The second term of their second year in High school was drawing to a close and the two fifteen year old teens, Rebecca York, Linda MacIntyre and their boyfriends, Kevin Wilson and Paul Appleton, were lounging about in the shallow end of the in-ground pool of their classmate, Danielle Winter.
Rebecca had asked Danielle if she could borrow the Winter pool for a bit because she was having some trouble with a high speed turn-around she was attempting and her own pool was too short to get up to speed. The flip worked well at her place but the last two times she tried it at swim team practice she found herself out of position and that had cost her half a second. She was hoping to be able to fine-tune the move at Danielle's and, as usual, Linda came along as timekeeper and supporter. They've been working as a team that way ever since that fateful day when Rebecca's mother forced the Saint Dunstan swim team to strip and swim naked in order to beat Gymnos. Diane York had recently been elected as chairwoman of the St. Dunstan Home and School Association and had really been feeling her oats since then.
As a member of the St. Dunstan swim team some twenty years previously, Diane had never forgiven herself or the swim team for the loss to Gymnos they had endured. It just wasn't RIGHT! It had been the first year that Gymnos had been inscribed as a participant of the Intercity School Athletics Association.Gymnos was a local private school wholly subsidised by the members of the local naturist center, Sunny Acres, and as such, insisted that all competitors in their home pool be nude. The shock had so destabilised Diane that she had lost the race. Since then, Gymnos had won all the inter-school championships, usually by default, as no other school would compete under those conditions. When Diane won the election, she was determined that her daughter would wipe away that dishonour and forced the school's swim team to go nude. The rest is history...
Now, three and a half years later, the whole county was clothing-optional, every elementary school but one, and just about every junior high school were totally clothes-free and, except for Buchanan, which had declared itself clothes-free the same year that St. Dunstan did, just about every high school was officially clothing optional, although most had copied Buchanan's example and were now unofficially clothes-free, as well. All inter-school and community sporting events with the exception of baseball had been clothes-free for two years now. Baseball was excepted and would remain so mainly because sliding home in skin was just too risky. As for American-style football, it was losing ground to soccer and rugby, both of which could be played nude and had already been done so frequently elsewhere in the world.
The only schools that were determined to remain textile, to use the term that naturists use to describe those that prefer to wear clothing for all occasions, including swimming, if you can believe it, were those frequented by religious fundamentalists of different faiths, be they Catholic, Christian, Jew or Muslim. However, rumour has it that their student numbers are steadily declining as these families move out for more straight-laced communities.
The St. Dunstan swim team, composed as it was of four younger members and four older members, with the just about the same age spread amongst the supporters, had been obliged to split up as half the team went on to Buchanan. However, the girls had remained in contact and the following year, when the younger team members graduated from St. Dunstan, as well, they all reunited again as the Buchanan swim team. It became a matter of pride that they stayed together. They would practice together, competitors and supporters, alike, they would compete together, in the pool and in the stands, they would celebrate their wins together and, not very often but it did happen occasionally, they would commiserate their defeats together.
Rachel had changed a lot from the time she had been Queen Bitch of her squad of 'bad girls' at St. Dunstan Jr. High. Rachel and her mother had never really gotten along and when her mother's latest live-in boyfriend had tried to include Rachel in their night-time activities (she had just turned fifteen), Rachel had blackmailed the guy into paying for a small flat downtown, lied about her age and moved out. Of her 'bad girls', Christina Lopez and Carrie Simmons had stayed on to become full-fledged supporters of the swim team while Andrea had dropped out during the ninth grade. Rumour had it she was now doing porn flicks somewhere in New Jersey. Rachel and Anne would always bring their chess board and after a hard-fought game, Anne would coach Rachel to the point that in the class standings, they were always one and two; sometimes, it was Rachel who was ahead, other times it was Anne.
