Picture this: a young high school teacher, pecking away at a typewriter in his New York City apartment. He's compiling a list of fellow teachers who have expressed interest in exchanging their homes during the coming summer vacation. Copies of this list will be mailed to all the participants, who will then contact each other to arrange home swaps in New York and adjoining states. Word spreads quickly amongst the educators, and soon the lists became booklets that gain more and more weight every spring.
David Ostroff was the teacher, and 1953 the year he put his concept into practice. Like many people, he had already enjoyed exchanging his home with colleagues and relatives during various holiday periods. He was aware that home exchanging had been a long-practised social activity, quite popular as far back as the middle ages!
In 1960 David formalised his enterprise, establishing "Vacation Exchange Club Inc", which by then had extended its domain to include members, primarily teachers, throughout North America, Europe and United Kingdom.
Unaware of David's service, a young lady named Jan Ryder was now offering a similar one in the UK, primarily to members in the armed forces (her husband was an RAF officer). Within a short time David and Jan's paths crossed, and they elected to collaborate by pooling their resources, thus laying the foundation for the world-renowned international organisation that we know today as "HomeLink International Associates".
The '60s and '70s saw David and Jan's formal network grow, with official representatives in other countries setting up offices to promote the service and provide registration facilities worldwide. "Directory Group Association" was the adopted name, in reference to the directories now published, replacing the modest little booklets of earlier years.
By 1980 the group had expanded further, with offices in the following countries: Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United States.
In the next decade DGA welcomed newcomers, as well as replacements for some of the originals. Representatives emerged in Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa and Yugoslavia. More recently, new offices have opened in Estonia, Russia and Turkey, with arrangements underway to add Nepal and Slovenia. To reflect this astounding expansion, and a truly International network, the name of the group was changed in the late 90s to "HomeLink International", the name already held by our UK office.
The 1990s also saw the growth in popularity of the World Wide Web and advanced internet access. And with the internet came perhaps the most dramatic stage of our evolution in terms of format and technology.
Listings can now be posted online, with photos in full colour; members have plenty of handy tools for quick searching and correspondence; and the quality of the directories is vastly improved, with colour photos and modern typography. Now, it seems that there is no limit to the exciting features that can be added to increase our members' enjoyment and facilitate home exchanging everywhere.
Yes, times have changed - from typewriters to computers, black and white books to quality full colour publications, and from snail mail to email. What changes will the next 50 years bring? New ideas, new technology no doubt, but one thing we will strive to retain:
HomeLink International - "Number 1 in the field of Home Swapping"
In May 2003, our Annual General Meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark featured a milestone celebration, as we marked the Golden Jubilee of HomeLink International.
We look forward eagerly to another 50 years (and hope some of us may still be around to see it!)