Boston isn't usually No. 1 on must-see vacation lists, but it's a fasinating town to walk in.

Boston is a fascinating town to walk in. This city isn't usually No. 1 on must-see vacation lists. It's not as popular as Las Vegas or Orlando. "Going to Boston? Oh, how interesting" was the reaction at home.

I traveled there in June for a double dip: NHRAW's summer business meeting, and to meet SMACNA's incoming president, Jack Desmond.

There was no time for side trips or sightseeing, but there was time to walk through the streets to my destinations and soak up some of the rich history of this city. And oh yes, I did have time to order a lobster dinner in a restaurant, something I hadn't done in years.

In Boston, there are modern, glass-walled skyscrapers set amid much preservation and renovation. As Americans, we typically think of a building as "old" if it was built a century ago. In Boston, on just a casual walk through downtown streets, you can see and visit buildings much older than that. A cemetery I noted, tucked quietly into a small gap between buildings, had gravestones dating from the mid-1600s. Boston's old city hall, which was located right across the street from the Omni Parker House where our meetings were held, was used as a city hall from 1865-1969. The Parker House was built in1856. Many of the old stone churches, shops and government buildings are older than that. It is a city whose architecture would rank second, in my opinion, perhaps only to San Francisco, as far as its eclectic mix of styles, materials and features.

It was fitting that one of the major points of discussion at the summer meeting was on changing the "old" to the new. NHRAW as an association is 56 years old this year; hardly historical, but changing nonetheless. Back then, it was the National Heating Wholesalers Association, which was in turn was an offshoot of the National Warm Air Heating Association.

Today the group is contemplating a consolidation with the Air conditioning and Refrigeration Wholesalers (ARW). Speaking with many members about this move, it seems there is a consensus that it will happen, that it's the right thing to do at the right time. In today's tough business climate it's more essential than ever to eliminate redundancies in the manufacturer-wholesaler-consumer chain, it has been pointed out, and that holds true on the association level as well. Both groups function well as separate entities: They would perform even better as a single, consolidated group able to eliminate some of those aforementioned redundancies.

There are many high points in the history of both wholesaler groups. Looking back, we present Ed Scott's thoughts several years back on what he called "NHRAW's successive election of three of the most effective presidents in the organization's half-century history":

cJohn Robertson (1957-58), who not only led NHAW but also CSA, ASA and NAW-D.

cOscar Brauer (1958-59), whom Scott called "shrewd, feisty and articulate."

cHarold Squire (1959-60), "the cerebral Columbus (Ohio) wholesaler who in later years became the association's - and the industry's - management guru."

I don't have that kind of history in this industry, but I have interviewed and come to know three who should rank just as high: James McNeil (1999-00); Scott Nicholson (00-01); and Jim Truesdell (01-02). Their work on Market Center Distribution and a concentration on core competencies will serve both associations, as well as all hvacr wholesalers, quite well.

A year ago, Truesdell had this to say, describing the present makeup of wholesalers: "We help manufacturers bring their product to market in the most efficient way by providing local customer relationship, on-site warehousing, and prompt delivery to their target customers. Because we do this more efficiently than anyone else we provide maximum value at the lowest cost to end users."

I am also looking forward to a pending visit with incoming president Doug Young for what should be an interesting talk on an upcoming pivotal year for wholesaling.

The new association, if indeed it comes about, should do well.