The public school system is not the only organisation benefiting from the groundswell of everyone choosing to go natural. The three Gymnos schools; Gymnos Elementary, Gymnos Jr. High and Gymnos High School have all seen an increase in student population. Being a private school, it can set its own rules (within certain limits, of course) and one is that it can accept students from non-residential families. With all the media attention that the clothes-free schools have been gathering, families from across the country have started to register their children for a naturist education. Gymnos maintains several dormitory-style residences for out-of-town students within the limits of the Sunny Acres Naturist Center.
Sunny Acres has also seen a tremendous increase in business. Previously, Sunny Acres and Baxter Island's famous 'nude' beach (although, technically it was clothing- optional) had been the only places where those who were so inclined could 'let it all hang out'. Now that the entire county was clothing-optional, all of Baxter Island has pretty well become totally clothes-free, and with the exception of the cost of the ferry ($1 for a round trip ticket) is completely free, unlike Sunny Acres. However, Sunny Acres has a non-negligible advantage. There is no possibility for an overnight stay at Baxter Island. During the night, the island is patrolled by security. (That is not to say that no one has ever stayed overnight on Baxter Island but doing so is complicated as not only must the overnighter hide to avoid security, the ticket is only valid on the day of purchase and there is no ticket booth on the island itself. Any adventurous soul or rather couple, since that is the usual case, must ask a friend to purchase some extra round trip tickets the following day so the lovers can get back off the island. However, unlike that old B. B. King song, the thrill is certainly NOT gone.)
Be that as it may, we were discussing Sunny Acres. The main reason Sunny Acres has remained popular and even increased its membership, in spite of nudity being allowed everywhere is the fact that it is the only camping-friendly green space within the county; the nearest state park is out in 'textile territory'! The Board of Directors of Sunny Acres (there has never been a single owner or group of 'owners', as such) has since the very beginning been intensely interested in the 'nature' aspect of naturism and has kept 75 to 80 % of the property in its original pristine state. Whenever there was a need (and they had the money), they expanded outward and even then, some of the newly purchased land was allowed to revert. It has only been since the county has become clothing optional that they have deviated somewhat from this policy. The latest farm they have acquired had a beautiful century-old mansion fronting it, so it was decided to convert the farm into an 18 hole par-3 golf course with the mansion to be turned into a clubhouse and pro shop. Bill Tierney, the man responsible for most of the 'green' infrastructure within Sunny Acres, will be heading up that project.
By the time Kevin and Paul had joined them with pizzas and soda, Rebecca figured that she knew what she was doing wrong (her down-stroke arm was extended too far out). The last two tries, her time had actually improved two tenths over her best. So when Kevin appeared, she was doubly pleased.
With the pizza boxes empty except for a few dry crusts and their bellies full, no one felt the least bit like doing any strenuous exercise, besides, they were five and two against three was unfair, no matter how you sliced it. Usually, Danielle's younger sister, Darlene, would be there with them but she and her class were off on a nature hike somewhere, the sand quarry, most likely. Danielle herself had not yet found a boy to her liking... "As if I'd have the time for it!" she would say if some one brought it up. Danielle spent all her free time, and then some, volunteering at the St. Joseph's rehab centre. As a result, the conversation had drifted from the upcoming end-of-term exams to what they were hoping to do after they graduate. (Talking about boys was simply not on ... guys have such fragile egos.)
"I, for one, already have a job lined up," said Paul. "As a matter of fact, come summer, I'll be starting my apprenticeship."
"And when were you thinking of telling ME about it?" said Linda, crossly.
"Aw, Lin... , don't take it like that. It's not as if I'll be leaving town..."
She gave him a quick snuggle. "Just teasing... " She waited... "So, out with it already! What WILL you be doing?"
Well, Dad's an architect at Tierney's Engineering Services ... As a matter of fact, it was Bill Tierney who got Dad and the family into naturism over ten years ago. Dad was a brand new architect looking to break into the field and Bill Tierney got this contract over at Sunny Acres to rebuild the clubhouse and all the washrooms and showers and things. The state had come in with some new standards for waste-water management and Sunny Acres didn't want to chance losing their permit because they weren't to standard. So Bill hired Dad to help him on that project. Dad liked what he saw, talked the rest of the family into dropping in one week-end and we've been there ever since."
