JACC No. 7: Clearing out the Holiday Inn

April 20, 2017



A series of my most memorable moments with the Journalism Association of Community Colleges.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been involved in the background with planning of JACC annual conferences for years. Three times I was the actual conference chair.

The first was the 1982 convention, held at the old Hacienda Inn in Fresno. It was only my second year as a full-time instructor, but I had just finished my master’s thesis, which was a history of JACC.

Back in those days the organization had divvied up the state’s community college journalism programs into eight regions, four in the north and four in the south, and rotated responsibility for planning conferences among those divisions. In 1981-82 it was the San Jose area community colleges’ turn. None of my colleagues was particularly keen to take on the lead role, though Herman Scheiding of Foothill College and Art Carey of San Jose City College were certainly willing to step up in support roles. It was the beginning of many years that I would serve on the organization’s board of directors in one capacity or another.

My second conference was in the late 1980s/early 1990s (I forget the exact year). The Hacienda had changed hands a number of times in the 1980s, which was a clue that it was failing. We had been informed that the hotel’s conference complex was going to go away, so we looked elsewhere. We settled on the new Holiday Inn (now DoubleTree) and its seven-story open atrium near downtown Fresno. I volunteered to take on the task of transitioning us out of the site when had become accustomed to to the new venue.

But when the weekend for the convention came I was as sick as a dog with a terrible cold and fever. I was also still the organization’s executive secretary/treasurer, so I had to be there. I made four or five trips to the hotel’s sauna that weekend just to keep a semi-clear head.

We made a number of mistakes in planning that stand out in my mind, but the biggest one was our planning for the 500 students on the first night of the conference. We thought we had it all figured out. We had a sit-down awards dinner, workshops and on-the-spot contests that kept students busy until midnight. Then we had a dance scheduled until 2 a.m. But come 2 a.m. the students still had energy. What should they do? About 200 of them decided to march up and down the walkways of the atrium, floor by floor, chanting loudly.

By then I was pretty much on my deathbed with the cold, but got a call from hotel security demanding that I do something or the hotel was going to start throwing out the student delegations for the rest of the weekend. I announced an immediate curfew and marched up and down the walkways, floor by floor, telling students to go to their rooms. I was not in a good mood.

On my second pass, I came across one of my own students still standing outside her room. I was surprised. She was one of my best-behaved students. “You have go inside your room now,” I demanded.

She looked sheepishly at the floor and replied, “I know, but I can’t.” It seems that her roommate was “using” the room. I rolled my eyes and moved on.

The Holiday Inn was NOT a good fit for us, so we transitioned the next year to hosting our conventions on the Fresno State University campus. I did not run any of the next nine year conferences there, but could tell a number of stories. Others would remember the last year there when we were getting weary of the campus and the campus was getting weary of us. The coup dé grace that most people remember was a barbecue lunch near the campus’ horse paddies on a week that it had rained; the nearby field was quite odiferous. I escaped the smell, because I was across campus working on another aspect of the conference.

But in 1999-2000 the board decided to move the conference out of Fresno and back to a hotel venue. I stepped again to lead the transition to the Double Tree Inn in Sacramento. My assistant, Timi Poeppelman, took over as convention chair after that and built up a first-class convention for the organization over the next 15 years as it rotated between Sacramento and Los Angeles/Burbank.

– – – – –

Previously: No. 10: The swimming race and the photo darkroom, No. 9: Getting a thesis topic, No. 8: Stories: Yosemite, The Shooter, Handcuffs, West Valley Rules.

Next: Creative Thinking: Conversations with Wil and Timi

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