Tom Maupin and Neil Mecaskey

Tom Maupin and Neil Mecaskey.  Two Travelers, Living Their Passions.

Central (Watson) Park, Lawrence, Kansas, Original watercolor, by Tom Sherman, 1984

Central (Watson) Park, Lawrence, Kansas, Original watercolor, by Tom Sherman, 1984

Passion, bravado, triumph, rewarding experience and exploration, as the world got smaller.

Beginning in the mid 1950’s, Tom Maupin and Neil Mecaskey were the first to take American travelers behind the Iron Curtain.  According to reports, this was accomplished only after Tom Maupin slept on the floor of the Russian Embassy for 13 days, until the Russians were so sick of him they gave him visas for his group.  Of course, despite their visas, the group was met on the tarmac in Czechoslovakia by armed soldiers, and a literal stand-off occurred with Maupin planted in the doorway of the plane between guns and frightened Americans.  He reportedly received a few rifle jabs but didn’t budge.  Tensions eventually released, and the tour, and many afterwards, was a success.

It was travel that they loved, and they brought it (to the mostly well-heeled) in spades.  Going, seeing, doing, experiencing.  They were modern travel pioneers.  They frowned upon the “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” tour cliche’.  The company motto became, “It’s not the places, it’s the people.”  They didn’t take people sightseeing, they took them “life-seeing.”  Luxury tents in Africa long before they were expected, Turkish tea with Instanbullas friends, private Maiko ceremonies in Kyoto, the list was exciting and always expanding.

Their passion made them wealthy, and until the end they put their money where their heart was.  They, and their customers, went everywhere.  They lived every moment, glamorously.  Travel, travel, travel well.  They infused this adventurous spirit into their company and its ever-increasing employees.  Instead of mere company parties, they chartered planes and had champagne flights to nowhere.  They threw smash parties at their home, a simple three-story historic Italianate stone mansion with turreted tower, hidden doors and hallways, and red rooms and blue rooms, and, of course, the ten-car garage, full of classics and big enough for a party of 300.  Brownstone in NYC.  Office in Brussels, complete with a Rolls to charter VIP guests around the continent.

The tale has players and scenes made for the movies.  “In the 70s before deregulation, Americans still came to Egypt with steamer trunks, and the women were dripping in diamonds.”  This statement related to me over dinner in Prague by the dramatic and flamboyant long-time company guide, Peter ffrench (the two lower case f’s are not a misspelling).  Back then he’d spend months upon months on location around the globe, guiding and cavorting with travelers.  If by chance you cross paths with Peter in his hometown, London, maybe using his Blue Badge to illuminate the Rosetta Stone, set a date for tea and a story or two of when travel was grand.

Tom Maupin and Neil Mecaskey surrounded themselves with art and artists.  They bought and valued both Lautrecs and locals.  They equally patronized the New York Metropolitan Opera and their Director of Operations’ minor-league baseball team, The Maupin Travellers.  Living was an art.  These were the men.  Their passion radiated, and motivated those around them.  There was synchronicity and people knew what was important.  This was pure leadership by example.  Their universe fell into order around them and with this guidance wheels moved accordingly.  Their travel and travel company was the best in the business.

I understand that this story won’t necessarily inspire everyone and that it may not be very important in the grand scheme of things.  There are many stories to tell, and these guys are relatively unknown to the general public.  However, maybe just the fact that I or anyone is telling this story proves there really is something to it all; theirs is an interesting story, rich with historical antedotes and lessons to be gleaned.  My synopsis:  Brave men in tune with their passions, and the magnified energy which that generates.  I love travel, art, history, business.  So did these guys, and they blended it all together into one strong unified creation.  Together, while it lasted, it was golden.

10 Responses to Tom Maupin and Neil Mecaskey

  1. Kili says:

    I love your horses, I must have one someday 🙂

  2. Bil says:

    Great to read your article on this legendary couple. People in Lawrence still mention them with awe and respect.

  3. admin says:

    Thanks Bil, they deserve it. Please feel free to pass along any stories. All the best.

  4. John says:

    I attended KU from 1967 – 1970 and remember passing by the Maupin house often. I was fascinated by the glimpses of opulence through the windows at night. They left the shades up and you could see in from the street. I remember seeing an oil painting on an display easel standing in a room. I believe I attended a party there but it was a long time ago. What a fascinating story their relationship would make. Thanks for posting this.

  5. admin says:

    Thanks, John. I agree that their story would make for a great book and/or movie… Don’t hesitate to make a call or two if you know any writers/publishers that may be interested, and I’ll do the same!

  6. Shirley Liberman says:

    I worked in the San Francisco sales office for Mauptinour in he late 60’s and have never been treated as well as I was by Tom and Neill. They were incredibly generous to staff and their Christmas parties were incredible. They both instilled their love of travel and treating the clients in similar manner.
    This was an era of pleasure and excitement in travel which has unfortunately disappeared, except to the very rich.

  7. admin says:

    Hi Shirley,
    Thanks so much for sharing your memory and thoughts of Tom and Neill.
    Things have definitely changed, but a lust for life and the spirit of advenure lives on.
    Of course, it’s harder to enjoy “getting out there” (in coach anyways), but we do what we can.
    All the best,

  8. Pete Anderson says:

    Who is writing this history? I started working for Maupinntour Inc. in 1964 and retired in 1999…35 years later. Gaylen Koons worked for Maupintour 41 years as I remember. Tom Maupin began in Lawrence with a small office downtown…”Tom Maupin Travel Service.” Next was The Travel House at 12th and Massachusetts. Then a move to The Malls Shopping Center at 711 West 23rd. Then a move in 1970 to the new First National Bank tower…the whole 6th floor..late also the 5th floor. In 1982 the company
    move to custom designed headquarters at 1515 St. Andrews Drive. Later in the later
    90’s the company was sold to Sunmakers Travel Group from Seattle, WA. A few sales later the company was disbanded. The end of an era of gracious travel.

  9. Pamela J says:

    Hi, Pete. I worked for Maupintour in the late 60s and 70s. They were so good to me. Gerry Hammond was unbelievable. I remember you. You were amazing, too. We had superior tours. Bob Douce was great with People to People. I went to Africa with Peggy in the Fam tours. Joseph I plan an Tony Danvers were the greatest!!!

  10. Bil says:

    I’ve come back to reread this great article and I notice that it’s been almost exactly ten years since my first reading. This story does stand the test of time!

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