"Recently, the board at Sunny Acres bought some property they want to turn into a golf course, so Dad will be working on that this summer and Bill agreed that I could work on it as well."
"Hey, terrific!" cheered Linda, "I love golf. Dad used to take me with him when I was younger but when Saint Dunstan switched to skin, I stopped going with him because I didn't want to get dressed. He'll be one happy camper when he hears about this. What about you, Becky?"
"I don't know, really ... for years Mom's been priming me to be the best swimmer there ever was. It's OK, I guess and I do like swimming but I don't see that happening as a career. In her spare time, when she's not lording it over the School Board, she's a lawyer and a pretty good one but that doesn't really turn me on. I barely see Dad. He's night manager over at the Grand Hotel and he's usually asleep when I'm awake and vice-versa." She snuggled closer to Kevin. "I wouldn't want to be on a different shift than my husband."
"Oh?" asked Danielle. "When's the wedding?"
The whole group started laughing. "Oh, you guys," sputtered Rebecca, " you know what I mean."
"What about you, Danielle?" asked Linda. "No ... let me guess ... nursing!"
"Nope! Nowhere near that. Sure, the work is extremely fulfilling but it's hell. I've spoken with a lot of the nurses at St. Joseph's. Over there it's relatively easy ... regular shifts, no real stress but places like that are an exception. In most places, it's double, even triple shifts, working nights, week-ends, a caseload you wouldn't believe; it's no wonder 40 year old nurses look like they're 60, if they haven't burnt out and quit first."
"No, I want to go into Institution management. Not the medical end but the physical administration of the place ... especially food preparation. You wouldn't believe how bad hospital food is. You know I was anorexic before I came to St. Dunstan, right?" The girls nodded while the guys stayed non-committal. "Well, the day you dropped by as an official welcoming committee was the day I was released from an institution, myself. At that place, I ate well. Granted, I'm a special case; it was part of the treatment but the food WAS good. My parents paid a fortune to have me placed there for therapy. However, there is no excuse for it. Every hospital and institution should be able to provide good, wholesome and APPETISING meals at treasonable cost. That's what I'm going for. I don't know how yet but I will do it!"
"Anyway, on that note ... I don't want to throw you out but I've got a term paper to finish..."
"Yeah, you're right. I'd better go home and get some studying done, myself. Thanks for the use of your pool; it's been a real help," said Rebecca as they all stepped out of the pool, water streaming off their naked bodies. Kevin picked up the empty pizza boxes and Paul gathered up the soda bottles and handed them off to Christine, the Winter's housekeeper while Rebecca and Linda slipped on their sandals.
The guys were walking out the gate, pulling their motorbike helmets back over their heads, when Danielle called them back. "You're forgetting your towels."
"Oh," said Paul sheepishly, his voice muffled by the helmet, and hustled back for them. "Thanks. See you Monday."
Chapter 2; Changes...
When Rebecca got home, she was surprised to see her father there. Since Kevin had come with her (Linda had gone on to her place with Paul), he stepped in to say hello but it was soon evident that now was not a good time so he cut short his stay. After a quick kiss on the driveway, Kevin pulled his helmet back on, stepped onto his scooter and surged off, Rebecca waving at his naked backside. When he had turned the corner, she pushed her own scooter into the garage, grabbed her towel and went back in to see what the matter was.
She found her parents out on the patio, her father sitting in the shade. Unlike Rebecca and her Mom, David York was pale, almost totally pasty white. Since Rebecca was born, he had been assistant night manager, then later night manager at the Grand Hotel. He would leave to go to work around 10 at night and, usually, be home in time to give Rebecca a kiss as she left for school. Even their days off and holidays did not match as David would frequently be required to work those periods, seeing as it was those days the hotel was busiest. Diane and David had long ago accepted this state of affairs as, while they loved each other dearly and David was as calm and laid-back as Diane was fiery and imposing, both had very dominating personalities and when they spent too much time together, they would invariably get into an argument.
