No place for a lady?! Balderdash!: Trans-Canada Air Lines’ first interior accommodation engineers, Diana Jocelyn Dudley and Janet Elizabeth Lowe

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio host Claire Wallace interviewing Trans-Canada Air Lines interior accommodation engineer Diana Jocelyn Dudley, January 1946. Anon. “Radio Broadcast over Niagara.” Canadian Transportation, April 1946, 200.

Greetings, my slightly masochistic reading friend, and welcome to the wonderful world of aeronautics and astronautics.

This week’s episode of our amazing blog / bulletin / thingee will touch upon an aspect of the air transportation which, like the great American stand-up comic Rodney Dangerfield, to use the stage name of Jack Roy, born Jacob Rodney Cohen, a gentleman mentioned in May and December 2020 issues of that same online publication, may not get the respect it deserves.

Let us begin at the beginning, with the caption of the photograph above, culled from the pages of the April 1946 issue of the monthly magazine Canadian Transportation.

Claire Wallace, whose women’s radio programme is heard from coast to coast, chose a novel means to reach her listeners when she broadcasted from a Trans-Canada Air Lines’ plane in flight over Niagara Falls. She is seen (right, centre) interviewing Diana [Jocelyn] Dudley, TCA’s interior accommodation engineer, and getting a first-hand picture of the interior decoration scheme of TCA’s new 21-passenger airlines [sic] which are used on inter-city services. Miss Dudley is the only woman to hold such a position with an airline. On the extreme right is [William] Elwood Glover, Miss. Wallace’s announcer, and on the left is Clifford Stewart, producer of the programme.

You may remember, my reading friend, I hope, that a September 2020 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee dealt with the Douglas DC-3 airliner on display at the fantastic, yes, yes, fantastic, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, in Ottawa, Ontario. Back then, yours truly pointed out that Edward Vernon “Eddie” Rickenbacker, the president of an important American air carrier, Eastern Air Lines Incorporated, and a famous fighter pilot with the United States Army Signal Corps / United States Army Air Service during the First World War, was in Cartierville, Québec, at the Canadair Limited factory, in September 1945, when that DC-3 was presented to the president of the Canadian government-owned national carrier, Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA), Herbert James Symington, a gentleman mentioned in April 2019 and September 2020 issues of our you know what.

Please, let me catch my breath. That was a long sentence. While I do that, you may wish to note that Canadair was mentioned many times in our blog / bulletin / thingee since November 2017, but back to Rickenbacker.

The reason I bring up this gentleman has to do with the fact that he was in Cartierville to be presented with a DC-3 of his own, which was to be operated by, you guessed it, Eastern Air Lines.

Yours truly hopes that you duly noted another fact, namely that Diana Jocelyn “Di” Dudley, TCA’s interior accommodation engineer, was / is the first women in Canada, North American and, from the looks of it, the world, to hold the position of interior accommodation engineer with an airline.

Born in 1921 or 1922, Dudley graduated from the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, well, Manitoba, in 1942, with a degree in engineering and interior design. She was soon hired by TCA, as an aircraft engineering draughtsperson. One of her first assignments was to design the interior of a number of aircraft in the airline’s fleet.

Yours truly wonders if the aircraft in question were the Avro Lancaster airliners operated by the Canadian Government Trans-Atlantic Air Service (CGTAS), an airline created by TCA to transport important mail and people between Canada and the United Kingdom during the Second World War – a Canadian first. As you may remember, my reading friend, the CGTAS and these Lancasters were mentioned in May 2019 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee, but back to our story.

At some point in 1945, Dudley became TCA’s interior accommodation engineer, and the airline’s first female department head. One of her first assignments was to supervise the conversion of a number of Douglas C-47 Skytrain / C-53 Skytrooper / Dakota military transport aircraft into DC-3 airliners that TCA would operate. And yes, Dudley designed the interior of these aircraft.

Dudley married Captain George William Hester, a pilot with the Air Transport Command of the United States Army Air Forces, in February 1946. She and her spouse seemingly moved to the United States at some point thereafter. Indeed, Dudley left TCA around July.

Yours truly was unable to find a lot of information about her life in the United States. This being said (typed?), Dudley was a self-employed antique dealer between 1975 and 1985, when she retired. She left this world in April 1995, at the age of 73.

Janet Elizabeth Lowe. Anon., “Winnipeg Girl Decorates Canada’s Latest Plane.” The Winnipeg Tribune, 23 July 1946, 11.

Janet Elizabeth Lowe. Anon., “Winnipeg Girl Decorates Canada’s Latest Plane.” The Winnipeg Tribune, 23 July 1946, 11.

TCA’s second interior accommodation engineer was another young woman and, would you believe it, a University of Manitoba graduate with a degree in interior design dating from 1942. She and the aforementioned Dudley knew each other.

Born in July 1918, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Janet Elizabeth Lowe grew up around / in Winnipeg.

One of Lowe’s first assignments was to design the interior of TCA’s brand new airliner, the Canadair North Star, a derivative of the world famous Douglas DC-4 / DC-6 airliners. Lowe travelled to many locations in Canada and the United States to order the best fabrics and materials to give a Canadian look and feel to the North Star.

And yes, the jaw droppingly amazing collection of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum includes a military transport version of the North Star.

