Vintage Travel: Eating at the Airport in 1941

By Danielle Contray
October 26, 2012
Courtesy <a href="" target="_blank">Boston Public Library/flickr</a>

Many flyers lament the bygone glamour of air travel, when people wore their Sunday best and midflight meals were served on silver trays. Thanks to a menu posted from the New York Public Library's archive, we can now also wax nostalgic about what it was like to dine at the airport back in 1941.

The La Guardia Coffee Shop was operated by the Hotel New Yorker, an Art Deco hotel in midtown that still stands. There were likely few other options at the airport at the time, since it was just an airfield in the 1940s, not the behemoth hub it is today.

The menu is a treasure trove of outdated dishes (who ordered the diced tongue omelette?). But what really caught my eye were the Budget Luncheon specials, including a veal shoulder meal with vegetables, potatoes, fruit, and jello topped with whipped cream (it also came with coffee and bread and butter). This could be yours for all of 45 cents. According to the inflation calculator offered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 45 cents in today's money has the same buying power as $7.08. You'd be lucky to get a soggy sandwich at the airport for $7 these days, let alone a full hot meal.

The other great tidbit was the classic cocktails. You can almost see the bartender shaking up Airway Cocktails (apple jack, gin, and lemon juice) for weary travelers stuck on a long layover or nervous about their first flight. Those cocktails didn't come cheap, though. They cost a relatively pricy 25 cents.

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