Betty Riley Stockard oral history interview



Betty Riley Stockard oral history interview


Born-digital video recording of an oral history with Betty Riley Stockard and interviewer Dan Hagedorn, recorded as part of The Museum of Flight Oral History Program, March 19, 2014.


Retired stewardess Betty R. Stockard is interviewed about her career with United Airlines. She discusses her experiences in the airline industry during the 1940s, such as the interview and training process, memorable encounters with passengers, and her flights along the West Coast and to Hawaii. She also recounts a story in which she served as a wartime courier for an important package. Other topics discussed include her childhood and college years in Montana; her thoughts on the Douglas DC-3, DC-4, and DC-6 aircraft; and her life after retiring from United Airlines.

Table Of Contents

Introduction and personal background -- College years -- Move to Seattle and becoming a United Airlines stewardess -- Stewardess career -- Memorable passengers and flights -- Courtship, marriage, and service to Hawaii -- Courier mission -- Flight with former prisoners of war -- In-flight emergency involving a Boeing B-17 aircraft -- Flying a Douglas DC-3 aircraft -- Retirement and family life -- Advice for future generations




1 recording (1 hr., 31 min., 26 sec.) : digital



Bibliographic Citation

The Museum of Flight Oral History Collection/The Museum of Flight




Biographical Text

Betty Stockard was among the first specially trained flight attendants and attended a number of celebrities during her time as a flight attendant for United Airlines. She also worked for the Boeing Company.

Elizabeth “Betty” Jean Riley Stockard was born on May 16, 1919, in Kalispell, Montana to Valjean Riley and Charlotte Dryer. She graduated high school from Flathead County High School, which is on an Indian Reservation. Her family made their living as farmers, selling dairy products such as butter and milk. Growing up on a dairy farm, Stockard says her favorite food was ice cream due to it being in abundance on the farm.

After graduating from high school, Stockard knew she wanted to attend college, so she saved up money working at a women’s dress shop and stayed with a family friend while attending the University of Montana in Missoula. There were only two major options for women at that time at this university: home economics and business. Stockard decided on home economics but took a break before her senior year due to the United States’ involvement in World War II.

In 1942 Stockard began working for the Boeing Company at Boeing Field in Washington before seeing a United Airlines job posting regarding “stewardess” (flight attendant) positions. Following this, Stockard began the lengthy interview and training process before becoming a flight attendant. She was among the first women to be specially trained to become flight attendants, as all previous flight attendants had been nurses. During this process, Stockard took her first airplane flight from Seattle, Washington to San Francisco, California.

During her time as a flight attendant, Stockard had interactions with a number of celebrities and famous figures, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Stockard also met her husband, Wallace Raymond Stockard, on a flight she was attending. Stockard also had lengthy experience flying in the Douglas DC-4 airplane that came into use during World War II.

After being a flight attendant, Stockard married Wallace Stockard and had four children, three boys and one girl. By 1950, their family was living in San Mateo, California but later returned to the Seattle area. Wallace died in 1990 in Seattle; Betty was still living in the area as of 2014.

Biographical information derived from interview and additional information provided by interviewee.