Conference Cancelled

From 1944, the REALTORS convention that wasn’t

Conference Cancelled For over a century REALTORS from across the nation have gathered each year for their annual convention. At the very first meeting 120 REALTORS met in Chicago in May 1908. Nineteen thousand or more REALTORS and their guests are expected in Orlando in November 2016. In only one year has the convention been cancelled, and that was in 1944. The Stevens Hotel was planned as the site of the REALTORS 37th annual conference from November 27 to December 2, 1944. The Stevens was also host to the International Civil Aviation Conference around the same time, attended by representatives of 54 nations at the U.S. government’s request. The Aviation meeting was expected to have concluded by November 21, but it ran long- through December 7. Because of the overlapping meetings, the Stevens Hotel could guarantee only 600 rooms instead of the 1,300 that had been reserved by REALTORS ten months earlier. Scrambling to find rooms elsewhere proved fruitless; every major hotel in the city had been booked solid for weeks. The REALTORS president, John W. Galbreath of Columbus, Ohio, met with members of the Board of Directors Executive Committee with an unenviable decision to make: take the unprecedented step of cancelling the annual convention, or risk stranding visiting REALTOR delegates in a city that didn’t have rooms for them. Trains were booked full, and visitors may not have been able to leave until the date on their return tickets. Government agencies also informed REALTOR leadership that transportation difficulties for servicemen were increasing. The Office of Defense Transportation had appealed for curtailment of convention travel. The patriotic move would be to cancel. President Galbreath and the committee unanimously agreed: there would be no convention in 1944. Officials in Washington praised the decision. “The Navy Department appreciates greatly the unselfish action of the National Association of Real Estate Boards in cancelling its annual conference,” one telegram read. “This will release travel and hotel space that is badly needed by the armed services.” The War Department was also complimentary: “When businessmen cancel long standing plans in deference to housing and movement of wounded soldiers and other military personnel they are exhibiting a high degree of practical patriotism,” one telegram read. REALTORS around the country also supported the decision. From Denver, Van Holt Garrett wrote that he was “naturally sorry and disappointed that our conference had to be postponed but fully understand the circumstance and think you acted wisely.” REALTOR Stanley C. Chadwick in Chicago said, “I would hate to think that because of our business one wounded man or one piece of essential business was delayed. I know that this is the sentiment of all members. Realtors are as usual in the lead.” In the NAR Archives is the program for the 1944 convention that wasn’t. Meetings and presentations were planned on “Selling Technique,” “Chain Store and Commercial Leasing,” and “Operating the One-Man Office,” among many others. Some would be published in the National Real Estate and Building Journal, the REALTOR Magazine of its day.

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