As a young woman, Betty Jenkins received a gift from her mother that was meant to attract the attention of young men. But as Jenkins, who is now 94, tells her niece, the attention she got wasn't the kind she was expecting.
"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," Jenkins said.
The gift was an inflatable bra that was designed to enhance its wearer's figure. A straw-like tube was used to inflate pads in the cups.
"I was real excited, so I blew and blew to about [size] 32," Jenkins said.
But things didn't go smoothly during a plane trip in South America. The plane was flying near the Andes Mountains when Jenkins began to feel pressure and sensed there was a problem.
It turned out the cabin was not pressurized, and the bra was expanding.
"As the thing got bigger, I tried to stand up," Jenkins said, "and I couldn't see my feet."
The instructions said that the bra's pads could be inflated up to a size 48.
"I thought, 'What would happen if it goes beyond 48?'" Jenkins recalled.
"I found out what happened," she said. "It blew out."
Only one of the cups burst, Jenkins said. But the noise was loud enough to seize the attention of everyone on the plane.
"The co-pilot came into the cabin with a gun, wondering what had happened. The men all pointed to me."
Jenkins then tried to explain in Spanish what she could hardly explain in English, "that part of your anatomy just blew up."
The plane made an emergency landing, and Jenkins was handed over to the police. She was ordered to strip, as the officers looked for what they assumed could only be a bomb.
After she showed the officers the hole in her bra, Jenkins was allowed back on the plane and her trip continued.
"A month later, I got a bill from the airline for $400," Jenkins said, "for an unscheduled stop."
Her mother enjoyed the story so much that she kept the broken bra. Her mother died in 1967. As for the bra, Jenkins says she no longer has it.
Produced for Morning Edition by Nadia Reiman. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.