Helen Morres – Secretary to Hilary Page (1947 – 1952)
A personal recollection
I went to work for Hilary Page shortly after coming to England from India in 1947. I was 19 years old, and somewhat out of sync with the strangeness of London. Hilary became a mentor and translator in my adjustment to my new life, generous and encouraging in one's efforts to learn and grow.
It was a small and intimate office in the Page's London flat in Earls Court (66, Barkston Gardens, London S.W.5.) – two secretaries, myself, and Marie Kindell, a mail clerk and a technician.
The other key employee was Marilyn Wilson who worked in a separate office editing and co-authoring another book of Hilary and dealing with correspondence with the public. I have a vague recollection that it was something psychological, but certainly nothing to do with toys or children. (i) Marilyn was an Australian from Perth and eventually returned there and married, sadly we never kept in touch. Eileen Soper also worked in the office creating illustrations for packaging, marketing materials and possibly his books
I must mention Hilary's unfailing support, Warwick Allpass, Warwick was Hilary's school-friend and partner in Kiddicraft, and he was the antithesis of the maverick Hilary, hyper-conservative and almost painfully pukka. He had a distinguished military career and inherited the family department store somewhere in Surrey.
Total commitment was expected of everyone, and the secretaries were included in dinner-parties and other social occasions, whether with visiting suppliers or personal friends. I recall many meetings with Mr Eisner of Eisner Plastics in Birmingham, who manufactured much of the line, with much badgering about quality and price.
Inevitably, we were exposed to product development and Hilary's meticulous insistence on the highest quality in producing the Kiddicraft line. Nothing less would do. Hilary understood that the toys didn't sell themselves, being somewhat pricey compared with cheaper copies. He called on stockists whenever he was in their neighbourhoods to observe placement of the line and their sales approach. His enthusiasm was infectious. Sales representatives were encouraged to do likewise in their areas. A monthly photographic competition awarded a prize to the best picture showing a tot playing with one of the Kiddicraft Toys. Each submission elicited a letter in response.
Hilary was an extraordinarily enlightened employer. He expected a high standard of performance and could be exacting, but he rewarded one's efforts most generously. He rationalised the high salaries on the proportional tax basis, but it is a rare entrepreneur who is not only ready to share the benefits, but to take initiative to do so. My last contact with him, sometime after emigrating to Canada in 1952, was an offer of an executive position with overseas responsibilities. Sadly, my life had already moved on, and I regretfully had to decline.
Little did I dream that I would never see that towering figure again.
(i) (Personality & Success by Hilary F. Page, in two volumes, with illustrations by F. Loebl, published by The Caxton Publishing Co. Ltd. First Published April 1950, Reprinted May 1951)
Helen Morres – Monday April 2nd 2007
Footnote: Helen sadly died 12th August 2016