My trade mxl tv exhibit experience began at an early age around the dinner table. My father, Joseph LoCascio, would come home every night with fascinating stories about designing and building displays and exhibits at various New York City exhibit houses where he worked as graphic artist.
When the projects he worked on were completed he would take the family into New York City and show us the results of his artistic handiwork, which often included IBM’s Madison Avenue window displays, Crane’s display of new bathroom/kitchen fixtures, Allied Chemical’s lobby displays, and various displays at the New York Stock Exchange and the World Trade Center. Many other exhibits of his would be on display at trade shows at the New York Coliseum, Waldorf Astoria, or the New York Hilton.
My admiration for my father’s artistic talents started when I would be invited to join him for his local freelance work on weekends. I’d help him load the car with his art supplies and then watch in amazement as he laid out and hand-lettered a bank’s new window sign in gold leaf, or a company’s name on a truck door, or a new sign for a local church.
The exhibit building business was cyclical, and there were times when work was scarce and some shop workers had to be laid off for a few weeks. Other times there was too much work, which called for hiring more people and working overtime and weekends to complete exhibits.
My chance to work with my father at Exhibit Craft, Inc. in Long Island City, came when the shop was on a full-time work schedule, including weekends, to complete multiple exhibits in time for the National Hardware Show in Chicago.
I jumped at his offer and was excited to not only be making $1.50 an hour at the age of 14, but also to get to work with my father and begin learning the exhibit building business from the ground up. My work that first weekend – and many others that followed – included cleaning silk screens and squeegees, resurfacing art tables with new paper, sweeping the floor, carefully peeling frisketed graphic panels, and mixing paints.
I knew right then and there that the exhibit business was where I wanted to spend my career. During high school and after military service I worked at Exhibit Craft, Inc. working my way up the ladder, which included Silk Screen Production, Assistant Production Manager, Shipping and Receiving Clerk, and Assistant to the Purchasing Manager.
A major career transition came when ECI won the new Olivetti Underwood account and needed an account executive to manage their multiple product exhibits for more than 40 trade shows per year. I applied, interviewed, and got the job. To my amazement, I soon found myself in planning meetings at Olivetti’s corporate headquarters at 1 Park Avenue in New York City.
At 22, I was enjoying a dream job, learning the ins and outs of being an exhibit account executive and looking to the future when, unsuspectingly, ECI was sold to IVEL, which is today a part of Exhibit Group. IVEL then moved the ECI plant to Brooklyn, New York. For me, it was unreasonable to work in and travel to Brooklyn as I still enjoyed living an almost carefree and independent lifestyle at my parents’ home in Bergenfield, New Jersey, where I grew up. But if moving out for a job was a necessity, I thought moving to California might be a much better choice.
With an eye for adventure, travel, and an urge to start fresh, I sent a resume out to Stewart Sauter, an exhibit builder and show decorator in San Francisco. I was hired after a great interview. I had contracted Stewart Sauter many times in the past to set up and dismantle Olivetti Underwood’s exhibits and had established an excellent working relationship with Mr. Tony Panacci, who I would work for. My job was supervising the setup, servicing, and dismantling of all exhibits sent to Stewart Sauter from exhibit houses from throughout the country.
My tenure in San Francisco was short-lived, however, because while setting up exhibits at the Fall Joint Computer Conference at Brooks Hall, I met Mr. Del Kennedy, Advertising Manager at UNIVAC Division of Sperry Rand. He ended up offering me a job as their Corporate Trade Show Exhibits Coordinator in Bluebell, Pennsylvania.
Getting the opportunity to jump from the vendor side of the business to the client side was a dream I had developed as I watched the entire staff at Exhibit Craft organize and clean up the shop in preparation for one of its client’s visits. One day I said to myself, “Someday I want to be the client.”
UNIVAC built and sold computers. Their trade show exhibit philosophy was to use live theatrical presentations, developed by the highly talented Hardman and Associates from Pittsburgh, PA, to show just what computers could do. Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman, creators of the cult film “Night of the Living Dead,” developed scripts, scenery, and AV materials, and hired and trained actors and a complete professional production crew to effectively present UNIVAC’s computer presentations.
We staged the presentations on an hourly schedule in a theater with seating for about 60 visitors. When the presentation ended, the doors would open and visitors would walk through a display area where salespeople, managers and technical support professionals made personal product presentations, answered questions, and filled out sales lead forms for additional information or sales calls.