I guess everyone remembers times in their lives that they look back on and wonder how they came about. Some unforgettable events come after years of planning–others, totally out of the blue.
I will never forget the event after a major career change in 1970. I had accepted the job of Resort Manager at the new Sea Pines Resort on Amelia Island in north Florida.
Charles Fraser had founded the Sea Pines Company to develop his family’s land on the south end of Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. Charles was considered the first green developer and credited with the wide use of covenants to protect the integrity of his communities.
I was just settling into my new job on Amelia Island when I was summoned to Charles’s office on Hilton Head. He wasted no time in telling me what my new assignment would be.
It had only been a couple of years since Charles had gained national notoriety for hiring more Harvard MBA graduates than any other U. S. company. It seemed he had just returned from a visit to California to look at development, and upon returning, he had asked his young cadre if they had been to California. He learned that almost none of them had. He found this unacceptable.
He then explained to me that he wanted to take two hundred employees, including spouses, on an educational tour using two DC9 charter flights.
The nearly two hundred were chosen and divided into four groups. Each group had a specific color. On the first day, before take-off, all luggage was tagged with names and group colors.
From that time on, no one touched their bags–except in their hotel room. Charles wanted no time wasted. By the time the groups got to their rooms each night, their bags were there. When the buses pulled away each morning, I would stay behind, check out of the hotel and tip the bellhops, who would have brought the luggage to the lobby, where a moving company would pick them up. I would then go ahead to the next city to be sure the bags arrived at the right hotel and were in the rooms.
This was the itinerary. One plane with half the travelers was to go to Houston for a night to visit the Home Builders Show. The second half was to go to Denver and then by charter bus to Vail for the night.
On the second afternoon, the two groups were to continue to San Diego by plane–then, on the third day by charter bus to Los Angeles for a night. San Francisco was the final destination with an overnight stop on the way in Carmel and Monterey. Charles wanted each plane met by two buses and for each of the four color groups to stay in a different first-class hotel each night. That meant four different hotels and four different restaurants each night.
Here’s the cool part, he wanted me to arrange all the logistics, including selecting the hotels and restaurants. He also wanted me to have slept in each hotel and eaten in each restaurant before the trip. Armed with an Amex card, I was off.
Meantime, Charles had hired a consultant to put together a playbook outlining each day’s activities. He arranged visits and lectures with developers, architects, land planners, local government officials, and agencies. There were speakers on the planes, buses, and often at breakfast or lunch. We visited developments, malls, golf courses, marinas, and even a Montessori school.
On the return trip, we had to stop in Dallas to refuel. When we learned this, we had the pilot radio ahead for a Coors Beer truck to meet us. Coors had not made it to the east coast, but we brought cases back.
We never lost a bag or a person. There were a lot of hangovers, but the trip was a success; and, believe it or not, we did it again six months later with another one hundred employees and only one plane.
WE STILL NEED SHOTS IN ARMS. ENCOURAGE YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS. THANKS.
Bill Minus is a storyteller who lives in Chestertown and writes about memories and observations.