Culture Street

Betty Riegel spent her early childhood hiding in air-raid shelters as bombs dropped all around her in England. She came from humble working-class roots, but had always dreamed of bigger things.

After responding to an advert she secured herself an interview with Pan Am training program, and at just 22 was selected from thousands of eager British women to begin a career that would change the course of her life. Betty said goodbye to everything she knew and boarded a plane to New York.

Complete with photos and media clippings that will take you back to the era of Mad Men, Betty Riegel's memoir, Up in the Air, captures the gruelling yet fabulous life aboard the world's most iconic airline. It is published by Simon and Schuster and available at all good bookshops.

We are delighted that Betty is able to join us today to share with you her five most influential book.

By Betty Riegel

As a child, growing up in the 1940's in the U.K., I loved RUPERT BEAR and his pal Bill.  Each Christmas I eagerly anticipated the new album and would curl up to read of their latest adventures.  It was all so comfortable, innocent and safe and I'm sure, in retrospect, I was able to forget about the horrors of war around me.  For many years I had quite a collection of these albums and wonder if they're still in print or being released?

During my teenage years, it was anything by Enid Blyton.  In particular, I was addicted to the Famous Five's stories and could not wait to dig into each of their latest adventures as soon as it was published.  As with any book worth reading, I was experiencing another world.  Even then I was eager for exploration and knowing what was beyond my own front garden.  Years later I remember reading a sad report that Enid Blyton was quoted as saying she never really liked children.   This doesn't diminish my happy memories of hours spent reading her books.

During our Pan Am training we were required to read Dale Carnegie's "HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE" (1936).  This is a self-help book, par excellence, with so many great ideas on personal growth of 'EQ' (emotional quotient), which I believe would be a wonderful addition to anyone's book collection.  For example, there are chapters on Fundamental Techniques in Handling People - a must have for dealing with people generally, but, from our training point of view, an invaluable source for helping our passengers have the best experience with Pan American and many of the author's  principles were incorporated into our training.  Another chapter is entitled, Twelve Ways to Win People to your Way of Thinking, and yet another on using a person's name,  which asserted that it was the 'sweetest sound in the world'.  The ideas from this book I have carried through life and I am so glad to have been exposed to it.

At the age of 29, our eldest son was diagnosed with "Non-Verbal Learning Disorder", a high functioning disability on the autism spectrum.  For many years we had gone to specialists for help in diagnosing  his problems.  It was SUE THOMPSON, a Californian, who wrote "DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU AGAIN?", which described the disability definitively and has been so much help for us in knowing our son, what his strengths are, and how we can help him live a life with purpose.  This woman was not a physician but a researcher and her book continues to make a difference to the lives of young people afflicted by NLVD.

Now at University, so many genre of books are grabbing my attention and enthusiasm.  One of my areas of study has been environmental geography and an Englishman, David Owens, has written an intensely thought provoking book entitled "THE CONUNDRUM" , which describes the situation in which we - the world - finds ourselves.  His ideas include a return to urban living, as opposed to the present desirable detached home surround by with land.   He condemns the efforts to make cars more gas efficient as going in the wrong direction!  His suggestions include our travelling less - also to diminish the carbon footprint.  Many such views on our world's survival have shattered my 'green' thinking and turned my views upside down  while decidedly providing the subject matter for many heated table conversations.

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