OK, I’ll admit that I am overly sentimental and nostalgic about events from the past. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about high school, college, old neighborhoods, careers or anything else. There is something very entertaining and special when we reminisce about our past. And as we prepare for the National Cotton Council’s Annual Meeting at the Peabody Hotel here in Memphis on Feb. 6-8, I can’t help but recall the first NCC Annual Meeting I attended in January of 1986 in Orlando, Fla.
The industry and NCC have changed a lot since those days, but it’s interesting how first impressions stay with us for a lifetime. That is how it was 29 years ago. I had only worked in the NCC Communications Department for less than six months when I made the trip to this meeting. Naturally, I was a bit apprehensive since I didn’t know that many people in the industry. However, before this meeting ended, I found that my circle of friends would increase dramatically – mainly because cotton people might be the most congenial folks in the world.
In those days, the NCC’s Annual Meeting lasted nearly a week, and the schedule was demanding. The staff arrived on a Wednesday to prepare for the first meetings on Thursday. From that point on, it was a non-stop marathon until the general session began on Monday and concluded at noon on Tuesday. In between there were: program committee meetings, economic outlook reports, Producer Steering Committee meetings, boll weevil eradication meetings, press briefings, receptions, the King Cotton Ball, caucus meetings, printing of resolutions…..and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
By the time the final gavel was heard on Tuesday at noon, every staff member was physically drained. But, there was always a feeling of accomplishment that delegates from all seven segments had come together and found consensus on important issues that affected the U.S. cotton industry.
How will I also remember the 1986 NCC Annual Meeting. For openers, there was the tragedy of the space shuttle Challenger that exploded after liftoff from Cape Canaveral. Many of us could see the aftermath of the explosion by looking to the east from the top floors of the hotel. Somehow, that put a dark shadow over the NCC meeting, but we continued on anyway.
And, who can forget the weather in Orlando in January of 1986. It was unseasonably cold, and nobody had brought any winter coats, so many of us stayed indoors and didn’t do any sightseeing.
Mainly, as I mentioned earlier, I’ll always remember meeting many new friends in the cotton industry at that meeting – friendships that still exist today 29 years later.
So, even though this year’s NCC Annual Meeting will be different with a weekend schedule as opposed to a week-long marathon in the old days, the spirit of goodwill and the ability to find common ground remain the foundation of this industry event.
That central theme always guided the NCC – from the first meeting in 1939 to that memorable meeting in 1986 and now to the February meeting in 2015.
Some things never change regardless of how much time has passed.