the eighties

February 1980

We struggled on at Click Systems, but it became abundantly clear that Carmel had designs on both Chris and the company and wanted me out and in fact in February 1980 I was presented with an ultimatum that effectively reduced me to the status of a commission only salesman with the caveat that I was not to spend any time in the office and to work from home. The lease on the car was to be cancelled or I could take it over if I wished.  Of course this was all totally unacceptable and caused me a great deal of anguish, eventually resulting in a heart attack later that year about which more later.

Despite our best efforts we were unable to recover all my investment and ended up getting about $20,000 back, out of the original $30,000. This was only achieved through the amazing and persistent efforts of Mollie who constantly nagged Chris etc. When I discussed this whole wretched business with my solicitor he advised me that I had an open and shut case of wrongful dismissal and that I should sue them for at least $50,000. When we went in to the fine details it turned out that it would probably take several years to get through the courts and in any case they had no "real" money so my chances of being awarded damages were just about nil. I eventually just decided to forget the whole thing and cut my losses.

In the summer of 1980 we learned that our tenants in Cushy had left and that if we wished we could take possession with a view to selling. By this time we had decided to become Canadians and to make Canada our permanent home, we needed to extract the equity from Cushy and buy ourselves a Canadian home.

Our tenants had come to us highly recommended by the agents  Moss, Kaye who told us that the Reitanos were a respectable couple with good references and that the were prepared to pay slightly above the rent we had been getting from the previous tenants. It all sounded too good to be true, and it was! As it turned out the "respectable tenant" was a drummer in a pop group and during their stay they just about wrecked the house. We heard afterwards that there were many complaints of loud all night parties and also a large and vicious dog that threatened to attack unwelcome visitors.

When we arrived back at Cushy it was in an unbelievable state. Ceilings had been painted black, other walls were all sorts of strong colours. The whole house was filthy and stank of cannabis or some other drug. The kitchen was disgusting and the drains blocked. We called in a company to unclog the drains and they took one look at them and said, "sorry we can't help you". You can imagine how bad they were if drain cleaners refused to touch them. The beds which we had left there had to be burned!! In my workshop there was a huge pile of soiled women's underwear of all types, again it had to be burned. The garden, which had been like a park when we left was totally overgrown and the grass was a foot and half high. Quite frankly I was so upset that I broke down and cried.  We approached the agents with a view to getting some sort of compensation. all we got was the response "You're lucky they left without having to be evicted" The agents accepted absolutely no responsibility despite the fact that they were paid a commission to manage the property in our absence.

That night we stayed with our good friends Tony & Shirley and a few days later returned to Radlett and  made the rounds of the various estate agents. As it was by then Sunday they were all closed! Unbelievable! Closed on a Sunday, a day that most people love to look at houses, not so in Britain especially in the late 70's. I finally found one open Barry Allsuch, a good Jewish boy, I waltzed into the office and asked in a loud voice, " anyone here interested in selling a bungalow on The Warren?" A voice from the back of the office said " who's asking?' I introduced myself and it was Barry himself.  "Let's go" he said and so we went up to the house. "Oh dear" he commented, "what happened?" . I explained as best I could. He was incredulous but nevertheless saw the potential. He advised me to clean the place up, paint it all white , borrow a lawnmower and cut the grass as low as possible and he then reckoned he could ask £68,000 for it. ( not bad as we had only paid £10,000 about 7 years earlier.)

We spent the next 3 weeks of our so called UK holiday cleaning, painting and gardening and finally were able to get the house to a such a state that Barry Allsuch could list it. We got an offer very quickly of £63,000 with a retention of £3,000 in case the then being constructed M25 motorway would be visible from the house. Eventually the house was sold to a very nice family, the Kamruddins and after a suitable interval the retention was paid back since the motorway was well out of sight. You can read an update on what has happened to Cushy in recent times click here

At about this time Margaret Thatcher revised the sterling controls which enabled us to transfer the total proceeds from the sale to Canada. Prior to her intervention one was only able to transfer £10,000 without special treasury authorization.

