Betty Jenkins

As a young woman, Betty Jenkins received a gift from her mother, an inflatable bra with a straw-like tube that was used to inflate the pads in the cups and enhance its wearer’s figure.

As Betty tells it, “I was very skinny, and I didn’t have any curves. I guess my mother got kind of worried, because she didn’t think I had enough boyfriends…I was real excited, so I blew and blew to about [size] 32.”

During a plane trip in South America, while the plane was flying near the Andes Mountains, she began to feel pressure and sensed a problem. It turned out the cabin was not pressurized, and the bra, whose pads could be inflated up to size 48, was expanding.

Once is passed size 48, one of the cups burst, making a noise so loud that the co-pilot came out of the cockpit with a gun wondering what had happened. The plane ended up making an emergency landing, and Betty was handed over to the police who ordered her to strip as they looked for what they assumed was a bomb.

Betty’s mother, who passed away in 1967, enjoyed the story so much that she kept the broken bra. While the bra has been lost to time, Jenkins, 94, says that that the attention she received wasn’t the kind she was hoping for.

Originally aired June 27, 2008, on NPR’s Morning Edition.