When I was 10 years old my parents took me to Tampa to my first convention. It was my introductory experience with a big city hotel and I well remember how amazed I was that there was ice water available in the room. All you had to do was turn a spigot and all of the cold refreshing water you could wish for was available. Talk about your cup running over; I kept my parents up all night as I got rid of the water I drank all day. My other memory is of seeing the movie the Spirit of St Louis at the Tampa Theatre. The movie was good but the theatre was terrific. As they turned down the lights, the theatre’s ceiling became a replica of the night sky, with the moon and thousands of stars: great convention memories.
The first convention I attended after graduating from college was held at the Playboy Plaza Hotel in Miami Beach. What an exciting place: all the modern conveniences and everywhere you looked Playboy bunnies. On the final evening, as we waited for a show by Ike and Tina Turner, I watched an older couple at a table in front of where I sat. He very solicitously seated his wife and soon a waitress appeared with two martinis. A short while later the waitress appeared with two more drinks and not long after another two. Suddenly, with her knees properly held together the lady tumbled to the floor. Immediately, the waitress, maitre de and husband lifted her back into her chair. After she was settled, the man stumbled out of the room, I assumed to take care of nature’s call. A few minutes later, I looked to see him coming back to the table with two more martinis. Amazing!
My mother, a petite and proper Charlestonian, was in the elevator with the Ikettes, Ike and Tina’s backup singers. Always eager to talk with anyone, she had struck up a conversation with one of the singers when she noticed the girl was braless. Of course, this shocked her South Carolina sense of correctness, so she immediately threw the sweater she was carrying over the girl’s shoulders and offered to loan her the garment. You can imagine my mother’s shock when, quite politely, the girl informed her she never bothered with underclothes. More great convention memories.
My son Bill was in elementary school when he accompanied me to a convention in Orlando. During the three day show, he spent a great deal of time entering, over and over again, every prize drawing. He stuffed the prize boxes like a Chicago politician stuffing ballot boxes. At the end of the show, when the exhibitor drawings took place, Bill won almost every prize. Not only was I embarrassed, I had nail guns, gator aid, coolers and other miscellaneous winnings that had to make it back home. Not being able to fit everything in the car, I was relieved when an exhibitor with a truck agreed to drop everything off at my office. Another outstanding convention memory.
I have other memories: hearing President Bush speak in Chicago; some great evenings in San Francisco; carolers just before Christmas in Coral Gables; my diminutive wife Terri whipping the guys in a beer chugging contest and many more.
In tough economic times, it is essential to attend your industry conventions and shows. There you will hear from others about how they are dealing with economic challenges and what they are doing to survive; there you will find new products to be sold; and, there, surrounded by friends and colleagues, you will establish memories that will last forever.
Even if we are occupied with important things and even if we attain honor or fall into misfortune, still let us remember how good it once was here, when we were all together, united by a good and a kind feeling which made us perhaps better than we are. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Brothers Karamazov