Jan. 23, 1966: Coffee, tea or … identical twins?

  • Blog Post by: Ben Welter
  • October 27, 2015 - 2:10 PM
Two eye-catching stewardesses, Gladys and Gloria Thorvaldson, landed on the cover of the Minneapolis Tribune's Sunday Picture magazine in January 1966. The identical twins, natives of Manitoba, joined Northwest Airlines during the golden age of air travel. The pair teamed up to serve hot meals, fill drink orders and turn heads aboard the sleek but smoke-filled jetliners of the era.

Decades later, the two women remain as busy as ever. Gloria married Mike Tilleman, a rookie defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings, and built a life in Montana after Mike retired from the NFL. Gladys married Douglas Wirth and settled in Winnipeg. I caught up with them via phone and e-mail and asked them a few questions to see how much these Canadian twins remain alike. Scroll to the end to see their answers -- and a photo of them taken a few summers ago.  

Coffee, Tea or … Twins?

Twin Stewardesses for NWA ‘Have a Ball’ During Flights
“ARE YOU the Minnesota Twins?” “Which is Miss Minneapolis and which Miss St. Paul?” Such World Series-time questions typify what twin stewardesses Gladys and Gloria Thorvaldson, 23, Richfield, hear from Northwest Airlines customers week after week during flights.
The sisters, who have teamed together for NWA since June 27, 1964, say they regularly hear practically all the jokes and clichés there are about twins. “We don’t mind, though,” say the friendly girls. “Being twins is good for making conversation. Actually, we have a ball during flights.” They look so much alike that they often fill each other’s meal or drink orders without customers knowing it. Sometimes, though, a customer expresses amazement at how fast an order has been filled when the girls switch roles.
Standing 5-3½, Gloria is half an inch taller than Gladys. Both are auburn-haired, green-eyed and weigh 108 pounds. They are mirror twins, Gloria being right-handed and Gladys left-handed. They wear each other’s clothes – “everything is ours, not mine,” they say. The twins were born in Manitoba, the youngest of a family of eight children. Their mother lives in Winnipeg, where the girls grew up and went to school after their father’s death.

This shot of Gloria, left, and Gladys in uniform graced the cover of Picture magazine. The less-than-helpful nametags both say "Miss Thorvaldson." (Minneapolis Tribune photos by Dwight Miller)


Passengers saw double when Gladys, left, and Gloria served them aboard Northwest Airlines flights.


Original caption:

Dancing at Coleman's in Highland, St. Paul, a favorite place of stewardesses, are Gloria, left, and Gladys Thorvaldson. Gloria's partner is her fiance, Minnesota Vikings' rookie Mike Tilleman. Gladys, shown dancing with William MacLean, St. Paul, is engaged to Douglas Wirth of Winnipeg.


Gloria, left, and Gladys enjoyed a skate at the Minneapolis Arena, E. 29th Street and Dupont Avenue S.


Models of symmetry: Gladys and Gloria Thorvaldson curled up with copies of Glamour magazine in their Richfield apartment near I-494. 

UPDATE: Gloria Tilleman and Gladys Wirth, then 69, answered the questions below via e-mail in January 2013.
Havre, Montana             
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Michael Tilleman
Douglas Wirth
Favorite morning beverage
“I love, love, love my coffee.”
“I drink coffee, but first have water.”
Pet peeve as flight attendant
“I really had no peeves as I really loved my job and the pilots loved their job too so it was always pleasant.”
“I really didn’t have a pet peeve. I truly enjoyed every day at work. It was a fabulous job.”
Favorite color
Yellow – “I always think of it as a happy color.”
Yellow – “Bright and cheery.”
Favorite NFL team
“Always the one my husband was playing for at the time.  He started with the Minnesota Vikings 1965 and '66. We really loved Minneapolis.  Then he played for the New Orleans Saints  from 1967 to '71 and then Houston Oilers '71 to 73 and ended his career in Atlanta in 1977. I must say we really enjoyed every city.”
“My favorite NFL team are the Minnesota Vikings and my favorite CFL team are the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.”
Favorite band
The Guess Who – “I have met some of the members and love Burton Cummings and Randy Backman.”
Least favorite chore
“Getting my paper work done for different charities that I volunteer for now that I am retired.”
"If I do have a least favorite chore, it would probably be if I am co-ordinating a special event and have to contact several people. I do it as quickly as possible as it is easier to do it and have it completed.”
“Now that I am in the U.S. and a naturalized citizen I spell it 'favorite.' ” 
Favorite – “But in school we were taught ‘favourite.’”  
E-mail or snail mail?
“I do equal parts e-mail and postal mail.  I am working on becoming more hi-tech.”
“I use e-mail now more frequently, but still use the postal service to send greeting and thank-you cards.”
How many pairs of shoes do you own?
“I own at least 50 pairs of shoes.  As I tell my husband, ‘A pair of shoes can change your life.’  Look at Cinderella.”
“I probably have about fifty pairs of shoes at this moment.”
Most memorable Minnesota moment
"There were many memorable moments, graduating from stewardess training, going to the Viking football games and Minnesota Twins games, flying all over the country and countries. But the most memorable was when my now-husband proposed to me."
“When we lived in Minnesota, we used to go to the lake and go boating and swimming. Minnesota is a lot like Manitoba - a lot of lakes and I love being by the water. My childhood home was on Lake Manitoba and I could see the lake from my bedroom window.”
Gladys Wirth, left, and Gloria Tilleman visited Iceland with relatives in the summer of 2012.

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