Centennial 1914 – 2014
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past perspectives

1975: "This I Believe"

Marvin Hurley, CCE

Marvin Hurley, CCE, began his chamber career in Tulsa in 1935 and moved to the Lincoln, Neb. chamber in 1941. He served in the U.S. Army from 1943-45 and joined the Houston chamber in 1951 and served there for 15 years. He authored two books on chamber operations, and in 1966 published his third book, Decisive Years for Houston, which traces the city’s urban development and its “community leadership structure.” One reviewer said Hurley “includes tips on how to get people to work on the civic scene, and, on the chance that his readers might follow his advice too avidly, lists five symptoms of what he calls ‘the rare malady of over-exercised civic spirit.’”

Hurley was ACCE Board Chairman in 1957-58. At ACCE’s 1955 convention in Milwaukee he gave a speech entitled “This I Believe.” Twenty years later, excerpts from that speech were included in the program at the 1975 convention as an expression of re-commitment to the chamber management profession. Among Hurley’s core beliefs:

• “Chamber of commerce management is a profession charged with one of the highest of all
   missions in the service of mankind.”

• “The chamber of commerce type of teamwork is essential for the improvement of community
   life in America. The chamber of commerce is an integral agency of American democracy.”

• “The local community is the most basic unit in the life of our country—the place where joint
   efforts should start to solve problems and to capitalize opportunities.”

• “The modern American city is mankind’s greatest creation.”

1965: Elvis!

In the 1965 film Girl Happy, a Chicago mobster hires a rock and roll singer (Elvis Presley) and his band to keep an eye on his daughter during spring break in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In the movie, Elvis sings “Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce,” a 90-second ditty with the refrain “courtesy of the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce.” Film buffs generally assume the song exists solely as a plot development device, and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. Carolyn Michaels, IOM, is executive vice president at the Fort Lauderdale Chamber and has worked there since 1983. She says she knows of no involvement by the chamber in the writing of the song or the production of the movie.

1955: Public Money for Chambers?

This poem was included in an ACCE newsletter article in 1955 that weighed the pros and cons of tax dollars going to chambers.


Here lie the bones of Thomas Thayer

Who got his budget from the Mayor

Across the path is Sam Sebold

Who leaned too much on County gold


If you, my friends, who read this verse

Would miss the ride we took by hearse

Not know the burn of Hell’s red embers

You’ll get your money from your members

1953: “Chamber of Commerce”

Dinah Shore, TV star and co-author of "Chamber of Commerce"

An internet search reveals nothing about this song, published in 1953 by Manchester Music Inc. of New York. But its authors are notable in the music industry. The music is credited to Dinah Shore, a singer, actress and TV personality whose career spanned the 1940s to the 1990s, and Ticker Freeman, composer, arranger and the music conductor of Shore’s long-running TV show of the 1950s. Lyrics were by Tom Adair, who wrote for Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, including the hits “Let’s Get Away from it All,” and “The Night We Called it a Day.” Here’s a sampling of the lyrics:

In Duluth and Detroit, in Biloxi and Beloit, how

they cheer for the chamber of commerce

In Seattle and Cheyenne they are loyal to a man, to the

name of the chamber of commerce

When they’ve got a ticklish job to do, they lead the

chamber to it

Then bet their bottom dollar that the chamber’s gonna do it

From New York to L. A., every town along the way gives a cheer for the chamber

of commerce

We will sing a song of cities across our country’s face

And how each chamber of commerce makes them a better place


Now the chamber in Miami brings the tourists to Miami

If the weather’s cold and clammy, they ignore it (Sunshine!)

And way out in San Francisco, if there’s fog in San Francisco

The chamber goes on record they deplore it (Right!)

In Detroit the chamber’s boys are eliminating noise using methods that are clever and adroit

But Chicago fellows swear they’d have no parking problems there if it weren’t for the autos

from Detroit

They’ve got Southern hospitality (You all!) from Dubuque to D.C., Kalamazoo and Kankakee

How they cheer for the chamber of commerce

In Sioux City and St. Jo every citizen you know spreads the fame of the chamber of commerce

In Poughkeepsie and in Frankfort, in Wichita and Sterling, the chamber does its best

To keep the wheels of progress whirling

From New York to L.A. every town along the way

Gives a cheer (Hear Hear!) loud and clear (Hip Hooray!)

Gives a cheer for the chamber of commerce.

