With today’s fast-paced travel environment of technology, booking innovation, security concerns, etc., we thought it might be interesting to take a look backward; reaching into our history to find out exactly how Travel and Transport began.
The story of Travel and Transport begins like many businesses; full of trials and tribulations. It all started when a city hall reporter for the Omaha World Herald, Mr. Lawrence Youngman, thought it was time to make a career change.
Travel and Transport Founder Lawrence Youngman stated in a 1996 interview, “Well I guess the underlying reason I started Travel and Transport was that I had been working for the Omaha World Herald for 17 years and always had the expectation that I would someday go to work for myself,” said Youngman during a company interview in 1996.
Youngman recalled how he was covering city hall when a city commissioner stopped him in the hallway to chat. The commissioner explained to Youngman that he had some extra money and was looking for something to do with it. Youngman explained that he had long thought there was a need for a good travel organization in Omaha.
And so, Travel and Transport was established. On October 16, 1946 Lawrence and Mae Youngman opened the doors of Travel and Transport. They had “two second-hand desks and one typewriter and a world of ignorance,” Youngman recalled. The staff included Lawrence and another individual; neither of whom had any experience in the travel business.
The first ticket that Travel and Transport sold was for a friend of Youngman’s that needed a ticket to New York City for his wife. Youngman went to the United Airlines ticket counter at the airport and bought the ticket at retail and sold it to his friend for retail.
He had his first sale but wondered how the heck he was going to make money in this business!
Video: In celebration of Travel and Transport’s 50th anniversary in 1996, company founder Lawrence Youngman and 2nd president Mal Hansen sat down to talk about the beginnings of our company.
Travel and Transport takes off…for Europe!
After two tough years, the company finally got a break. In the spring of 1948, Youngman was approached by Air France, a new government-owned French airline trying to get a foothold in the European travel industry following World War II. Air France offered Lawrence a free trip to Paris, expecting that his experience would help sell more tickets. At the suggestion of Lawrence’s wife, Mae, he decided to take some people with him.
Youngman approached newly-named Farm Service Director for WOW radio station, Mal Hansen. The two had never met, but Youngman suggested to Mr. Hansen that if he could get at least 15 people to go with him, they would all get free tickets to Europe. Hansen received generous support from the station’s Promotion Manager and they decided they should try to find 15 farmers that might be interested in taking a trip to Europe.
Hansen sent letters to each of the county extension agents in the listening area (Eastern and Central Nebraska, Northwest Missouri, Northern Kansas, Western Iowa, and Southeastern South Dakota) requesting them to recommend up to three respected farmers that would talk to their communities about their experience in Europe, and that would have $1,500 to pay for one month’s trip.
From the list that he received, Hansen sent letters detailing the trip plan, which would include overseas meetings with agricultural specialists, and most importantly, an opportunity to spend at least 24 hours living overnight on a farm home in several of the countries.
The response was almost immediate, and in a short amount of time the fifteen participants had mailed in their deposits to secure their space on the trip. With this encouragement, Mr. Youngman used his free Air France ticket to Europe, and approached the Thomas Cook Travel Agency in London with his idea for the tour.
This travel agency business was actually becoming reality for Youngman!
Daily broadcasts from Europe
Youngman started approaching the Agricultural Consuls in the U.S. Embassies in each country, as well as the National Farmers Unions to set up the home stays. He found they were eager to make contact with American farmers and agreed to locate potential hosts. One of the biggest challenges for Youngman was finding hosts who could speak English well enough to communicate with the American farmers during their overnight stays.
Another challenge was figuring out how Hansen would get his broadcasts back to Omaha while on the tour. Because most radio in Europe was under government control, they only needed one contact with the radio stations in each country, and they found that cooperation was not a problem.
While Youngman was making these plans, he sent Hansen, by cable and mail, information about how the plans were progressing. Hansen then built interest in the tour by reading Youngman’s reports on his daily broadcasts.
When December 15, 1948 arrived, there were 25 farmers ready to embark on an experience that many declared afterwards was a highlight of their life. WOW listeners were well aware that a Midwest farm group was going on a tour of war-torn Europe, a destination out-of-bounds for most Americans for eight years. When Youngman approached Clyde Sharrar, the United Airlines station manager in Omaha, for 25 reservations to New York City, Sharrar said he had never heard of such a thing and that it would never happen. It is probable that it was one of the first and largest air tours ever taken – prior to that, steamships had taken American groups to Europe.
This WOW Radio Farm Tour on Air France was considered a big “kickoff” in overseas business. The tour received publicity not only on the front page of the Christian Science Monitor, but also on many broadcasts on the NBC network. This tour included a private audience with Pope Pius XII, a rare experience for the participants. In the end, the tour was a complete success and opened the doors for many more tour operations and great exposure for this up-and-coming company. Following the tour, Mal Hansen continued his partnership with Youngman and Travel and Transport. He joined Travel and Transport in 1959 and succeeded Youngman as president of the company in 1973.
The rich history of Travel and Transport and the amazing stories that live within our walls have paved the way for the success we know today. From our humble beginnings, Travel and Transport has developed the experience it takes to be a global leader and we continue to provide our customers with the same care and respect that Lawrence Youngman sought to achieve when he opened the doors to his dream in 1946.