A.W.O.L. EXHIBITION

by Allen Dale Olson

On the second of January 1992, the university president called me to say he had “volunteered” me. Because the call came to  my home, I knew it was something of great interest to him. “You need to go to Nice next month,” he said.

There can’t be many employees who get to sent to Nice in the middle of winter, I thought.

He had been approached by a London-based event promoter to provide a keynote speaker for a first-time event – a Resort Hotel Exhibition – bringing owners and representatives of luxury hotels from around the world for three days of networking and education in one of the globe’s most popular tourism destinations at the height of Carneval, one of Europe’s grandest festivals. The promoters wanted to tie the business of tourism to the schools of tourism, and Dr. Leibrecht offered his Director of the International School of Tourism for the assignment. He always enjoyed having Schiller International University on stage.

In Strasbourg at daybreak on Tuesday, February 18 I boarded an Air Inter flight to Lyon to connect with another flight arriving in  Nice before noon. The conference was to open next morning.

My room at the Hotel Plaza wasn’t ready so I walked a few blocks to the Akropolis where I could pre-register for the event. The hostess was pleased to see me, saying that registrations had been very slow. I told her the receptionist at the hotel had also said that I was the first convention-goer to sign in at the Plaza. She did not seem pleased with that information.

After a leisurely lunch at la Dent de la Mer and a stroll through Vieux Nice, I returned to the registration desk where I learned only a few attendees had signed in. Having no commitments, I was free to visit the elegant salons and picture galleries of the Hotel Negresco and to set up a vantage point on Place Massene to watch the great Mardi Grasparade, a spectacle worthy of its world-class reputation.

Wednesday, February 19 – Speech in hand, I walked to the auditorium of the Akropolis eager to get the keynoting over with and enjoy Nice. Though it was still an hour till start time, it seemed there should be more than thirty or so people in the auditorium, nearly all of whom were involved in working on light and sound systems, wall hangings, and other busy work. A notice flashed on the screen on stage announcing that the morning general session would follow the Organizers’ Reception at 1:00 pm.

There were some impressive displays set up in the Exhibit Hall – things like miniature golf courses, indoor gymnasia, spas and saunas, boat docks, lobby furniture, and the like. Overhearing American English, I approached and met Patrick Willis from a heating system company in Wisconsin. He was furious.

“I spent more than $20,000 to bring my display and five staff members here, and they’re telling me only about 50 people have registered for the whole darn conference,” he said. Other exhibitors told similar tales. One of them said the organizers had sent urgent invitations out to spa and resort owners along the Riviera Coast in the hope of getting some attendees, but so far the response had been negligible.

At the organizers’ reception I met John Knight, a professor from Purdue, who had been invited to address the general session following the reception. He, too, had been hearing angry reports from exhibitors about the lack of attendance. After some snacks and a glass of champagne, John and I headed to the auditorium to find every seat occupied – by irate exhibitors screaming for the heads of the promotion company. It was obvious they were in no mood to hear John’s speech.

One of the promoters got the group quiet enough to apologize and to explain how the company had really fouled up by failing to get invitations mailed and distributed for reasons beyond their comprehension. After that, there was little civil discourse, as exhibitors began shouting in English, German, French, Italian about refunds, law suits, criminal charges, fraud, and other crimes which may or may not have been relevant.

Security officers managed to restore sufficient order so the event promotors could explain they would set up an office in the convention center where exhibitors could meet and try to work out a solution to all their expenses and concerns. They pronounced the Exhibition and Conference program over.

On the way out, one of the exhibitors invited John and me to a champagne reception in the Royal Salon of the Hotel Negresco that evening.  In spite of their anger, the exhibitors hosted an elegant little party in an elegant place.

Thursday, February 20 – Caught the 9:05 am Air-Inter to Paris-Orly from where I called my boss before boarding the Strasbourg flight.

Postlude – A couple years later I met John on the Purdue Campus at Fort Wayne where we  reminisced about what could surely qualify as anyone’s oddest trip to Nice. Neither of us had ever heard about how it all turned out.

 

 


Happy 103rd Birthday Doris Baker!

On September 23, 2020, HMOR Ms. Doris C. Baker was presented a Special Forces Flag by SFA Chapter 84 member Chad Rogers in honor of her (Friday September 25th) 103rd Birthday. She was wearing her special SF necklace and autographed a copy of her book “The Originals” for Chad.

 


Former DoDEA Administrator and Honorary Green Beret Doris C. Baker celebrates 103rd Birthday

On September 25, 2020 Former DoDEA Administrator and Honorary Green Beret Doris C. Baker will celebrate her 103rd Birthday.

The Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center joins DoDEA and many other organizations in wishing Ms. Baker a wonderful birthday.

Photo from 2014 ceremony

In 2014, 97-year-old Doris Baker was inducted as an Honorary Member of the Special Forces Regiment, recognizing her 20 years of service with the 1/10th Special Forces Group (Green Berets). At the time, Miss Baker joined the ranks of a select category — one of only nine other distinguished individuals worldwide, and one of only three women to ever receive this elite membership. In 2020, there are 14 honorary members (including Ms. Baker) listed on the US Army Special Forces Regiment website. Honorary membership in the Special Forces Regiment is rarely awarded, and is given only to select civilians who have contributed to the welfare, advanced the interests, and served as role models for the regiment.

Ms. Baker was a Department of Defense (DOD) civilian employee whose dedication to her students, fellow educators, the Bad Toelz soldiers and their families was outstanding. Ms. Baker began her overseas teaching career in Germany where, from 1950 to 1979, she served the DoD with great distinction as a teacher and principal of the U.S. Army Elementary and Junior High Schools in Flint Kaserne, Bad Toelz, Germany, the first overseas assignment base for the 1/10th Special Forces Group Airborne (Green Berets).

Her outreach, mentorship, counseling and friendship to students, parents, the command, and the entire Army community benefitted thousands who passed through the gates of Flint Kaserne. For more than 30 years, Doris adopted the Green Berets as her own, calling them “her lads.”

Ms. Baker authored  “The Originals” — the first book about the Green Berets written by a woman — which chronicles an American woman caught in the dangerous lives and fortunes of these extraordinary men. Her extensive travels and freelance photography assignments after World War II were blended into her book, “I’ll Let You Know When We Get There.” 

Miss Baker’s legacy of service and adventure inspires all who have been touched by her and her work, and continues to live on through the lives of her students, colleagues and friends — who she continues to influence around the world.

Her long-time friend, H.C. “Woody” Woodward says,“Birthday cards and messages from each of you will mean so much to this outstanding woman that supported A/10th SFG at Flint Kaserne in Bad Toelz, Germany from 1953-1980”.

If you would like to wish Ms. Baker a happy birthday, her current mailing address is:

Ms. Doris C. Baker

1217 Alliance Drive,

Virginia Beach, Virginia 23454

 


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