When leaves begin to fall, and the temperatures drop, my thoughts generally turn towards sunny locales and my favorite sunny spot, Key West. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. If you haven’t visited the Keys, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s filled with unique shops, galleries, restaurants, and, of course, many bars.

Which way to go?

Which way to go?

Around the corner from its most famous bar, Sloppy Joe’s is a small shop on Greene Street selling T-shirts and other Key West memorabilia. However, this shop is different because it’s dedicated to the “Last Flight Out.”

Owned by former Air Force pilot Clay Greager, the shop focuses on a state of mind, not its cash register.

According to Creager, during the 1970s, there were only two ways to arrive or depart Key West. You could drive your car on old U.S. 1 and cross the infamous seven-mile bridge (extremely narrow with only inches between passing cars), or fly on Air Sunshine, the only airline to service Key West.

The first flight took off at 8 a.m., and the last flight out was at 11 p.m. Conchs (residents of the Keys) affectionately called the airline “Air Sometimes” because of its inability to fly on schedule.

Tourists visiting Key West realized they were enjoying one of Florida’s best-kept secrets, and many were reluctant to leave. The rallying cry became, “I’m not leaving until the Last Flight Out!” It became so popular that bartenders, instead of announcing “Last Call,” would announce “Last Flight Out.”

The rush to the airport resulted in the last flight — if flying at all — being full. Stranded tourists consoled themselves in the airport bar, open 24 hours.

Because of its late hours, many of the service employees from Old Town would gather at the airport bar for their own party.

Sometimes the crew of the departing plane would be among the revelers — often the reason the plane wouldn’t be departing.

Instead of despairing, visitors extended their stay one more day. In fact, there are still people in Key West who visited in the ’70s and are waiting for their Last Flight Out.

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‘Last Flight Out’ Is A State of Mind by Robin Van Auken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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