A Mother Who Flew High in the 1940s

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Keys Hayes came to StoryCorps in Jackson, Miss., with his mother, Dorothy Hayes.

Keys Hayes came to StoryCorps in Jackson, Miss., with his mother, Dorothy Hayes. StoryCorps hide caption

itoggle caption StoryCorps

When she was just a 20-something casting about for what to do in her adult life, Dorothy Hayes — or Dot, as she's long been called — got a question that makes many young people groan.

"What would you really like to do, Dot?"

Those early days came up in a recent conversation between Dorothy Hayes and Keys, one of her four sons.

And Keys had a question of his own: "How does a young girl get a job with Delta Airlines in 1945?"

For the record, it doesn't hurt to have an uncle who knew some of the people who helped Delta get off the ground, from its earliest days in Monroe, La., to its move to Atlanta. It was he who urged Dorothy to write for an application to work at Delta.

She did, and in return she got an interview request, and then a job.

On her first flight, a trip from Atlanta to Charleston, S.C., in May of 1945, one of Dorothy's new co-workers told her to go into the cockpit to watch the early-morning takeoff.

"It was the most beautiful thing in the world," she says, "I knew then I had the right job. I loved it."

That moment has stuck with her, long past the days when flight crews were expected to have short hair and stockings with straight seams.

"Every time a plane goes over," she says, "I think, oh, I wish I was on it, going somewhere."

Dorothy got married in 1946, and became a housewife — something she hadn't really pictured herself doing.

"I wouldn't take a million dollars for any of you" — referring to Keys and his three brothers.

"I wouldn't give a nickel for another one," either she says.

"But, all four of you, I sure am proud of you."

Produced for 'Morning Edition' by Michael Garofalo. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Sarah Kramer.

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