A little history about Mr. Hatfield. He was the premier of New Brunswick for 17 years, from 1970 to 1987. Best known for his flamboyant lifestyle including being charged with marijuana possession in 1984 during a royal visit by Queen Elizabeth, and his nickname "Disco Dick." He was best described by a Chicago Tribune reporter as, "a flamboyant, eccentric and controversial figure with a penchant for modern art, rock and roll, and New York nightlife." On the economic front he was best known for his failed attempt at creating an auto industry in the province by investing heavily in the Bricklin SV-1 factory and production. In politics he became prominent on the national stage, allying with federal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau during the constitutional negotiations that led to the 1982 patriation of the Canadian Constitution and the creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
One of his other accomplishments was being part of the creation of the first meeting in 1973 between the Eastern US governors and the Canadian maritime premiers, which if my memory serves me right, was hosted by the Algonquin Hotel in my hometown that summer, or perhaps it was 1974. Either way here goes the story:
In those days "townies" as we were called were not deemed suitable to work at the hotel in the "front of the house" positions. Those jobs typically all went to the blue blood students from upper Canadian universities and hotel students from Ontario colleges. Townies could work on the grounds, golf course and housekeeping. In 1973 I was not old enough to work anywhere and as I recall that summer day, I was checking out the somewhat exotic cars in the hotel's semi-circular driveway when I noticed a gathering of people at the hotel's front door.
Being 11 years old at the time and not shy or even aware of the events that were being held inside the hotel, I sassily wandered up the driveway to see what the fuss was all about. As I vividly recall from my youth the hotel was not a place where people, especially kids who were not guests that were staying at the hotel, were welcome. Having been put "the run to" more than once before by the bellmen or front office staff, a diversion like the one at the front door that day was the perfect cover and welcome exciting activity.
I joined the small crowd that lined both sides of the exit from the hotel lobby onto the hotel's prominent and large veranda. There were reporters with cameras and as I recall a "buzz" of the talk by the "adults" about the important meetings being held at the hotel. As I took all of this in the reporters started taking pictures of the people exiting the hotel. Their flash bulbs exploding with light as they reloaded their cameras. I thought this must be for someone famous, maybe a movie star, or hockey players!
Shortly after the commotion seemed to settle down a man was walking the line of onlookers shaking hands and making small talk. I was fairly sure this was a famous person, but I didn't know who he was. I patiently waited for my turn and I think I held out my hand as the other people did. He took my hand, we shook, and he said hello and how was I today.
He chuckled and said, "That's not important, but you, I think you're going to be the manager of this hotel one day."
That afternoon I remember like it was yesterday. I also remember getting home and telling my parents what had happened that night at the supper table. As usual, they were a little mortified by my recollection of the day. The next morning, I saw the paper that we had delivered to our house, and on the front page was a picture of a group of men standing in front of the hotel. I told my mom, "That's the guy I met yesterday!"
I remember her laughter and she asked me what he had said to me and why was I there. She also said that little kids should not be at the hotel, that it was a place for adults. More than anything else that was the mystique that drew me to the hotel world. Meeting Mr. Hatfield and experiencing the excitement and paparazzi in my hometown was electric for a little kid.
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David Lund is The Hotel Financial Coach, an international hospitality financial leadership expert. He has held positions as a Regional Financial Controller, Corporate Director and Hotel Manager with an international brand for over 30 years. He authored an award-winning workshop on hospitality financial leadership and has delivered it to hundreds of hotel managers. David coachs hospitality executives and delivers his Financial Leadership Training throughout the world, helping hotels increase profits and build financially engaged management teams. He speaks at hospitality company meetings, associations and he has had several articles published in hotel trade magazines and he is the author of three books on Financial Leadership. David is a Certified Hotel Accounting Executive through HFTP and a Certified Professional Coach.
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