Our first Canadian property.

We bought 236 Pinehurst Drive, Oakville in January 1980 as a handyman special for $98,000.

236 Pinehurst Drive, Oakville, On, canada
236 Pinehurst Drive - Oakville
 

It was sold to us by a lady with 3 children whose husband had left her. I was able to buy his radial arm saw in the basement which was something I’d always wanted. It came in very handy when I finished the basement and remodeled the kitchen. 236 Pinehurst drive was a 50’s bungalow of concrete block construction with 3 bedrooms 1.1/2 bathrooms and a semi finished basement, that is to say, there was a finished family room down there. The rest of the basement was unfinished but it included a laundry room and workshop as well as the furnace and oil storage tank. It stood on an approximately ½ acre corner lot with over 30 pine trees as well as a couple of maples. There was a double garage and a covered breezeway between the house and the garage. Much needed to be done although the house was structurally sound.

We had just moved in and I've already detailed the collapse of my relationship with Click Systems Canada ( February 80 - see previous section )  so I decided to take early retirement and concentrate on renovating 236 Pinehurst.  I spent the first few months decorating and generally getting the place livable. We had some cash left over from the sale of Cushy so we weren’t exactly destitute. However we decided to totally remodel the kitchen with a brand new custom Paris kitchen. I stripped the kitchen to the walls and installed all new cabinets and worktops. We did it in pine which seemed most appropriate for Pinehurst drive.
  
Working for Lansing Buildall

By April 1980 I was starting to get bored with this enforced retirement and in any case we needed some income. We had bought a great deal of materials including the kitchen from Lansing Buildall’s newly opened Oakville branch on Speers road. Coincidently there was an advert in the local newspaper for salespersons in the lumber department. By this time I had got to know Fel DiMarchi the manager pretty well so I went to see him to apply for a job. He thought I was probably over qualified but I explained that I’d always been interested in the Do It Yourself industry and would welcome the change. They took me on and generally speaking I much enjoyed my time there. We worked a five day week with a day off apart from Sunday. Every fourth week our day off coincided with Saturday so we got a proper weekend. The pay was dreadful, if I remember correctly my take-home pay was $184.00 a week. But we did get a staff discount on everything we bought in the store and since I was still renovating this helped considerably.
 
My Heart Attack
 
It was Monday 6th October 1980 that I awoke with a faint pain in my chest. It felt like indigestion and as it was my day off from Lansing I decided to lay low and do some film editing. As the day wore on the pain got worse until by mid afternoon it was really uncomfortable and I told Mollie that I had to lie down. She immediately phoned Dr. Spector who said “take him down to emergency at Oakville Trafalgar Hospital and don’t let him drive”. I swear the car had square wheels! They admitted me promptly and hooked me up to all kinds of monitors. I was, quite frankly, terrified. They couldn’t find anything but decided to keep me in the IC Unit for further tests. Again I was connected to various monitoring devices and the next 24 hours were pretty uneventful. It was on the second day, just after breakfast and I was waiting to go down to the X-Ray department for a check up, suddenly three nurses descended on me and told me not to worry as I was just having a heart attack!. Apparently something had shown up on their monitoring station and they took immediate action. I was shot full of Demerol and virtually knew nothing for about 24 hours. There is no doubt that this swift action on the part of the nursing staff minimized the damage done to my heart and in fact it only just shows up on an EKG today. I spent a couple of weeks in the hospital during which time they diagnosed me as also having got a hiatus hernia as well as suffering from angina! I was put on a Beta blocking drug as well as nitro glycerin tablets and eventually ended up taking 48 pills a day! All these drugs were totally mind bending and I suffered terrible nightmares, digestive problems and general discomfort. I was convinced that my main problem was the hiatus hernia and went down to the library to do some research. I found that the symptoms of hiatus hernia and angina were virtually indistinguishable and that a hernia would be aggravated by the nitro glycerin I was taking. The side effects of the drugs were also pretty alarming including total personality changes. I begged Joel Spector to take me off the drugs but he said it was more than his life was worth. So I decided to take myself off them. I “tailed” off the beta blockers as per the instructions in the book I had from the library. Miracle of miracles I didn’t die, in fact I felt just like my old self again. The nightmares disappeared, the indigestion subsided and life was enjoyable once again. A few days after stopping the drugs I was down at the local mall and as I left I bumped into Dr. Donald Peet the cardiologist who was looking after my case. “Hi Richard, how are you?”, “Fine” I replied “and by the way I’ve stopped taking all those drugs” “What! You didn’t stop them suddenly I hope” “No, I tailed them off over a number of days” “and you’re feeling Ok?” “Yes totally better” “Oh well I shouldn’t bother with them any more, goodbye” And with that he walked off. I did have one last meeting with him which was to get the results of a “Thallium Stress Test” that I had been given at Toronto General. He hummed and hah’d whilst reading the results and in so doing kept me in suspense. Finally he looked up from the report and said “It says here that there’s nothing wrong with you, so I suggest you just get out of here and get on with your life” which is precisely what I’ve been doing for the last umpteen years!! That was virtually the last I saw of Donald Peet for 15 years until I had to have an EKG for an insurance medical at which time I reminded him of the above conversation. He had, of course, forgotten it, but did comment “well, we’ve learnt quite a lot over the last 15 years.”
 
