THE WAY I REMEMBER IT
As a part of the Austin Chamber of Commerce we handled the Convention and Tourism promotion activities for Austin. (These are now a part of the City and operated as the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau). The Chamber also had started, and was operating, the Austin Aqua Festival. I was also part of a small group operating Longhorn Cavern State Park under a twenty-year lease.
As a result of my involvement in tourism, Don Russell of Aquarena Springs in San Marcos asked me to work with him in starting a statewide tourism association of tourist destinations. He had also contacted the following: Happy Shahan of Alamo Village in Bracketville, David Blackburn of Six Flags in Arlington, Walt Warner of the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, Gerald Henckel, San Antonio City Manager.
We met numerous times in the Spring and Summer of 1969. Harold Robbins, Publicity Director at Aquarena Springs helped coordinate things. His sense of humor helped us through tough decisions. When we felt we were ready to get our ideas down on paper formally, we hired the President of the 1968 San Antonio Hemisfair, Jim Gaines, to put it together.
On July 29, 1969, we met to organize the board of our newly named Discover Texas Association. Being the least persuasive of the group, I wound up as the first chairman. My firm commitment was until the end of the year when a full slate of officers and board were to be elected. Once again, and again, and again their persuasion prevailed and I served as chairman in 1970, 1971, 1972. It was a young and struggling organization, but it continued to grow with the fine help of the Executive Vice President that we hired, Jim Battersby of San Antonio.
I stayed active and on the board of DTA until I left the Austin Chamber at the end of December, 1982. Ten years later, in 1992, I began getting calls in July, on a Thursday and Friday, from several board members that were still active. DTA had merged with the Texas Tourist Council and became the Texas Travel Industry Association - and needed help. Their pleas sounded rather desperate, and I didn't want an organization that I had helped bring to life, to die. On Friday evening, Bob Bennett, President of Six Flags Arlington, and the current Chairman of TTIA, called and asked if I would meet with him in the downtown Austin office of TTIA the following Tuesday.
We met. TTIA was busted. The staff of about eight was gone - only one intern left. There were $200,000 plus in bills to pay. It was a challenge, and I took it on the basis of "sharing the wealth" if there ever was any. It proved profitable for us both. I left them at the end of '96 with $250,000 in the bank and an active program. It was fun for both Helen and I. We still attend the annual Travel Summit to see old friends-and still make new ones.
Vic Mathias - September 11, 2003