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Rindge

Taking flight with Beatlemania

The day she met the Beatles: Rindge woman recounts historic trip as flight attendant 50 years ago

  • Gillian L'Eplattenier, a proud grandmother, was once a stewardess, flying her for her second time, when the Beatles first came to American in 1964.
  • Gillian L'Eplattenier, a proud grandmother, was once a stewardess, flying her for her second time, when the Beatles first came to American in 1964.
  • Gillian L'Eplattenier, a proud grandmother, was once a stewardess, flying her for her second time, when the Beatles first came to American in 1964.

It was supposed to be just another day at her new job for Pan Am stewardess Gillian L’Eplattenier. Little did she know that that day, half a century ago, would be a day she remembered for the rest of her life. A resident of Rindge, where she lives with her husband, Alfred, in a white farmhouse that rests atop a New England hilltop, L’Eplattenier has two children and two grandchildren. And though she is a grandmother now, she was once a young woman who yearned to travel the world. Her travels on that one particular day brought her face-to-face with history — rock and roll history, that is.

This is the story of a specific day in history in L’Eplattenier’s season of youth. It was an electric day by many accounts, when music was changed forever, the day the Beatles first landed in America.

L’Eplattenier had recently left her teaching job at a coed boarding school, in Lenox, Mass., after a family friend suggested she work as a stewardess and travel. L’Eplattenier applied for a position at Pan Am, knowing it would give her the opportunity to visit Europe.

On Feb. 7, 1964, the day the Beatles burst into the American mainstream, L’Eplattenier was in London, working her second flight as a stewardess.

She recalls the trip back to the airport from the Athenaeum Court Hotel in London, where she and the other members of the flight service crew were staying. Fifteen minutes into the drive, the first officer turned to face the crew wearing a Beatles mask and said, “Guess who we have on board today?” While the other women in the flight crew became excited about the news, L’Eplattenier could only ask “Who are the Beatles?”

“I had come from being a boarding school teacher, totally sequestered in an education environment,” said L’Eplattenier in an interview Tuesday at her home. “I didn’t even know who the Beatles were at the time. I have since become a fan.”

L’Eplattenier described her interactions with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, on the flight from London to New York. Because the flight crew was busy serving the first-class meal, L’Eplattenier said she was only able to have some brief exchanges with the band. In those days, in-flight meals on Pan Am flights were seven-courses, and it took the entire eight-hour flight to serve everyone in first class, L’Eplattenier noted.

“Most of my interaction with [the Beatles] was saying, ‘Hey guys, could you sit down so we can get the carts down the aisle?’” recalled L’Eplattenier. “It was my second trip and I was concentrating on doing a good job. They were young 20-year-olds and very excited about their first trip across the Atlantic to be on the Ed Sullivan Show.” Twenty minutes into the flight, they were in the aisles taking pictures of everyone, said L’Eplattenier, and talking to their friends, wives, girlfriends, their manager, Brian Epstein, and the journalists who were there also. Although the Beatles were acting like excited tourists, they were also “very mannerly and polite and pleasant to serve,” L’Eplattenier said.

L’Eplattenier described her viewpoint at the top of the plane’s exiting stairs, as the Beatles landed and were met by thousands of adoring fans on the tarmac and surrounding area.

“We arrived at the internationals building and there were people all over the roof,” said L’Eplattenier. “People were on the tarmac and there were fans all over the place, it was a very exciting arrival.”

“I thought maybe I should get to know their music.”

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