World Wide Importing Ltd.
 
I’d been back at Lansing for about 3 months after the little incident reported above, when one day Roberto D’Arolfi’s brother, Rinaldo appeared as a customer, he was an extremely nice guy who I had previously met during my time with Hammond as he was a highly qualified electronic technician and did all our servicing of disco and audio equipment. He was surprised to see me working as a salesperson in Lansing and said he felt I was worthy of better things. He said that his brother Roberto was looking for a salesman for his wholesale drapery fabric and blinds business, World Wide Importing Ltd,  and that he was going to talk to him about me. To be honest, I took this comment with a “grain of salt” having heard this type of promise so many times before. I discounted it so totally that when Rinaldo phoned a few days later I initially had no idea what he was talking about. He asked if I could come to an interview that same evening. As it happened it was my “early night” so I reluctantly agreed. The interview lasted about 4 hours during which time 5 of us, Rinaldo, Roberto, Arnoldo Gentile (the then sales manager) , Franco Chiarmonte (Roberto’s partner) and myself,  demolished a bottle of Courvoisier and more or less agreed the terms of my employment. If I remember correctly we agreed a basic salary, a commission rate and a territory and that I was to start as soon as Lansing would release me. Now there was a dilemma! Mollie was over in England and I didn’t want to bother here with the details, I discussed the proposal with some friends who were anxious for me in case the Italians were part of the mob. As it turned out they were all very straightforward and honest persons and treated me well at least for the first year or so. I soon learnt the lingo of the drapery trade and was sufficiently successful to become salesman of the month on one occasion. In fact it was that occasion that prompted my entry into the world of computers. The prize for being the salesman of the month was $100 and I had seen a computer for $99.95 being sold by a company on Avenue road in Toronto. It was a Sinclair ZX80 and I immediately got “hooked on computers”. (more later)
In due course I became so successful that Roberto reduced my territory, cut the rate of commission and did all those things that successful salesmen are frequently subjected to.
 
Jenny & Neil Get married

Jenny & Neil Marriage
 
We had just returned from our summer trip to the UK when we got a call from Jenny to say that she and Neil were getting married in September. Unfortunately we couldn’t afford to fly over again to attend. This was very sad and in retrospect I should have made the effort to get there somehow. As it turned out Stuart was in England and stood in for me. Apparently he did a great job but I very much regret not going over. My apologies to both of you Jenny and Neil.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Retail Drapery with Window Fashions
 
