Family members and friends I’ve travelled with were pleased to recently learn that “Big Momma” went to luggage heaven. The well-travelled and oversized piece of luggage was near and dear to my heart but it was the bane of travel for many. It was huge and it was heavy. It could fit so much and was with me for so many years. Big Momma went with me to Europe and on so many family vacations, she went along with me on all of my annual OU girls’ trips, and she was there when I moved Kristen into her college dorm. Years of wear and tear finally caught up with her though and after a serious banging up by an airline earlier this year, it was time for me to replace Big Momma.
Have you shopped for luggage lately? It’s everywhere and there are so many different styles and brands. Spinners, hard-backed, soft-sides, and colors and patterns that will catch anyone’s eye on an airport baggage carousel. I knew I wanted something durable, something somewhat affordable, and something big. I found a bag I think I’m going to love and am amazed at how much lighter it is then Big Momma was…empty! I can fill this baby even more!
All this brought back memories of my parents’ tan colored suitcases like the one above. I remember how the handles felt in my hand and how those vintage Samsonites smelled. How weird to even think of carrying your luggage though, right? A virtual nightmare if you ask me! Well, if you’re as grateful as I am for wheeled luggage, you have Bernard Sadow to thank. Who?! And Macy’s. What?!
Mr. Sadow is credited for introducing suitcases that rolled and for that one reason will forever be hero of mine and many! But, surprisingly his wheeled contraptions weren’t immediately accepted and Saddow actually had trouble selling the idea for them. He was repeatedly told that nobody would ever buy a suitcase on wheels by department store buyers across New York City. Crazy, right?!
Sadow, the former president and owner of U.S. Luggage, had long been in the business of suitcases and came up with his brilliant idea nearly 45 years ago. Wrestling with his bags at an airport in Puerto Rico, Saddow noticed a man moving a piece of machinery on a wheeled platform and, as they say, the rest is history. Bingo.
Still, after weeks of rejections again, Saddow finally hit pay dirt when a Macy’s vice president liked the product and set his buyers buying. Macy’s sold the first ever rolling suitcases in October 1970 but, as wonderful as they sounded, they still had problems.
Remember those first rolling suitcases? I do! Wheels were mounted on their narrow bottoms, leaving users struggling with wobbling and tipping. Plus, there were those crazy straps that we pulled them with. Yes, the new bags were easier then carrying a bag, but often times you ended up doing so anyway.
It wasn’t until nearly 20 years later that today’s popular version of a suitcase on wheels was born. Pulled on two wheels, they boasted convenience and a handy-dandy retractable handle. Invented by Northwest Airlines pilot Bob Plath in the late 1980s, the bags were dubbed “Rollaboards” and were the start of the luggage company Travelpro, still the top choice for airline industry employees and other frequent fliers. If anyone knows travel, it’s pilots and flight attendants, right?
Just as cell phones have changed the way we communicate and fast food has changed the way we eat, rolling suitcases have changed the way we travel. Without wheels on her, Big Momma could have never made it to all the destinations she did. A lot of memories were packed in that bag; memories that will last a lifetime.