Delta Air Lines has expressed its sadness of learning the news that one of its very first flight attendants has died at the grand old age of 103. When the then 24-year old Sybil Peacock Harmon was hired by Delta Air Lines in 1940 she joined the airline’s very first class of stewardesses (it’s what they were known as back then) and served the carrier for three years before leaving to join the war effort.
Sybil was fresh out of nursing school when she joined Delta because stewardesses had to be registered nuses at the time. She primarily worked on the Douglas DC-3 which had capacity for just 21-passengers. Because the propeller-driven aircraft wasn’t pressurized, she would hand out chewing gum to her passengers and served in-flight meals consisting of boxed meals of fried chicken, potato salad and a Coke.
“When I was 9, I told everyone, ‘I’m going to go all over the world.’ And I did,” Sybil recalled last year when Delta threw a surprise 102nd Birthday Party at her retirement home in Acworth, GA.
“You felt like a celebrity,” she recalled of her experiences at Delta. “People would come out to the airport with their children and they would say, ‘Look, that’s the stewardess!’ They even asked for our autographs.”
Sybil even appeared in a marketing photo for the airline, clutching two tins of Coca-Cola at the door of a Delta aircraft.
When Sybil joined Delta, World War II was already in its second year and she was often flying back young American military pilots from North Africa. “We called them ‘War Babies’ because they were so young,” she said of them.
“Most of the War Babies slept on flights because they had just come in from North Africa and were exhausted. When they couldn’t sleep, we’d play poker with them in the back of the plane.”
In 1943, however, Sybil decided to leave Delta so she could help the war effort and was eventually promoted to First Lieutenant. She married U.S. Army Capt. Wallace Harmon, who was an ex-Delta reservation agent. Keeping aviation in the family, Sybil’s daughter, Peggy served as a Delta flight between for 35-years between 1973 and 2008.
“We’re saddened to learn of Sybil Peacock Harmon’s passing,” Delta said in a statement yesterday.
“Sybil was a beloved member of the Delta family who left her mark as a member of our first class of flight attendants. We will cherish her memory and wish her loved ones well in this difficult time.”