Amongst my fabric customers were a couple of youngish guys, one British, who started a new company called Window Fashions in Richmond Hill. I helped them get the store set up and we became good friends. Early in 1984 Window Fashions they decided to open a Mississauga store and by this time I was somewhat fed up with World Wide in general and Roberto in particular. Window Fashions needed a store manager and I agreed to join them on a free-lance basis in return for a small retainer and commission on all sales that I made. I soon found that I could be relatively successful at selling retail to the public. I learnt how to measure up for drapes and blinds and carried a large selection of samples. At the same time as I was acting as store manager for Window Fashions I had also got slightly more involved in computers. I had bought a Commodore 64 and was able to keep a list of all the customers’ details that I had dealt with at Window Fashions. Eventually it became abundantly clear that I didn’t need Window Fashions and that I could quite easily start my own retail drapery business working from home. Thus Richard’s Drapery was created.
 
Richard’s Drapery
 
I resigned from Window Fashions on a Friday afternoon in August 1985. I made sure that I got my final commission cheque from them and after having got it certified at their bank I went back to the store and quit. They naturally wanted to know what I was going to do and of course I told them. They were not too happy and in fact threatened to sue me if I used the computer customer list that I had built up over the previous 12 months. Needless to say this was an idle threat and in fact I mailed the 200 odd customers on that list announcing the formation of Richard’s Drapery. I had registered the company name as a sole partnership, obtained a provincial tax license and opened a bank account all in one morning. Our dear friend from Italy, Franco Delladonna, was staying with us that this time and was astounded that I could make all these arrangements in just one morning and still be home for lunch. He pointed out that it would have taken him several weeks if not months in Italy to make the same arrangements in Italy.

In the first month of operation Richard’s Drapery grossed $10,000 and was well and truly off the ground. I had purchased an accounting software package for the C64 and eventually upgraded to a Radio Shack PC. During my latter time at World Wide I had used the Sinclair ZX81 to keep sales records. This impressed both Roberto and in particular one of my customers, namely, John Pless of Bennett’s Drapery in Newmarket. John was a lovely fellow and we got on famously right from our first meeting. He was very intrigued by the thought of being able to use a computer to help run a business. He bought a C64 and after being totally overawed by it eventually lent it to me to see if I could write something that would keep his sales records. Between us we came up with a very basic programme but it soon became clear that the C64 wasn’t really up to the job.

During this time John had been extolling my capabilities on the computer to one of his good friends who ran a company called Agincourt Interiors. Another John as it happened. This particularly somewhat tricky customer had traded some carpet for an N.E.C. micro computer that came complete with an accounting software package. There was no way that Agincourt could get it to work properly and eventually lent it to me to get it up and running. I was able to do this and handed it back to them in working condition. It is an indication of how things have changed over the last 20 or so years, this accounting package took 45 minutes to sort just 600 customers accounts into alphabetic order. This operation using today’s software would be virtually instantaneous and certainly measured in only milliseconds if not nanoseconds.

As it happened both Bennett’s Drapery and Agincourt Interiors shared the same chartered accountant, Ken Shaefley. Richard’s drapery had been up and running for only a couple of weeks when Ken phoned me, I had heard his name but never met him. He told me that he knew of my reputation with computers (very limited in my opinion) and that he had another client who had just bought a computer from Radio Shack and despite their best efforts they couldn’t get it to do what they wanted. He asked if I could go and see them and perhaps find a solution. I pointed out that I was very busy with my new drapery company and was not really interested in getting involved in computers! He persisted and eventually I said “for $100 I will come and see them for a morning” I assumed he would say you must be joking, however, quite the contrary, “Fine” he said “when can we meet?” It turned out that the person selling the computer to Colormark, that was the name of Ken’s client by the way, had over simplified its use and thought that they could write a program using Lotus 123 to calculate and check Colormark’s ink formulae. They had tried but to no avail. By this time I had learnt some Basic programming language and told them I could possibly write something for them in return for a small fee. They leapt at the opportunity and thus began a long, happy and lucrative relationship.
 
