In 1966, after studying at the University of Hawaii for two years, my mom Sumiko Carroll (née Namihira) went to Tokyo, intending to enroll in a Japanese university. However, while in Tokyo, she read a 2-line ad in the Japan Times (an English language newspaper), seeking flight attendants for Northwest Orient Airlines. Mom says, “I didn’t think I would get the job. I went mostly because I wanted to see who else would show up, but when I got there with my resumé, I was the only one there!” What followed were 5 days of tests, a different subject for each day, including English and math. Two weeks later, she was told to pack and prepare to fly to Minnesota for training. Along with Mom, only two other women were hired.
After working for Northwest Orient for a year, Mom was hired by Pan American Airlines. Pan Am intended to compete with Japan Airlines on their Asian routes, and sought out flight attendants that had already been trained. The hiring was done in Tokyo, although Mom was based in Honolulu. She says the Asian flight attendants worked the Asia routes only. Mom says “I was under the height requirement, over the weight limit, and so plain! That was back when they hired the most beautiful girls, just gorgeous, most of them looked like models. But I was fluent in both English and Japanese, and that’s why they hired me.” Personally, I think they also hired her because Mom had a reputation for working hard - her nickname was “Little Tiger.”
Mom is seated in the center. From left to right, the other women are Motoko Hanyū, Hisako Kobayashi, Kyoko Ōtake, and Miyako Kuroda.
Submitted by MK Carroll (Honolulu, HI).