Originally, Continental Airlines was actually a new leg of Varney Speed Lines. It started out using two airplanes to travel between Pueblo,Colorado and El Paso, Texas, its headquarters. It’s main business was carrying U.S. mail, but it also offered to transport the occasional brave traveler between those destinations in one of its eight passenger seat planes. In 1936, the route became its own entity and changed its name to Continental Airlines to reflect its expanding travel up and down the center of the United States.
The five original employees consisted of two pilots (one pilot also acted as president), two mechanics, and MY grandmother, the “Girl Friday” for the operations, handling secretarial and clerk duties. At the time, my grandmother was married and the mother of a two year old son (my dad) when she began working for this fledgling operation. It just wasn’t common to have women (let alone a married, young mother) in the business world. I guess you could say my grandmother was a true-blue feminist of her time.
When Varney Speed Lines was changed to Continental Airlines in 1938, the new owners moved the headquarters from El Paso to Denver, Colorado and so my grandmother and her family followed. Employment opportunities and other circumstances did not pan out for her husband in Denver, so they ended up divorcing and he went back to Texas. Instead of retreating back to family and familiar surroundings, my grandmother stayed on as a single, working mother in Denver, continuing her pioneering as a front-line participant in the development of modern air travel. It couldn’t have been easy being a woman in a new field composed primarily of men. It couldn’t have been easy raising her son on her own in an unfamiliar city. But she did it and she was successful. She stayed with Continental until 1944. At the time of her departure, she was the controller/executive secretary to the president.
Idalene remarried, moved to California and eventually settled in Glendale, California with my grandfather. She had a distinguished career as the executive assistant to the executive director of the American Red Cross chapter in Glendale. She was widowed in 1989 and passed away just shy of her 91st birthday in 2002.
My grandmother was a special lady with a unique background. I am happy to pay tribute to her on Grandparents Day.