Flying high and living large with Pan Am

The TV series 'Pan Am' has fueled a trip down memory lane for the real deal.

For retired Pan Am stewardesses Claire Graham, Mary Lou Karch and Debbie Gibson, Pan Am made the going fantastic.

"Well it was the most glamorous thing to do after school--that was it,” says Karch.

Becoming a Pan Am stewardess was competitive. In the glory days of the '60s and '70s, you had to have a college degree, speak a foreign language - and look good. Some of the requests wouldn’t fly nowadays.

“They said, 'take off your jacket, and walk across the room,’” says Gibson. “They wanted to see your figure and your legs.”

They were weighed every six months and suspended if they were too heavy. And everyone really did have to wear a girdle.

It was hard work, too. Everyone on every flight got hot meals that were cooked on board in ovens.

First class had caviar and Dom Perignon champagne. The food was catered by Maxim’s of Paris.

But they got to see the world and hob nob with famous people.

It was long before terrorism and the cockpit was an open and welcome place back then.

And yes. Stewardesses sometimes dated passengers. Karch met her future husband on a flight to Bangkok. Gibson wound up marrying a pilot.

She still has the white gloves, the pillbox hat and even the girdle that serve as a reminder of another, more formal era of meticulous uniforms precise stances and precious friendships that endure even today, 20 years after the final Pan Am flight touched down.