Rebecca spread her towel on the chair opposite her father and looked at him. "What's wrong, Dad? I guessed you wouldn't want to say anything in front of Kevin but now that he's gone, I want to know."
"Your Mom and I were just discussing it, Beckums. They're closing the Grand, as of this morning, I'm out of a job."
"You needn't worry ... Financially, we're quite well off, we won't be turfed out onto the street any time soon." He smiled. "But I'm afraid we will have to put off our 'Round-the-World' cruise for a bit."
"So what are you going to do?"
"Well, for the moment, I'm going to be working on my tan. I'm sick to death of looking like a corpse compared to you two. I haven't had a real vacation in ages. I think I'll lounge about the pool and read. And when Spring Break comes along, I'll finally be able to join you at Sunny Acres. As for the rest, we'll take it as it comes."
"Okay, this meeting of the Board of Directors will come to order. Let the minutes show that Prometheus Papadopoulos, Owner and President of Olympus Hotel Services, Hestia Papadopoulos, President of Ambrosia Food Services and Nyx Papadopoulos, President of Pantheon Bedding are sitting in on this meeting. Pappy, do you want to chair this?"
"Nah, go ahead. You're doing fine."
"Very well. Let the minutes also show that I, Ganymede Papadopoulos, President of Olympus Cookware is chairing this meeting, that John Fenwick, Secretary General of Olympus Cookware is present and that we have quorum. Now that all this horse shit is out of the way, lets get busy. Let's start with you, Spiro."
"OK, the only thing I've got for this week is some good news," announced Spyridon Antoniou, Vice president of Production. "You know that new mixer design we've been having trouble with... ? Well, Roger Watson redesigned the snap-lock mechanism so that the beater engages the drive gear trunnion with a positive lock. We've tested it some rally thick cake batter and the beater no longer shakes itself loose and fall into the mixing bowl."
Hestia sat up straight, and with a wink at her father, commented "So you're saying you've got the problem beat; you've got a better batter beater ... Did I understand it correctly?"
"Yes, that's what ... very funny," said Spiro while everyone was chuckling.
Still smiling, Gabby nodded to the next person at the Table, "Charley?"
"I'm afraid my news isn't all that amusing," advised Charles Davidson, Vice-president of Finances. "Over the last three months sales, have been dropping noticeably. Whereas last year, we were showing a good steady growth in the order of 7, 8 %, what I'm seeing now more in the neighbourhood of 2 %. Our big, industrial gear is still showing a good result but the smaller stuff like the one liter and two liter pots and pans are taking a beating ... no pun intended, Spiro."
Herbert Winter, Vice-President of Marketing, interrupted. "Actually, I'm not surprised. Whenever Theodora and I go to the mall, I like to step into that cookware store, Calvino's, to see what the competition is up to. These days all I see is stuff labelled with some TV Chef's name and picture. Some even etch their autograph on the stupid pot, as if that would keep the milk from boiling over. Would you believe it, I've even seen a designer wok."
"I talked with Christine, our housekeeper, about it the other day. She tells me that's just about the only thing besides reruns of old series on TV these days; cooking shows. There's this limey, another one who speaks with a Brooklyn accent that left town the year the Dodgers moved to L.A. and gods know what else. The next thing you know, we'll have some Inuit teach us how to serve whale blubber 'au gratin' with a coulis of salmon roe!"
"We need something to put our name back in the front line," said Charley, "something that says 'We don't need to autograph our pots. Their quality alone speaks for us.' I don't know, a big media splash or something. Also, our latest round of amortizations is pretty well paid off. If we don't find something offset our gross revenue, income tax will really take a big bite next term." Charley fell back in his chair, dejected.