Sheila & Wally get married 1985

 Sheila & Wally Marriage

 Sheila met Wally during an amateur production based on HMS Pinafore. They got married in the summer of 1985 at St. Andrews Catholic church in Oakville. The reception was held back at 236 Pinehurst and although the actual wedding took place in brilliant sunshine the heavens opened virtually as soon as we returned for the reception. We ended up with the people congregating in the garage, the basement, under the breezeway and all over the house. It all worked out quite well and there is a videotape of the entire proceedings in which the officiating priest who at first was not very keen on the ceremony being videotaped then proceeded to “play to the camera” throughout the entire proceedings.


 
Consulting with Colormark.
 
Colormark Limited is a well established screen printing company. At the time I got in touch with them they were located in Etobicoke, just out side Toronto. They were a very innovative and advanced company who apart from using the latest in screen printing technology also mixed their own inks to very special and highly secret formulae. Ziggy Kirchmeir was their resident ink expert who also had been awarded the Order of Canada for his work on producing suitable inks for use in ice rinks. His technology is now used worldwide. In order to protect their formulae they needed a secure software programme that would be suitably encrypted and also password protected. The programme not only stored the formulae but also enabled the operator to create new formulae using all kinds of built in parameters. As far as I know they used my Basic programme for many many years and may even still use it to this day for all I know.

Colormark’s major client was Petro-Canada. They printed all the signage for every gas (petrol) station across Canada, some 3500 of them at that time. This was a complicated process since because of the strange language laws in Canada every piece of material had to be printed in five different forms; English only, French only, English/French (English being predominant) French/English (French being predominant) and Bilingual (English and French of equal dominance) One of the major problems was the actual distribution of all this material. Much of it was time sensitive as it was often linked to national or local advertising campaigns. For this reason the majority of the material was distributed by courier, namely, Purolator. This further involved the preparation of hundreds and in some cases thousands of courier waybills.  Initially these were typed by hand but I was asked to write programme to largely automate the process. All the relevant names and addresses were kept in a database. Initially the programme was written in dBaseIII but despite my best efforts this proved to be far too slow. I came across FoxBASE at this time and found it to be up to 10 times faster and totally compatible with the code and data that already existed for dBase. At first the programme only produced mailing labels and simple form letters to all the gas the stations. It was then gradually developed to print the actual courier waybills. Since these were multi part forms we needed a high speed dot matrix printer and we used a Radio Shack machine which had adequate speed and could withstand the volume.
By this time I was spending about equal time in looking after various software clients I was supporting and Richard’s Drapery. It soon became clear that I had to decide which to go with, drapery or computers. I decided software was the way to go especially as the overheads were far less and there was considerably less hassle factor like dealing with dear sweet ladies who would choose their drapery fabric and then when it was installed say something like “Oh dear! I didn’t think it would look like that!” Mind you software isn’t exactly a bed of roses either.  As my programmes became more complex so the pressure to make them work efficiently and accurately increased.  I literally “gave away” Richard’s Drapery to Leslie Crone who was an interior designer and a good friend of ours. In fact she and her husband Dan had looked after me when I first immigrated and helped me find our first rented house. Dan had fallen on hard times having lost a great amount of money, several millions, in bad investments and had gone personally bankrupt. He had started up again with a windows and doors business and Leslie was able to combine the drapery business with Dan’s very neatly.
 
The Great PetroCanada Olympic Glass & Coupon Caper
 
The sales manager of Colormark was a very dynamic guy called Keith Vetter. He was the sort of salesman who could never say no to a client, so when PetroCanada asked him if Colormark could handle the distribution of a special commemorative Olympic drinking glass to all of their gas stations across the country, he naturally replied “No problem!” As it turned out it was quite a problem. I had to modify the way bill programme to print on demand waybills as well as shipping labels for countless thousands of cases of glasses. Gas stations were enabled to call Colormark at virtually any time of the day and order replacement cases. They were always rush jobs and the hardware alone caused endless problems never mind the software. But we managed. Ann Duffey, Colormark’s president’s daughter was fantastic and she and I worked with a small team to get just about every shipment out on time.

