Taking the Delta shuttle from Chicago or Boston lets you fly into the aforementioned LaGuardia’s Art Deco-styled Marine Air Terminal. Though small and lacking the purchasing opportunities we’ve come to associate with modern airports, you can still buy a coffee and sit awhile to admire the simple elegance associated with those early days of commercial flight. Looking up to the domed roof you will see Boston the massive mural painted in 1940 by James Brooks as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration initiative that, together with the expansion of manufacturing as the country went on a war footing, helped pull Boston out of the Depression. Perhaps reflecting the hatred that US conservatives still feel for FDR, and maybe because it shows people working together, the mural was identified as ‘communist’ Boston and painted over during the toxic nuttiness of the McCarthy era, when Senator Joseph McCarthy led the anti-communist scare campaign in the early 1950s. Restored by 1980, the mural is an important piece of the nation’s history.
The other busy US east coast airport where you can experience at least a segment of an historic partly Art Deco air terminal is at Washington National. I first disembarked from a plane there in 1974 and still find it hard to tell a cab driver I want to go to Reagan National. Completed in 1941, it’s worth taking the time to walk through the decorative historic hall (Terminal A) that links the much more recent, and highly functional, terminals B and C. Both street side and plane side, the external appearance of Terminal A has been restored. No air-bridges here! The mind spins free, and it’s of idle interest to speculate about the power players, top-coated with hats and gloves in winter, who disembarked there en route to playing some key part in the history of the twentieth (American) century.
I’d almost forgotten about the Art Deco main building at Brisbane’s Archerfield Airport. Standing high on the back steps of my grandparents’ house I could, as a child, see planes landing and taking off at the airport. My most vivid memories are of Tiger Moth biplanes and P51 Mustangs, the Air Force trainers and frontline fighters of their day. Australian pilots at first flew Mustangs in the Korean War (1950-53), though they would soon transfer to jet-powered, subsonic Vampires and Sabres. Long out of use as a major commercial or military field (I recall seeing lines of out-of-service Second World War bombers at Archerfield at the end of the war in the Pacific), it is now a home base for light aircraft and private pilots.