Here Pappy sat up straight. "That's why Hestia, Nyx and I are here. The other day Nyx came to me with some news ... You all know the Grand Hotel... ? They've been regular customers for years, every two, three months, they replace all their linen, sheets, pillow cases, table cloths and so forth as they get stained or damaged, you know those industrial washing machines? Well, last week, after placing their usual order, they up and canceled. When Nyx called to find out why, they told her they had decided to close. They gave the usual reasons; increasing costs, reduced revenues and so forth but I'm guessing it's more because of the relaxed clothing styles. Old man Broderick was a tight-assed son of a bitch and his son is no better, How old is he now, Nickie? 60, 65?"
"63, I think."
"There you have it. Anyway, after Nickie told me the news, I started nosing around. The Grand was the last of the old-style hotels in this town. All that's left these days are motels and cookie-cutter chain hotels. I sort of miss the old days ... That doesn't mean I want to bring back spats, beaver hats and bustles ... I grew up on Santorini and the beaches where everyone swam nude. You can't imagine how it made me feel lighter when people started walking around in skin. However, wearing skin does not preclude running a hotel with class. I heard through the grapevine that young Broderick would be willing to let the place go for 3 million. I've got a good mind to buy it myself, only I wouldn't know what to do with it. All my life, I've been supplying hotels with what they need to operate but I don't know the first thing about running a hotel, myself. It would be a shame, though, to let the Grand sink out of sight without trying to do something to keep it alive..."
Pappy shifted in his chair."However, we're off the subject ... Who's next?"
That evening, after supper, Herbert Winter was sitting at the table on the patio with his wife, sipping on a Cointreau on ice, while Danielle and Darlene were sitting at the edge of the pool, with their feet in the water.
"Old man Papadopoulos showed up at the board meeting this morning with his daughters."
"Oh? How is he?" asked Theodora.
"As fit as ever, in fact, he looks even healthier now than last year. That trip to Santorin a few months ago did him a lot good ... he looks tanned, fit and devilishly young. He mentioned something interesting ... the Grand Hotel is up for sale and he was saying he'd buy it himself if he knew what to do with it. I was thinking about what Danielle was saying a few days ago, about wanting to go into hotel management..."
"Not hotel management, Dad, hospital management..."
"It's the same thing, Cupcake ... a hospital is just an expensive hotel with in-house medical staff, bad food and a clientele that is in too lousy a shape to complain."
"Well, if you put it that way..." she chuckled.
"Anyway, as I was saying, I was thinking about what Danielle was saying and I suddenly had this thought ... This town doesn't have any decent trade schools, especially one in hotel management, you know ... how to deal with customers, bookings, proper etiquette, hotel cuisine and so forth. What if the school board were to take over the hotel and turn it into a school? Maybe you could talk to Diane York about it? Come to think of it, didn't you mention to me at one time that her husband worked at the Grand... ?" Mrs Winter nodded. "I wonder how they're taking the news."
"I don't know ... I think I'll give Diane a call tomorrow."
Chapter 3; brainstorming
" ... Yes, hello. Do I have the York residence?"
"Yes, this is David York, speaking."
"Oh ... This is Theodora Winter. Could I speak with Diane, please?"
"Just a second; she's out by the pool. I'll call her."
"Diane... ? Theodora. I heard some news last night and I just had to call you. Herbert told me that the Grand was closing and we remembered that your husband works there. How are you?"
"Not bad at all, actually ... My law practice covers most of our expenses and I get a stipend as well from the Home and School Association. As David said the other day, we'll just have to put off our 'Round-the-World' cruise."
"Diane, you're not the type to go on a 'Round-the-World' cruise ... you'd be bored silly even before you weigh anchor."
Diane chuckled. "I know ... so it's no hardship, is it?"
"So what will he be doing?"
"Well, David's been on the night shift for close on 17 years and he's had to work when most people go on vacation so now, he says he wants to work on his tan. To be honest, he looks like an elder statesman in one of those vampire movies. I doubt that he's ready to retire. In any case, he's only 41. Maybe, he'll take the summer off ... you know, use up his accumulated vacation days. We haven't really talked about it yet."
"I see ... Well, I hope everything works out. I did have another reason to call you but it's a bit complicated to discuss over the phone. I was wondering if I could come over one of these days; it involves the Grand Hotel?"
