Thursday, 27 September 2007

Autumn - Exhibition time

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It is Autumn and also Exhibition time. In our local town of Solothurn we have the Autumn fair at the moment, but more about that at a later date - I have decided to pay a visit on Sunday afternoon, with my camera of course. In the meanwhile the photo above came into my hands. I was a good bit younger then, the photo must have been taken at the beginning of the 70's. I was working as an export clerk for a Swiss end mill manufacturing company (and am still in the same company after 27 years) and we naturally exhibited at the international exhibitions. It was decided that instead of hiring hostesses for the occasion, girls from the office would be chosen as we knew a bit more about the products that were being shown. Not that we were technically gifted, but we at least knew what an end mill was.

Guess who was the first lady to be chosen by the company to attend the EMO fair in Hannover. Two of us were selected and I was the one that did the first week. I was married at the time and the kids were all at school. My mother-in-law helped out at home with my husband so everything was set. Before we left we were fitted for the clothes. I was not too keen on the blouses we had to wear, and would rather have had something a bit more free style, but when you had all expenses paid for a week in Hannover you certainly don't get particular. Anyhow we were fitted for the costume by a dressmaker at one of the local shops and we were ready to go.

I remember saying goodbye to my husband after he took me to the station at Solothurn in the evening. From Solothurn it was an hour to Basel and there I caught the night train to Hannover where I arrived in the morning around sevenish. It was a first class single sleeping compartment I had, so I could relax and have a good night's sleep. At least that is what I thought, but I think I was so excited I didn't close my eye once in the night. When I arrived at Hannover station in the morning I got dressed up in the exhibition uniform and went to the station restaurant for breakfast. I had to get to the exhibition halls by nine in the morning, so had plenty of time.

I had never been in Hannover so had to sort of find my way around. I remember asking and was told where the train left for the exhibition area. Hannover is an exhibition town and the people were used to having visitors from all over the world. I got to the train and found it was packed with people all going to the exhibition. I remember my boss laughing all over his face when I arrived at the stand of our company. It was something different to working in the office. I knew quite a lot of the people that visited out stand as they were customers I had dealt with on the phone. One of my jobs was to make sure they had enough coffee and biscuits and I also had to spend time with them. I was working for a Swiss company, but I remember just along the row from our stand there was a very large English company. Word soon got round that an English lady was working just around the corner, so I did have a lot of visitors all coming to have a chat with me.

We had lunch at one of the restaurants at the exhibition. There was a bit choice, and I always went to the fish restaurant. The Germans really had some wonderful fish dishes. The actual exhbition area was huge, about 11-12 halls. There were people of all countries moving around. I remember when the Japanese met there were low bows as a greeting. Nearbye we had Russians exhibiting, there were Indians, Chinese, all sorts of European countries and it was like the tower of Babel sometimes with the various languages being spoken.

At that time we didn't have hotels, but stayed in private homes belong to the people living in Hannover. It was a main source of income for them and I found it quite a good thing as you got to know the people and was not only going from exhibition to hotel. I stayed with a very nice family - husband and wife and daughter. They really looked after me and I remember in the evening watching East German television with them. Apparently at that time it wasn't really allowed, but everyone did it. Willy Brandt was on a visit to East Berlin and everyone was worked up about it as they found he had no business visiting that lot over there. How the world looks different today.

As the people from our company were all living in the same area, we met in the evening at a restaurant for the evening meal, although usually one of the members of our company usually picked me up and brought me back. They probably didn't want to take any chances of their stand lady going missing. Although it was hard work during the day, in the evening everyone was relaxed and we just enjoyed ourselves.

Eventually the time came to go home. I caught the night train once again and arrived back in my home town at about nine in the morning where my husband picked me up. This was actually the only time I was abroad for the company. There were other fairs which colleagues visited, but with time the idea was abandoned. It's one of the memories I will never forget. There follows a photo of some of our company at the fair. I think if it wasn't for us exhibition ladies there would have been no photos.

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