Fonds HOU - Billie Houseman fonds

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Billie Houseman fonds

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Fonds

Reference code

CA ON00420 HOU

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  • 1941-2013 (Creation)
    Creator
    Houseman, Lillian, 1920-2012

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Physical description

35 cm of photographs and other material

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Name of creator

(1920-11-15 - 2012-04-30)

Biographical history

Bille Houseman was born Lillian Irene Christine Houseman in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, on November 15, 1920. Her parents, Erick and Elizabeth Houseman, were farmers and she grew up in Central Butte, Saskatchewan.

In 1939, she moved to Toronto to pursue nursing training at the Toronto General Hospital School of Nursing. She finished her training in 1942. Houseman continued to work at the Hospital, and was a member of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, for approximately a year. On April 22, 1944, she was hired by Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA) and moved to Winnipeg to begin her training to be a TCA stewardess. The training was four weeks long, with a half day on Saturdays, and the trainees learned about: the TCA organization; TCA flight schedules; the heating and oxygen systems of the aircraft; meteorology and radio range; deportment and ethics; handling meals and equipment; as well as ticketing and use of the manifest.

When Houseman began her career she flew on TCA Lockheed Lodestar 1408s and 1808s. Her first flight was on June 3, 1944, from Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal. The Douglas DC-3 was introduced shortly thereafter in 1945. She was first stationed in Toronto and moved frequently in the early years of her career between Toronto, Winnipeg and Montreal. She was made Stewardess-in-Charge of the Toronto base in 1946, but moved later that year to Winnipeg to become Stewardess-in-Charge of TCA’s central region. TCA’s passenger services were organized into four geographical divisions at this time. In 1953, she was made Chief Stewardess, based at headquarters in Montreal. In this position, she was responsible for the supervision of TCA flight attendants and their training. TCA became Air Canada in 1965 and eventually the title of Chief Stewardess disappeared with the restructuring in the late 1960s. After this period, Houseman was made General Supervisor of Flight Service Training. As of 1974, she was in charge of Special Projects at In-Flight headquarters in Montreal. She was transferred to Vancouver on August 1, 1976, and worked as Flight Attendant Supervisor, later Operation Support Supervisor, before becoming Communications Centre Supervisor. She retired February 1, 1983.

Houseman married Albert Wakarchuk in 1971, and after her retirement she and her husband worked together and separately as volunteers. Billie was a volunteer at the Kinsmen Recreation Centre (now KinVillage Community Centre), the Kinsmen Care Home, the Canadian Red Cross Society, and St. David’s Anglican Church in Delta, British Columbia. She and her husband volunteered as York’s Green Coats, goodwill ambassadors at the Vancouver International Airport, assisting visitors. Billie died on April 30, 2012. Three of her nieces also became flight attendants and many of her former trainees paid tribute to her as an inspiration upon her retirement and after her death.

Custodial history

Donated in 2013.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of textual, graphic and audio-visual material documenting Billie Houseman’s 39 year career with Air Canada from 1944 to 1983. Records include: three albums of photographs, clippings, and textual records; a memoir in two volumes; several files or envelopes of correspondence and photographs, as well as loose photographs that were used in the memoir; an interview on DVDs; and, copies of Trans-Canada Air Lines or Air Canada films. There is also some material showing Billie’s participation as a retiree, such as, for example, a speech to the Canada Maple Wings Association. Fonds has 11 files and four items arranged in no particular order.

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A. Torrance, 2018-03-07.

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