"Are you doing anything in the next little while? I mean, can you come over now?"
"I don't want to put you out."
"Not in the least. I'm sure it would interest David as well. He's always loved that place and it must have broken his heart that it closed, even though he tries to pretend it was just a job."
"So that's the idea. If you could get the School Board to agree, Herbert thinks he could talk his boss into buying a half interest in the hotel and then give it or lease it to the school board as a tax write-off. If required, Olympus could possibly be talked into supplying production seconds such as bedding, linen, cooking supplies, foodstuffs and whatnot as consumables, maybe at cost, maybe less. I myself don't know that much about it, I'm just acting as middle-man here, laying the groundwork."
Diane looked at her husband. "What do you think?"
"Well, it's a nice idea," said David. "One of the Grand's major problems these last few years is keeping good personnel ... I mean, we'd hire someone with potential, go through the probation stage, bring him up to speed as to how a GOOD hotel employee should behave and then, when he finally starts to show a return on our investment, he ups and quits for one of the chain hotels because they pay a dollar an hour more. It's frustrating as hell. However, all this is up in the air, amidst the 'what ifs' and the 'let's says'. The school board has no trade schools and even if it did, it doesn't have the hotel."
"Just for the sake of argument," asked Diane, "how much would all this cost? I mean, hotel, consumables, all that?"
"I don't know how much Broderick is asking for and I haven't seen the numbers; Broderick's brother-in-law, the day shift manager, was the one who dealt with the accounting firm but I can give a rough guesstimate ... We have 120 rooms, say at an average of $150 a night; that comes to $18,000 à night. Over the year, that would make it a little over six and half million a year gross revenue. Figure roughly 1/3 for consumables, 1/3 for salaries and 1/3 for Broderick himself and taxes. These last two, three years, we've been nowhere near 100 % occupancy, closer to 80, if that. That would mean that consumables would drop a little but not all that much and salaries would still continue to rise, regardless. So the axe would necessarily fall on Broderick's wallet. No wonder he's chosen to sell."
"Let me call Herbert," said Mrs. Winter, as she reached for her cell phone.
"Hi, Honey, can you talk?"
"I'm at the York's ... Yes, David York is here as well. We were just talking about your hotel idea and David thinks it might be doable..."
"Yes, that's right. He was telling me that with 100% occupancy, the hotel would generate some 2 million a year net before taxes."
"No, these last few years they've been running closer to 80 % ... No, he was saying that consumables and salaries would not drop and that it is the net return that would bear the entire brunt."
"Well, he pegged consumables and salaries at 2 million 2 each. That would mean that ... lets see... 80 % of 6 and half million is ... five and a quarter, in round figures. Deduct four point four million for expenses; that leaves less than a million before taxes. Take off 50 % in round figures for those taxes ... that leaves Broderick with four hundred thou a year ... How much is he asking?"
"I see ... well, I guess that would be negotiable, would it not, in light of these numbers."
"No ... I want to continue looking into it a bit here first. I'll keep you posted..."
"No problem. I'll look into that, as well. Bye now..."
Diane York was looking at her, impressed. "Wow, and I though that I was a 'hard-ass'."
Mrs Winter snickered. "Welcome to the 'Secret lives of the Rich And Famous', not that we're either one. As some wag once said, 'a million here, a million there and soon you're talking real money... '."
"Anyway, Herbert was asking if he should go ahead but I think that before he does, we should check it out with the school board. Otherwise, we may be stuck with a white elephant ... no offense meant, David. I know you liked the place."
"None taken. I fully understand your point of view and I agree with it."
"What time is it... ? Eleven. I guess the first step is talking to the chairman of the school board." Diane reached for her own cell phone and speed-dialed Richard Gregg's secretary.
"Hello ... Martha? Diane York. I was wondering when I could meet with him; I have a proposition for him ... Oh, about an hour ... Tomorrow morning at eight? Terrific, I'll be there. Bye now..."
