This Saturday, immediately after the last Southwest Airlines 737 pushes back from the gate, a crew will begin dismantling the security checkpoint in Terminal 1, signaling the end of an era for Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
For those of us who work at RDU, it’s an exciting time. We are looking forward to opening a new Terminal 1 and bringing our customers the same world-class travel experience that they’ve come to know at Terminal 2. But, a part of us will miss the character, history and (let’s be honest) quirks of a building that has been serving the region since 1955.
Over the past few months, as we’ve been preparing for the opening of the new Terminal 1, I’ve had the opportunity to delve into the photo archives and see what the building looked like in 1955. Scanning through the decades of images, you can see a visual commentary on society, fashion, air travel and our region.
The early photos show a solitary, yet well-appointed, waiting room, with a door to the airfield. No security checkpoint. No jet bridges.
It doesn’t take long for the pictures to show expansion of the terminal and increasingly larger aircraft. Then, the photos transition to the old “blue box,” which is where I took my first flight in the early 1990s.
I remember coming to the airport with friends in high school and passing through security to eat at one of the terminal restaurants, simply because you could. In college, I spent the summer of 2001 as an intern here working on many projects in Terminal 1, including photographing the old playport kids indoor playground.
After returning to work for the Airport Authority in 2008, I helped organize a last minute press conference with Duke officials for Coach K’s return home following a gold medal win in Beijing. I’ll never forget the sight of wall-to-wall people bringing in lawn chairs to Bag Claim 4 and 5 for a glimpse of the coach amidst the checkered floors and brick walls.
Just like my memories, if you ask anyone here about what they remember about the terminal, you’re likely to get a story. And, I’m sure if you ask someone who’s lived in the region a while, they’ll have a story as well.
The old Terminal 1 or Terminal A or Terminal B or simply the terminal (its had many names throughout the years) was never designed to wow with impressive architecture or fancy features. It was built to serve. And, for nearly 60 years, it’s been a workhorse for our region. With the opening of the new Terminal 1 this weekend an era of new memories will begin, but the legacy of the old Terminal 1 won’t fade anytime soon.