 1949 when he was still a student at the University of Hawai‘i.

WHO IS THAT WITH RON? — Ron has met his share of famous people. photo courtesy of United Airlines

William Patterson, who was born in Waipahu, Oahu, was president of United Airlines, and is credited with the concept of having flight attendants on each flight. He’s also credited as hiring the first male flight attendants. He also insisted on having one of the flight attendants (usually female) as a nurse. Being from Hawai‘i, he decided he wanted to hire eight men from Hawai‘i. He chose the number eight because of the eight islands. In September 1949 there were more than 400 applicants for these positions and Ron was in this initial hired group.

Among Ron’s most memorable flights is one in which cast members from the movie “From Here to Eternity” flew from Los Angeles to Honolulu. He was a big Burt Lancaster fan. Everyone, including Frank Sinatra, could not match Burt as he consumed martini after martini. The flight in those days took 10 hours, so there was time for lots of carousing.

Another flight he remembers fondly was a charter flight taking Bing Crosby and the cast of “Wide World of Golf” to inaugurate a golf course on Maui. Ron is a golf fanatic and he was able to play on the course, too.

Ron likes to travel on his time off and has enjoyed trips to Hong Kong, Sydney and Auckland. He now works a schedule once a week. He usually flies from Denver or San Francisco or Los Angeles to and from Hawai‘i on weekends.

He lives in Boulder, Colo. with his wife, Betsy, who was also a flight attendant for a short time. Their daughter is following in her parents’ footsteps by also working as a flight attendant for United.

A COUPLE OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS — Ron and Betsy Akana. photo by Kaeru Kid

Ron will likely retire this year, so look for him if you travel to Hawai‘i on United and be sure to say “aloha” for me. If he is not on-board, ask any flight attendant if they know him and then watch their face light up.


The Kaeru Kid lives in Las Vegas and hopes readers will send him comments at



Las Vegas Tidbits

Sen of Japan restaurant has been highly rated by many Las Vegas polls since its opening. Owner/chef Hiro Nakano was the head chef at Nobu at Hard Rock. I had not tried it mainly because it is located far on the Westside at (8480 W. Desert Inn Road, #F1 (702) 871-7781). I had their $55 omakase dinner that consisted of seven dishes. Omakase means the chef determines the menu and he bases his judgment on what are the best and freshest ingredients that night, so it can change from day to day. The desserts, chocolate soufflé and green tea ice cream, were all made in house. They will inquire if you have any food allergies or foods you do not like. The presentation was exquisite and the taste was memorable. There is also an $85 omakase dinner that has a few more expensive dishes, but I was more than satisfied with my experience. The price is also a great bargain if you compare a similar menu for a strip Japanese restaurant. Choose a special event and this will be an unforgettable night.  I will have to bring the Gochiso Gourmet here when he visits Las Vegas.

2 responses to “THE KAERU KID: Coffee, tea or Ron?”

  1. Kaeru Kid Avatar
    Kaeru Kid

    There is a typo in the article where it says pilots flying domestic have no age limit. Somehow my original article was modified and this error was inserted. What I had said was flight attendants have no age limit. Pilots used to have mandatory age of 60 but now has been extended to age 65. Someone said the oldest FA used to be Iris Peterson who retired at age 86 or 87 in 2007. She also worked for United.

  2. Barbara Avatar

    Too bad celebrities fly in private jets now. I rarely flew when I was young, but somehow I managed to get on the same plane as James Stewart from SFO to LAX, Glenn Ford from SFO to Tokyo, and Raymond Burr from SFO to HNL. The only famous person I flew with recently was Dianne Feinstein on United from Dulles to SFO. I guess as a public servant she can’t spend money on a private jet . . . but she did fly in first class.
    And I remember PSA. I think their midnight flight between SFO and LAX was only $12, no advance purchase required. Too bad Southwest doesn’t have cheap midnight flights.

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