"God, I hate early risers! Now, I'll have to get up at five to get into full battle armour."
"Battle armour? I thought you usually went around in skin?"
"Exactly! Get up at five, grab a double espresso to get the pump ticking over, then an hour jog to Buchanan and back to get this 'healthy glow', then shower and breakfast and then a half hour in front of the mirror for this 'natural look'. What a pain!" By the time Diane had finished describing her morning ritual, both David and Theodora were laughing outright.
Chapter 4; News items
The article was buried at the bottom of page 5 of the Century City Sentinel... "Grand Hotel closed" by Paule (Polly) Gingras.
[quote]The Grand Hotel, one of Century city's few remaining landmarks of a bygone era, closed definitely, yesterday, throwing some 50 people, some of whom have been with the hotel for almost 40 years, out of work. Mr. Aloysius Broderick, owner and grandson of Jeremiah Broderick, founder of the establishment, stated "rising costs and reduced revenues were the downfall of this grand old lady. It came to the point that it was costing more to operate than the money it brought in. finally, I had no choice but to put the key in the door."
Mr. Broderick stated he regretted the old days, with its Dandies with gold knobbed walking sticks and suede gloves and gentle Ladies in bustles, crinolines and parasols 'but the times have gone on to other things and so must the Grand."
Rumour has it that one group is actively pursuing an offer to purchase but, so far, no one has admitted to this or proposed an eventual destiny for this century old building... [/quote]
This item appeared a week and a half later and was spread over the top of page 3 and included a picture of the hotel and a picture of Richard Gregg. "Century City School Board set to Purchase Grand Hotel!" by Ellen Farnsworth.
[quote]During the regular monthly public meeting of the Century City School Board, Chairman of the Board, Mr. Richard Gregg stunned the assembled audience with the news that the school board has deposited an Offer to Purchase with the law firm representing Broderick Enterprises, Ltd. and the City Clerk's office and that it had been accepted pending final approval. The Sales price was not disclosed. Mr. Gregg announced the purchase in the middle of a presentation of a brand new field of study to be offered by the school board.
In his introduction to the subject, Mr. Gregg stated that he had received several complaints from various industry representatives that potential employees were not properly prepared to join the work force,. As a result, these industries would be required to spend several weeks, if not months, in training the individual only to have this trainee being hired away by a rival company with the offer of a better salary and/or working conditions once the training period had been completed.
These representatives argued that it was the school board's responsibility to ensure that the work force be properly trained so as to be an asset to the enterprise from the onset or, at most, some remedial training in company policies. According to Mr. Gregg, the school board had been evaluating several options when, out of the blue, Olympus Hotel Services, the parent company of one of this city's most important industrial enterprises, Olympus Cookware, offered a multi-million dollar grant specifically to set up such a 'Vocational Training School' for want of better name, for the hotel industry. Since the building of the erstwhile Grand Hotel already had all the needed equipment in place, it was decided to purchase the building and its contents for the purpose of such a school.
Modifications to the building will start immediately and continue during the summer to turn the hotel rooms and suites into classrooms. In the meantime, a task force will be convened to sit down with industry experts, including some of those people released when the Grand Hotel closed its doors, to prepare courses in Hotel management, Institutional cuisine, Janitorial services, Hotel Reception and Tourism, among others. If all goes as planned, Mr. Gregg explained, it would be possible that the first cohorts of trainees in the Hotel Trades could start as early as this coming September but were more likely to start in January. When asked about the unusual opening date, Mr. Gregg stated that in contrast to elementary and high schools that traditionally function on a trimester (three month) operating schedule, the Vocational Training Center would operate on a week by week schedule, with classes starting and ending at various times throughout the year.[/quote]
Chapter 5; Task Force
They were gathered in the Grand Hotel's grand ball room, some fifty-odd people, men, women, some old, some young, most were nude, some were not, some knew each other, others were total strangers, all were extremely curious.
