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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rob Kneen recalls 1962 beginnings of Traveline

Traveline celebrates its 50 years in business on Thursday, Sept 27, with a party from 4 to 8 p.m. beneath a tent erected at their Lawnfield Inn,  at Mentor Ave and Route 615 in Mentor. Food will be catered by Skye, which has evolved into a dining out favorite for many inside the inn. Step into the tent to sample the yummies and to wish Traveline founder Arline Kneen the best but also be sure to go into the hotel's lobby where a chocolate fountain will be bubbling with dessert bites.
 When I asked Rob Kneen for a little history about  how Traveline came to be, he responded with this fond recollection:

Traveline was started in 1962 as a result of the fact that my parents, Bob and Arline, unlike most couples in the 60’s who spent their money on bigger finned cars and split level homes, spent every available disposable dime on travel. Even before being in the travel business, travel was their greatest pleasure and they included us kids in the fun. When I was 9, they took me and my sisters out of school early, loaded our old Fold Falcon on a tramp Cunard Line steamer and we spent 4 months of the summer of 1962 traveling throughout Europe, staying in hostels, pensions, and the occasional traditional hotel. Their friends came to know them as the couple to call to find out the best hotel in Paris or where to dine in Rome. They were historians, making sure that we saw many of the most renown battle grounds of WW II, the most beautiful museums – they even took us as kids to visit a concentration camp to make sure we understood how out of control man’s inhumanity to man could actually get. A searing image in my mind to this day. Upon their return, my mother received SO many calls for travel recommendations that she thought “Hey, I could get paid to do this if I opened a travel agency! Why not get paid for what we love doing most.” As in most businesses, It was a touch and go during the first two years after opening their original office in downtown Willoughby. But my  mother has an unsinkable Molly Brown quality and was determined to make a go of it. Businesses that survive from start-up require a classic entrepreneur who understand that building a business means leaving the Nine to Five mentality behind, doing what you need to do – as well as having your kids learn some aspects of the business as part of their daily chores. I was taught how to hand write airline tickets at our breakfast table at home, while getting my first car – a 1958 Ford – was contingent upon me stopping by the office each day to deliver those tickets. Some of the people who helped us in the old days are still there today. For example, Sue Voyten has been with the company for 46 of our 50 years learning the business from the ground up and developing a clientele that now call her from around the world. Having joined the company myself full time in 1975 – choosing the travel business over law school – I have been fortunate to have a boss who is both my mom and a business partner who has allowed me the freedom and the flexibility to take risks with new technologies and opening new areas in which to market our services ranging from New York to Northern California. Today, thanks to a keen eye on bringing new and young people into the company, we’ve been able to flourish in the era of super technology and the internet. Here’s a unique statistic. Traveline was on the internet before there even WAS an Orbitz, a Travelocity or an Expedia. Our key to success has always been maintaining that unique blend of technology and skilled human interaction.

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