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Class of 1965

Travel Tours
Are Where 😊
Dreams Come

Maryann Portone 12-13-2020.jpg

F-A.COM:  Tell us about your career as a Group Tour Coordinator for the Cultural Heritage Alliance, and why was it so rewarding?  


MARYANN:  The company's name is Cultural Heritage Alliance (CHA ), which operates educational international tours, mainly to Western Europe, for high school groups.

I began working there in 1984 and stayed until I retired  in 2016.  In 1984, the ground operations were organized by our offices in Europe; after 9/11, they moved to our World headquarters in Philadelphia.  I began my travel career at CHA in the Air Transportation Department, booking and ticketing the flights. I also worked in Sales & Customer Service and in Administration.

After 9/11, our ground operations were moved to our World Headquarters here in Philadelphia.   I then was responsible for reserving the ground transportation (coaches, trains, ferries, cruises). I have always been interested in history and geography.

From the time I left high school, I wanted to travel. In the early 1980's, I worked for a small airline and a different tour operator before beginning my career with CHA.  Working with group leaders and suppliers was exciting, and it was gratifying to hear the happy stories of the travelers when they returned.  I also traveled myself, something I may not have done if I hadn't worked in the industry. 

Also, my degree from Penn State was in Secondary Education. Even though I didn't pursue that career path, I am always a teacher at heart.  It was gratifying working with other educators, and I enjoyed sharing my knowledge with them.

F-A.COM:  What was your most memorable experience? 

MARYANN:  There have been so many, I cannot choose one. But, I do remember my first trip to Europe (to Italy), soon after I joined CHA. We flew

Pan Am from JFK, and visited three major cities in five days, accompanied by a tour director and local guides, had great food, saw lots of sites, and stayed in interesting hotels. I then realized that touring was the best way to visit most foreign places.

F-A.COM:  What was your most challenging experience? 

MARYANN:  We lived through the Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, the Achille Lauro highjacking, the TWA highjacking, the losses of Eastern, Pan Am, and TWA; but I think the events of 9/11 affected us the most. Many agencies in our industry did not survive, and I am grateful mine did. But navigating the new normal in our industry has been a challenging learning experience. 

F-A.COM:  Tell us about your family? 


MARYANN:  I never married, and I have no children. I have a younger brother, a sister-in-law, two nieces and one nephew, three great-nephews and one great-niece. They all live down South, and I miss not being able to visit with them this year.


F-A.COM:  What was it like being a teen in the mid-sixties? 


MARYANN:  Wow! So different from today. Telephones were in our homes, attached to the wall; and we had to wait our turn to use it. To make a call when out of home, we had to find a pay phone. We had one television in our house, which we watched together. We were all home for dinner by 5:00 p.m. I took SEPTA to school.


Our music was rock-n-roll. We loved the Beatles and Bandstand (I was on Bandstand three or four times). Boys had short hair, and girls had poofy hair, which we teased to get it that way. We went to dances on Friday nights, at Chez-Vous, Wagner's Ballroom, or the Boulevard; and Saturday nights were date nights. The USA was in a "cold war" with the USSR, and we had air-raid drills to prepare us for a nuclear attack. We watched the space race, including seeing the first moon landing. Mostly, I remember that we were taught to respect each other, especially our elders; and I thank my parents every day for teaching me those life lessons.


F-A.COM:  What was your experience like on the day President Kennedy was assassinated? 


MARYANN:  As with most people of my generation, my memories of that day are still vivid. I was 14 and in 10th grade. It was Friday afternoon before Thanksgiving.  I was an Office Aide that year. (We were Commercial students who volunteered to help the office staff with clerical duties). I was wearing a green shift dress and my favorite silver bracelet.

I discovered during 5th period that I had lost my bracelet. Thinking I may have dropped it at the office earlier that day, I went there to find it. Things in the office seemed strange because all of the secretaries were gathered around a radio listening to a news bulletin, so I stayed and listened. Then we all started crying because the newscaster said President Kennedy had been shot and was dead. Classes were cancelled for the rest of that day and all of the next week. I remember going home in a dazed stupor. The next week was consumed by our watching the news and the funeral.


F-A.COM:  What was your most memorable experience at Frankford? 


MARYANN:  Again, so many. But here's one I lived to laugh about. I was in many activities, but I was not (still am not) very athletic. I thought I would like to give sports a try--so in my senior year, I tried out for softball. We met in the gym in February or March because it was snowing.


On my second day, we were learning to slide; but instead of sliding, I fell on my left knee, which blew up like an ugly purple balloon. I limped home on SEPTA, and that night my father took me to the ER to have my knee drained. The best part: I tried to hide it from my Mom because I didn't want to miss my sorority meeting that night. Needless to say, my athletic career quickly came to an ignominious end.


F-A.COMWho or what inspired you at Frankford? 


MARYANN:  My favorite teacher was Miss Eileen Dugan, who became Mrs. Hackenyos while I was at Frankford. She was our Color Guard coach, and one of my commercial teachers. Years later, I attended Penn State with the intention of becoming a business teacher, and I believe my experiences with Mrs. Hackenyos helped me decide on that career path. I also had one teacher who inspired me in a negative way--see answer #11.


F-A.COM:  How did Frankford prepare you for your adult journey?  Of course, I received a very good formal education, but what I gained were many life lessons as well. To fulfill my academic and extra-curricular obligations, I developed organizational and disciplinary skills. I had to fight to get into Frankford, so I learned how to work for something I really wanted.


As a member of many organizations, I learned what it meant to be a team member. We Color Guards had to leave the home football games before they ended, so I also learned how to handle disappointment. 


F-A.COM:   some of the activities you were involved in at Frankford. How did they shape you? 


MARYANN:  Sororities and fraternities at Frankford were popular in 1965, so I joined Beta Gamma Phi because two of my junior high school friends joined it. I was Vice-President of Student Council, a Color Guard, in Dance Club, Office Aides, Y-Teens, and a member of the Highway staff. I joined these activities mostly to meet more of my fellow students, which I did, but I think those experiences encouraged me to continue volunteering throughout my life.


F-A.COM:  If you could go back in time for a day, what would you whisper in your 17-year-old ear? 


MARYANN:  I would whisper into my 14-year-old ear to continue with Spanish classes instead of math. Unfortunately, our only Spanish teacher was not very good, so I ran from that subject. After pursuing a career in international travel, I now realize that speaking Spanish would have been very helpful. Oh, and I probably would have told my 17-year-old self not to try out for softball.

F-A.COM:  Finally, what advice would you give today’s students going through this Pandemic? 


MARYANN:  First, I would say how sorry I am for them that they are losing out on one of the best parts of high school--socializing and activities. It is difficult for me to imagine high school without the proms, football games and graduation ceremony.


But I also would say that young people seem to have an enormous capacity to overcome adversity.   I hope this current challenge will help you overcome the challenges you will face as you become an adult. Remember, you have many years ahead of you, and I wish you success in all you attempt.

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