World-traveling business owner Nigel Reading flew into the Medford airport during the New Year's holiday holding a thick, half-century-old document that airline pilots gush over and aviation nuts covet.
It's a passenger log book that Reading received as a child and has since carried more than 1.3 million air miles. Inside are signatures from the 637 captains who piloted the flights, from a hop to Portland or a daylong journey to the other side of the world from his Vancouver, B.C., home.
The book's blue fabric cover has faded, tape holds the spine together and the engraved letters "Junior Jet Club Log Book" have lost their gold.
But when the 59-year-old frequent flier clutches the book that was given to him by the British Overseas Airways Corp., or BOAC, when he was 9, he refers to it as his "life."
Indeed, it contains a listing for every flight he has been a passenger on since Jan. 8, 1963, 50 years ago on Tuesday.
His adventures began with an airline that folded into British Airways decades ago, and on planes — Comet IVs, Britannias and 707s — long retired and once maneuvered by pilots who were forced to divide journeys into fuel stops. There, every passenger deplaned onto red carpets, roamed airport transit lounges and was served from silver teapots.
The first pages of Reading's log book show that when he flew as a child during boarding school breaks from London to Aden (now in Yemen) to join his father, who was a brigadier general in the British Army, he neatly printed in the date of the flight, aircraft and registration, and hours spent in the clouds.
When Reading was taking his first trips, unaccompanied minors were given crayons, drawing books and a log book to keep them occupied since there were no in-flight movies or handheld video games.
Back then, a flight attendant — then called an air hostess, stewardess or trolley dolly — would collect the kids' log books to be signed by the captain.
Some consider those the halcyon days of air travel.
"So much personalization has been removed from so many industries such as aviation," says Cathay Pacific pilot Geoff Williamson, who wrote a note and tucked it into Reading's book during a flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver in 2010. "Mr. Reading's book really took me back. It's so nice to put pen to paper and keep these memories."
Few people can document all their memories. While it's common to hold onto old passports, and pilots keep log books of their flights, it's rare that a child's travel book has survived into adulthood without being lost, hidden in storage or traded away.
The BOAC Junior Jet Club Facebook page (www.facebook.com/groups/BOAC.JJC) has postings from former members who lament either not knowing where their log book is or having just a few entries.
"Usually people stopped getting signatures when they got older or they hit a milestone, like earning the 25,000-mileage certificate," says Don Danz, a 46-year-old from Tulsa, Okla., who logged 33,486 miles on BOAC before he was 9 months old because of his father's job as a geophysicist.
Danz maintains a Web page about the Junior Jet Club (http://www.danzfamily.com/archives/2005/02/boac_junior_jet.php#comment-685).
"People stopped updating the book when they stopped being a kid," he says. "Teenagers think they're too cool to ask a captain to sign a book."
When told about Reading, Danz said he couldn't think of anyone who could match his accomplishments.
Even Reading has a hard time explaining his devotion.
"Why I maintained the log book is a mystery, but I am glad I did," he says. "I know British Airways maintained the mileage books for some time, but with cutbacks they probably stopped making them many years ago."
Reading's younger brother, Rod Reading, has a Qantas Log Book that marks his first flight in December 1969 from London to Singapore with his brother. Rod still has it signed for international flights out of his U.K. home, but not for domestic or small flights, as Nigel does.
Nigel Reading continues to travel often as the founding curator of the contemporary fine art gallery, Spirit Wrestler, in Vancouver, B.C., and for pleasure with his wife, Judy.
When they were in Ashland visiting friends recently, he held his log book in one hand as he carefully turned a page, then another page that also precisely documents his life.
Inside the front cover, he long ago pasted a sticker of Hong Kong. Underneath it, his current address is bumpily written on old addresses buried under layers of Whiteout. On the other page is an original sticker of the BOAC crest.
It's difficult for him to completely open some pages since the book is so fat. He has inserted additional pages and handwritten notes left by pilots.
On Sept 11, 2011, on a flight from Hong Kong to Auckland, New Zealand, Capt. Glen Sycamore flicked through the battered log book, then noted that he had signed it in 2004.
Before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Reading was invited into the flight deck. Since then, a captain may greet him after the plane has landed. Once, he was sent a bottle of champagne and granted a seat in business class. It felt like the old days.
Josh Doughty was captain of the Horizon Air flight that flew Reading from Medford to Portland and then to Vancouver on New Year's Day.
The flight attendant brought the log book into the flight deck. Doughty recalls thinking that although parents sometimes request a signature for their children's log book, "Nigel's book was pretty amazing, both for its age and for the incredible number of places he's been: Nairobi, Santiago, Singapore, Hong Kong. Anyone who had traveled one-fourth as many places as Nigel would have led an amazing life."
Reading acknowledges that he flew during a special time, when BOAC was immortalized by the Beatles before it disappeared in 1974, and that he has visited exotic places on other carriers. But there is one thing he missed.
"My regret is I never flew on the Concorde," Reading says with a sigh.
Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.