The ball room had been cleared of most of the furniture in the room, and ballroom chairs had been replaced by a series of student chairs with built-in half desks for note taking in sufficient numbers for everyone present. On the stage where, normally, the orchestra would be seated, there was a one meter by two meter table, four chairs and a white board.
Promptly, at 8:30 sharp, three men in their mid to late forties walked in from off-stage and stood in front of the assembled multitude. Two were nude, the third was dressed in sandals, kaki slacks and a Rolling Stones tee-shirt. As they walked on, the crowd quieted down almost immediately.
"Good morning. Allow me to introduce ourselves ... My name is Mark Ford. For want of a better title, let's say I'm the 'Content Supervisor' for this little exercise. I'm a counselor with the Century City School Board. It is my job to verify that the courses that are given in our schools meet with Government standards. Today and the coming weeks, however, will be different. We will be charting unknown territory. There are no standards, government or otherwise, for what we are about to do. It will be your job to write the courses that the Government will use as standards for the future."
"I guess you could call me the boss but a much better title would be 'Team Leader' because, without you, this whole project will fail miserably. On my left, as some of you will have no doubt recognised, is David York. Until recently, David was the night manager of this very hotel. On my right is Mr. Pierre Lefebvre. Pierre is from Quebec. Quebec has an extensive network of Vocational Training Schools and has developed a very precise, structured, course format for these vocational training centers."
"Before anything else, I would like you to banish, once and for all, the name 'Trade School'. Vocational training centers have about the same relationship to a trade school that a ... soapbox derby, say, has to the F1. They're both races but that's where the similarity ends. In the same way, both trade schools and vocational centers teach you a job but where a trade school would introduce you to a trade like garage mechanic or a carpenter's mate on a construction site, vocational training centers produce finished specialists like bricklayers, diesel mechanics or even aircraft assemblers."
"As I was saying, Quebec has developed a special goal-oriented course structure for their vocational training programs that we feel is ideally suited for what we wish to implement here. In the next six months, you will create from scratch all the different course modules in the different fields of the program. Some of you are specialists in your fields, cooks, booking agents, janitors, others again are teachers, and others again are editorial specialists. Together, you will determine the content of each module, you will write the course manual and the editors will verify it for language and format. You will each be issued a computer and a 'bible', the style guide we wish you to follow."
Several people raised their hands... "Just a few more minutes of your time and we will be glad to answer your questions. Right now, I'm guessing that several of you wish to ask how to go about this or wish to say you've never written anything before, much less a training course. This is why we're here today ... For the next week, you yourselves will be the students. Pierre will teach you the structure of and the reason behind goal-oriented training. After that, we will separate you by trade affinity and you will establish through a structured process of brainstorming, what must absolutely be taught; what the student needs to know to do the job correctly, what part would be 'nice to know' and what will be 'icing on the cake', as it were. From past experience, this should not take more than 4 days, a week at most. Once this is done, we will start actually writing the course modules. Are there any questions?"
Pierre interrupted. "Just one moment more ... there is one thing I would add. It is important to realise in a goal-oriented training course there are no marks, just 'pass' and 'fail'. Just now, Mark mentioned "need to know'. Whatever the module, if the student has not mastered the 'need to know', he must continue until he has mastered the subject. There are no grades, just 'success' or 'failure'." There was some grumbling from the floor as teachers started protesting. Pete held up his hands until all was quiet again.
"I was involved in the development of Quebec's aircraft construction training program and I can think of no better example than that. Be honest ... you are taking an airplane to the vacation spot of your dreams. Would you prefer that the workmen who built the airplane passed the course with 60 %, or with 75 %, or more... ? If you KNEW that the man who attached the engines to the airplane had passed his training course with just 60 %, what would YOU do? Are you in a position to know if the 40 % or the 25 % he did NOT master is important to the safety of the plane and its passengers... ? The questions of success and failure now take on a whole different context, n'est-ce pas?"
"Obviously, we are not talking 'life and death' here but we ARE talking customer satisfaction, which is almost as important. A satisfied customer will return, an unsatisfied customer will not and, if you have too many unsatisfied customers, you're out of business."