Stewart Grant is the oldest living employee of Air Canada. The Cranbrook resident just celebrated his 100th birthday on Sept. 12 and currently resides at the F.W. Green Home.
Grant was a part of the company before it was called Air Canada. Back then it was called Trans Canada Airlines.
Grant said things were quite different back then. That was a time when the Canadian government decided it wanted to compete against other nations with a national airline. Grant worked for one of the smaller companies that would eventually be brought together to form the company.
“I’d been interested for years before that,” he said, recalling seeing an ad for Trans Canada Airlines when he was 16 years old. “The Canadian government was going to start a new airline because all the other nations were doing the same thing.
“It was to be a Trans Canada flight — from one coast to the other. But it turned out to be several sectional airlines covering certain areas.”
Grant worked with Air Canada from 1937 to 1976.
He started in Winnipeg, where the head office of Trans Canada Airlines was at the time. Then there was another office in Montreal for the Trans Atlantic service.
He later transferred to the Montreal location.
“I was one of the early employees, but not the first by any means,” he said, adding modestly that he was only one of many employees working at that time.
His job was with the engineering department.
Grant once built a dance floor on one of the airplanes, a Victor Viscount. The planes were in service from 1955-1974.
Then when the Queen came to Canada, Grant was responsible for the interior furnishings of the aircraft.
“The passenger service group specified what they wanted, and it was up to the engineering department to incorporate it,” he said. “I was in charge of that section of Air Canada engineering. We had to divide the aircraft up into three cabins for this trip.”
One of those three rooms was the Queen’s dressing room.
“I remember the significant thing about that was that I had to try to find a full length mirror so that she could stand back and look at herself from top to toe,” he said.
For 20 years, he also flew his own airplane — a Cessna 172.
When his first wife died in Montreal, he used the plane to fly back and forth to his hometown in the Stratford area to visit family.
Then he met his current wife, Cathy, and would fly back and forth to Iroquois to meet her. They flew off in the plane on their honeymoon as well.
When the Second World War began, Grant tried to join both the airforce and the army, but was not admitted.
“They wouldn’t take me because I was wearing glasses at the time,” he said. “They figured an enemy would have a bullet through me before I ever saw it coming.”
He said the big change he’s seen in the airline industry is in organization.
“It became much more organized,” he said. “Originally, it was just a couple of pilots that got together and formed their own airline.”
He moved to Cranbrook in 2002 from Montreal with his wife Catherine Grant, to be near his daughter Ann Miller.