1950: Kudos to Institute

“Undoubtedly the finest contribution our early leaders made, living and growing with each other, becoming ever more useful to us all, was the creation of the first institute, back in 1923. Now these institutes are in full flower. Six institutes cover every part of the country and Canada.” – William H. Book, EVP of the Indianapolis Chamber and 1949-50 NACOS president in his keynote address to the 1950 convention in Omaha. As late as 1941, the “National Institute for Commercial and Trade Organization Executives” was jointly run by NACOS (which became ACCE), the U.S. Chamber, ATAE (American Trade Association Executives, which became the American Society of Association Executives, which then became ASAE The Center for Association Leadership), and Northwestern University.

1943: Institute, Love, Marriage and a NACOS Staff Change

William Penn Hotel, Pittsburgh

Norma McKellops, the full time executive who ran the NACOS office from 1929-43 in Washington, D.C., is often pictured in the annual books of convention proceedings. She served until 1943, when she married George Collisson, head of the Denver Chamber. Their romance began earlier that year when both attended the Western Institute, according to 1942-43 NACOS President Delmar G. Starkey of Columbus, Ohio, who spoke glowingly of McKellops’ work while reporting all of this in his welcoming address at the 1943 convention in Pittsburgh. He then introduced Elizabeth Glenn as NACOS’ new executive secretary-treasurer.






1942: The “Peculiar Problems” of Military Bases

At the 1942 convention, 15 chamber execs whose communities included nearby military bases met for breakfast to discuss “their peculiar problems,” including:

• “All communities within 25 to 50 miles of the military

camp are affected by it and a meeting  including civic and governmental leaders from all of them should be called as soon as general policy can be determined in
smaller meetings.”

• “Law enforcement should work closely with military police at all times. There should be a distinct understanding on the handling of soldiers committing minor offenses. Some communities do not place drunkenness, etc. on the blotter at all. One city reported the military police have an office at the city hall.”

• “The transportation problem between camp and city is usually hard to solve …”

• “In spite of the army rule discouraging it, many officers’ wives follow their husbands to camp and criticize the community if they cannot secure high-grade housing. Letters should be written to all officers urging their wives not to come.”

• “[Servicemen] give large amounts of business to dry cleaners and photographers and all such local operators should be encouraged to adapt their services to fill the new demand.”

• “Restaurants are overcrowded by soldiers on leave and some arrangement should be made to spread the load among all restaurants as well as possible.”

1941: Common Criticism

“Today, most of us in this profession are being criticized by our constituents for one of two reasons. We have not secured a large national defense project—or we have.” – Sidney Kring, Wichita Falls, Texas, at the 1941 NACOS Convention.

1928: Competition Among Chambers

Speaking of what today might be called the competitiveness of economic development professionals in attracting new businesses, J. L. Warner, chief engineering consultant of E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Co. of Wilmington, Del., described chamber executives as follows:  “Sometimes they remind me of Airdale terriers—a superabundance of energy most illogically applied.” — from the proceedings of the 14th Annual Meeting of NACOS in Nashville, 1928.

Nine years later at the convention in Buffalo, N.Y., a “convention grabbing” story was told as follows: The Chicago Chamber made a comprehensive, well-planned appeal for a convention, but a woman working for the Kansas City Chamber sobbed for her absent and very sick boss, then she fainted, and Kansas City won the convention contract.

1928: How about a CVB?

Built in 1916–17, the Chamber of Commerce Building in downtown Pittsburgh is a general office building.

“After a lengthy investigation of its convention problem, the Chamber of Commerce of  Pittsburgh, Pa, has decided to establish a ‘Convention and Visitors’ Division’ within the chamber. The functions of this new division are as follows:

1.  To secure conventions.

2.  To look after the proper entertainment of conventions

after they have been secured.

3.  To entertain distinguished visitors or important groups

who come to Pittsburgh..." — NACOS News, Feb. 1928

1927: Clone that Membership Director

Brooklyn, N.Y., boasted the second largest chamber membership in the nation in 1927: 7,475 members. (No mention of No. 1. Maybe All of New York City?) — NACOS News, Feb. 1927




1927: Room Rates

Columbus, Ohio was the site of the 1927 NACOS convention. Room rates at the Deshler-Wallick Hotel ranged from $2 for a single room without bath ($2.50 to $5 for a single with bath) to $6.50 to $12 for a double room with bath (twin beds). The opening reception featured “an organ recital and a program by a string choir.”