Another project Lowe worked on was a handbook used by TCA pilots. More specifically, she modified the maps in said handbook. Finding them rather bland and, well, boring, she drew small trees and, gasp!, hid a small rabbit, on all the maps. TCA’s pilots were said to have applauded the idea.

Lowe married Charles Alexander “Charlie” Proudfoot, another TCA staff member and former football player from Manitoba, in October 1947. The couple moved to Québec when TCA moved its headquarters from Winnipeg to Dorval, Québec, near Montréal. The couple lived in Saint-Laurent, Québec, for some time, then moved to Pointe-Claire, Québec.

Sadly enough, yours truly does not known when Lowe retired. This being said (typed?), she painted over a period of decades, using various mediums.

Lowe passed away in May 2020. She was 101 years old.

Are you ready to end this edition of our you know what, my reading friend? Well, I am not.

It should be noted that Claire Wallace, you do remember her, don’t you, was a well-known radio host at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Born in February 1900 in Orangeville, Ontario, she had to find employment after divorcing her spouse, in 1929. After some years spent rewriting already published articles that she sold to rural newspapers, Wallace’s original stories attracted the attention of a major daily newspaper, The Toronto Daily Star of Toronto, Ontario. Indeed, she soon became a full time columnist.

After doing some work with a Toronto radio station, in 1935, while still working for The Toronto Daily Star, Wallace jointed the staff of Canada’s state owned radio broadcaster, the CBC. She became one of Canada’s first female radio stars as a result of the decade (1942-52) spent hosting a show. Indeed, They Tell Me was for a time the second most popular radio show in the country. This champion of women’s rights and defender of worthy causes was the most loved, the most glamorous and the most popular female radio personality in the country.

Over the years, Wallace interviewed a bewildering variety of people besides Dudley,

- Canadian American businesswoman Elizabeth Arden, born Florence Nightingale Graham,

- British former General of the Salvation Army Evangeline Cory “Eva” Booth,

- American lecturer and writer Dale Breckenridge Carnegie, born Dale Breckenridge Carnegey,

- American General of the Army Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower,

- Armenian Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh,

- American activist Anna Eleanor Roosevelt,

- American actress and burlesque dancer Sally Rand, born Helen Gould Beck, and

- American actor and singer Francis Albert “Frank” Sinatra.

She even interviewed Champion, one of the celebrity horses by that name owned by the American actor / singer / songwriter Orvon Grover “Gene” Autry.

At the risk of sounding pedantic, I would like to inform you that a few of the people in the list above were mentioned in various issues of our yadda yadda:

- Carnegy, in a January 2020 issue,

- Eisenhower, in several issues since March 2018, and

- Sinatra, in a May 2019 issue.

Wallace did not remain cooped up is a studio all year long, though. Nay. Always on the lookout for great stories, she was not afraid to get her toes wet. No later than 1946, she put on a diving suit and walked on the bottom of the Caribbean Sea, near Jamaica. The previous year, she had climbed all the way to the rim of the crater of a volcano located near Ciudad de México, Mexico, quite possibly Mount Popocatépetl. At some point in the 1940s, Wallace visited the Hollinger gold mine, near Timmins, Ontario, and chatted with a group a miners more than 900 metres (about 3 000 feet) under the surface of our Earth.

Incidentally, Wallace was the first female radio personality to earn a pilot’s licence. She seemingly did so in 1946. This was not her first foray in the wonderful world of flight, however. Nay. Again.

In 1939, she became the first person residing in Canada to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air, as a passenger and journalist that is, aboard a flying boat operated by Pan American World Airways Incorporated. That same year, she became the first Canadian woman to fly across Canada, aboard an airplane operated by TCA. You already know about the 1946 flight over Niagara Falls, of course, but did you know that, in 1948, Wallace was a passenger and journalist aboard the TCA airliner which made the first flight between Canada and Bermuda? Said airliner was a North Star, of course.

Wallace left the CBC in 1952 to work for the Toronto radio station where she had worked in the 1930s.

Would you believe that Wallace set up Claire Wallace Travel Bureau Limited in Toronto, around 1955, and personally chaperoned the first groups of Canadian tourists to venture behind the iron and bamboo curtains, deep in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and in China?

Wallace retired in 1965. She died in September 1968, at the age of 68.

It should also be noted that William Elwood Glover, you do remember him, don’t you, became a well-known radio and television host at the CBC. He was / is probably best known for his work on Elwood Glover’s Luncheon Date, a daily television (and radio?) talk show broadcasted between 1963 and 1975. During these years, Glover conducted approximately 11 500 low stress interviews, because he liked it that way, including some with luminaries like

- American actor / composer / singer / writer Patrick Charles Eugene “Pat” Boone,

- American singer Ella Jane Fitzgerald,

- American actor Henry Jaynes Fonda,

- Canadian actor and radio announcer Lorne Greene (born Lorne Himan Green),

- American actor Rock Hudson (born Rock Harold Scherer, Junior),

- American activist / actor / dancer / singer / songwriter / writer Eartha Kitt (born Eartha May Keith),

- Canadian actor Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer, and

- American actor / composer / musician / singer / writer Melvin Howard “Mel” Tormé.

And yes, Greene was mentioned in 2 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee, in September 2018 and February 2019, while Plummer was mentioned in a June 2019 issue.

Having fed your eager mind with tasty viands, I bid you farewell, until next time.

Profile picture for user rfortier
Rénald Fortier