Anita Bailey worked the Avis rental car counter when the radically redesigned Tampa International Airport opened 40 years ago this month.
She's still there today.
Much has changed since April 15, 1971, Bailey says, but "this is still the nicest airport. And the easiest to get around.''
Yet Day One was hardly an unqualified success.
Travelers ignored color-coded signs and rode escalators down to the wrong baggage claim.
For her part, Bailey found that friends she had made in the cozy old airport where now scattered around the spacious new one.
"I missed the closeness,'' says Bailey, now in her 46th year with Avis in Tampa.
Closeness fell victim to the unique design: a multilevel main terminal with parking on top and shuttles that swiftly carried passengers to planes at new airside terminals.
The idea: reduce a traveler's walking distance to no more than 600 feet.
Tampa International still collects kudos, most recently ranking third among medium-size U.S. airports last year in a customer satisfaction survey by J.D. Power.
Bailey, 66, and her family watched the airport evolve up close.
Her husband, George, was Tampa station manager for PanAm and an airport traffic supervisor. Daughter Shannon Seiffer works at TIA in human resources and is married to an airport police lieutenant.
In the mod '70s, Avis counter girls — they were all female — dressed in red hot pants, berets and white knee-high boots. Just like airline flight attendants.
Customers were almost exclusively businessmen. Avis offered five car choices: full-size, luxury, wagon, compact and convertible.
Shopping at the terminal was largely limited to Florida T-shirts and trinkets for tourists.
A smoke shop with a cigar roller out front sold local brands.
Taboos imposed by longtime executive director George Bean, gum sales and baggage carts, hung on until 1998. "He thought they'd hit a pillar with a cart and break the tile,'' says Bailey.
Back then, men traveled in suits, women, sometimes, in hats and gloves. Today, anything goes, Bailey says. Women wear shorts and bikini tops and guys traipse around in flip-flops.
Travel four decades ago "was not as stressed as now,'' Bailey observes and today, "the public is a little more demanding.''
Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel @sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.