1925: Convention Promotion

NACOS promoted the 1925 convention in Kansas City by publishing a letter from Kansas City Chamber Secretary John Guild describing the venue. Guild wrote that “We are happy over the fact that we can have the entire Kansas City Athletic Club, a twenty-three story building right in the heart of the city. The headquarters for NACOS will be in the Chamber of Commerce quarters on the third floor of this magnificent new building. The club has sleeping rooms sufficient for all members of our Association with the possible exception of a few with their wives who may want to be in a hotel, but even that can be arranged for if they want to be in this building.” Guild described rooms for breakout sessions and larger rooms such as “the Roof garden, a beautiful room with an ideal setting … twenty-three stories above the street with nothing to interfere with or detract from our meetings.” He also noted that the club contained “the largest swimming pool in the west.” — NACOS News, March 1925

1918: Equality

The fourth annual meeting of NACOS was held Nov. 18-20, 1918 in Rochester N.Y. , where the report of the January board of directors meeting in Chicago included this paragraph: “A proposal to amend the by-laws, permitting women secretaries to become members of the NACOS was held for further consideration.” At that meeting, E.M. McMahon, general secretary of the St. Paul Association, spoke in favor of admitting women secretaries. Indeed, the NACOS discussion brought out that there were several women successfully running chambers around
the country.

Passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote, was in 1920, but it would be years (the date is unknown) before women secretaries were permitted to join NACOS. We do know that in the early ‘30s there were 173 women heading chambers of commerce (see below), but they were not yet NACOS members.

Chris Mead, ACCE’s senior V.P., (no relation to S. Cristy Mead, first president of NACOS), in the following excerpt from his forthcoming history of chambers, Magicians of Main Street, writes:

Fannie Reese Pugh [may have been] the first woman secretary of a local chamber of commerce in the United States. Pugh served her first chamber in 1909, when she handled the job in Yuma, Arizona, without a salary. She combined the local commercial club and chamber, raising membership from 15 to 120. Then she moved to Hearne, Texas, starting the chamber in 1914 and successfully running it until her retirement in 1923.

Pugh was not alone; Texas was a step ahead of most other states in women’s involvement in chambers of commerce.  In 1910, A.W. Funkhouser was secretary of the chamber in Gainesville, apparently the first woman to have such a position in Texas. (Pugh at this time was serving in Arizona.)  By 1911 in Beaumont, the oil boom town, there was a civic committee of the chamber composed of eight men and eight women.

Funkhouser and Pugh were active not only in their own chambers. Funkhouser was elected secretary of the Texas chamber executives’ institute (education program) in 1910. By 1915, Fannie Pugh was in Hearne, and was attempting to host a Texas chamber secretaries’ meeting. She had difficulty, however, apparently running into some unwritten good ol’ boy rules:

Following the example of the National Association of Commercial Secretaries, the Texas commercial executives, at the Dallas convention in 1915, decided that they would not expect the future host cities to provide expensive free entertainment.  Taking them at their word, Mrs. Fannie Pugh, the only women [sic] secretary in the state, invited them to host their next annual convention at Hearne and offered them a free possum hunt.  The convention, nevertheless, went to Houston which offered free boat rides and an excursion to the bathing beach at Galveston. — from Building Texas: A History of the Commercial Organization Movement and its Impact on Texas Progress, by Carl Blasig 1963

The women chamber secretaries in the West sometimes ran into issues, but so did those in the Midwest.  The chamber in Columbus, Ind., hired Elizabeth Tirtel as its secretary in 1913. Two years later, however, it hired a man, John Northway, who immediately outranked her as “executive secretary.”  She nevertheless remained there for 32 years.”

Chris Mead also reports elsewhere in his book:

Women clung to their toehold in the male-dominated world of chambers of commerce during the Depression. It was in this period that NACOS was first addressed by one of its female members. Mabel Dugan, executive vice president of the chamber in Middletown, Conn., talked in 1932 about how the role of women had evolved in the United States from the sole option of marriage to an increasing number of choices, but still limited to “ladylike” options such as dressmaking until the advent of the vote. Before suffrage, the typical woman “still fainted at a moment’s notice and beat her wings against a cage!”

By the Thirties, however, women represented a sizeable proportion of the workforce. Indeed, 173 of them were executives of chambers of commerce, Dugan noted. Women owned 41 percent of the nation’s stock. Shouldn’t chambers of commerce cater to this resource, and admit women not in bureaus or divisions but “on a parity” as full members? It’s not a question of whether a woman should be out of the home, said Dugan. “She has already left the home!”

1915: Humor

W. C. “Bill” Culkins, executive secretary of the Cincinnati chamber, spoke in St. Louis at the 1915 convention during a session on “Most Helpful Secretarial Literature.” He mentioned Walter Rauschenbusch, a Christian theologian and key figure in the Social Gospel movement, which was popular at that time and stressed the application of Christian ethics to social justice issues. “I found great benefit and inspiration were received from reading the works of Professor Rauschenbusch,” Culkins said, “and when I lay on my chaste couch last night and was greeted with the discordant choruses from the rathskellar, I said to myself, ‘These secretaries do not get their inspiration from Rauschenbusch; they get it from Anheuser-Busch.’”




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