Those Were the Days! Great Memories at Signature Vacations Reunion

Christine Arthur Owen, onetime Signature Business Development Manager with Open Jaw’s Martha Chapman, Signature Corporate Communications Manager

There were smiles, hugs and squeals of recognition 11JAN as some 25 former Signature Vacations staffers reunited. The venue was Hemingway’s, a landmark in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood.

They came from around the GTA - and one stalwart all the way from England! - and were a mix of retirees (“I’m 82!” boasted one) and those still in the industry, even after all these years. Former staffers in product, marketing, sales, customer relations, ops, payload and accounting all came out, most recalling the Signature years of the ‘90s and early 2000s.

Richard Kirby, Signature Product Director – visiting from England - with Dianne Jackson, Business Development Manager and Mahmud Rais, Payload Department.

I joined Signature - then Adventure Tours - so long ago that there was a telex in the mail room; paper tickets were the rule; and guests at all-inclusive resorts had their picture taken on arrival, to be worn around the neck at all times to ensure admission to restos and bars, thereby ruining more than one elegant dinner ensemble. Within days of my joining, Lawrence Elliott, head of product, informed me that I would be going to the Dominican Republic for a couple of days to “get a taste of the product.” I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Christina Growth, Operations; Tammy Cecco, Destination Representative; Annie Mullins Operations, and Joanne Kennedy and Barbara Polanco who also started as Destination reps.

“I think at the time Signature really was known to set the standard in the industry for service and quality,” said Dianne Jackson, now Director of Franchises and Affiliates for TDC and organizer of the reunion. “We really set the bar.” Annie Mullins, who is the Director of Ops at Sunwing, told me “So many memories! Lifelong friends, and yes we worked crazy hours but we sure laughed.” Mahmud Rais, from payload and still in payload at Sunwing, recalled the closeness and camaraderie.

Mihaela Henes, Sales & Marketing Manager with Rick Martin, Operations and Julie Suhiro, Proudct Manager.

“It was fun – but hard work too,” recalled Linda Wright, who headed customer relations. “Never once was I bored.” Now retired, Linda says she misses the people in the industry the most – but not, she laughed, the crises, the hurricanes and the complaints. Peter Simpson, also with customer relations, told me he loved the eye-opening fams.

From customer relations: Richard Nettleton, Peter Simpson and Linda Wright

I remember the pressure to “put bums in seats” and, in my role, get the brochures written and onto the presses. As the copywriter of those brochures, I had unique challenges such as describing the view from a hotel room that actually overlooked a row of dumpsters.

Reconnecting at Hemingway’s

I don’t think we appreciated how much fun we were having. It was wonderful to see those dear, familiar faces at the reunion.

Those were the days, indeed.

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