Then Petro asked Keith if Colormark could handle the redemption of “$1 Off” coupons and having counted the incoming coupons, issue a cheque to each gas station that had submitted them. On with the “programming cap” again and I developed a new programme to record, collate the coupons from each station and then automatically print cheques and maintain accurate accounts. This programme rapidly became a nightmare, especially as initially we were using PetroCanada’s money that was deposited in a special account that Colormark had access to. I also had to devise a system of downloading the bank statement each day and confirming that the cheques had been cleared correctly. At the peak of this operation we were printing cheques up to a total value of 1/3 to 1/2 a million dollars every week! And we only handled gas stations in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. Out West was handled by a separate redemption company. In order to be on top of all this activity Colormark gave me an office at the their new custom built office and plant in Mississauga. The agreement was that I would run my entire consulting business from there but only bill them for the time spent on their work. Gradually it became obvious that they needed a much more sophisticated system and they wanted to computerize the entire company’s estimating, manufacturing, billing and accounting functions. I was able to give them some help in sourcing suitable applications but the actual writing of such complex programmes was beyond my capabilities. Eventually I moved out of their offices and moved my operation back to home. We parted amicably around 1987 or 88 and I still have very fond memories of those years we spent together.
 
Carol & Ian get Married 1986
  Carol & Ian Weddiing
We made sure that we were in England for this wedding it was a lavish affair held at Pinner church, the one at the top of the High Street. I was able to walk Carol down the aisle and give her away. The reception was held at a local club and I had to make a speech of course. I believe it was brief and probably dull with feeble attempts at humour that dropped like lead balloons on the assembled company!





Mollie’s Mum dies 1986
  
In February 1986 Mollie got a call from England that her Mum was fading fast and as a result Mollie flew over. A few days later I got the call to say that her mum had died. She'd had a good innings, 86 I believe. Her will was quite straightforward and the major asset, namely 47 Bath Road, Worthing, passed jointly to Mollie and her brother Mike. Some few years later Mike and his wife Anne wanted to sell 47 Bath Road and by some miracle Mollie was able to come up with the cash and to buy them out. Mollie still owns the flat and it has been rented out on a long term basis on and off over the last several years. In 2003 Mollie made the ownership over to Sheila and Stuart on the advice of our solicitor. However we are able to enjoy unlimited use of the property for summer vacations, about which more later.
 
On the move again 1987
 
Despite my best efforts with 236 Pinehurst it became increasingly clear that we were fighting a losing battle. After an abortive attempt at having a house built in Oakville with a crooked builder, which incidentally cost us $5,000, we decided to look farther afield and settled on Burlington. We put 236 up for sale late in 1987 and it sold in early January 1988. We got an extremely good price for it, close to 3 times what had paid. We found a comparatively new house in North Burlington, in fact just 1.1/2 years old at the right price and located on what was at the time we bought it a quiet country lane. However by the time we moved in we had lost 10 feet off the front garden and the road was gradually developed into a fairly major North/South highway. The house itself was very pleasing and we made the best of the noise and dirt from the road and also the fact that we looked our directly into our neighbours house. This was 2068 Headon Road. We lived there well into the 90’s details of which will follow.
 
2068 Headon Road, Burlington. (February 1988 - August 1996)

 
As houses go 2068 was very well built and designed. It had three bedrooms a large living room which led into a suitably sized dining room. The kitchen was large enough to eat in and connected directly with the family room that had a brick built log burning fireplace. There was a main floor laundry room and a 2 piece washroom and this connected directly to the double garage. Upstairs there were three bedrooms including a good sized master with an en-suite bathroom complete with Jacuzzi. There was also a second complete bathroom. There was a completely unfinished basement which gave me plenty of room for my radial arm saw, a workbench and a large “N” gauge model railway. Rather like the 18 Norman Crescent Loft railway this proved to be far too large and complex and soon became a nightmare to operate and maintain.



It had a reasonable back garden which had been landscaped by the original owner with a patio and lawn. I tried very hard to grow vegetables but the soil and climate largely defeated me. I used the smaller back bedroom as an office and the remaining one acted as a spare for visitors. Our neighbours to the South were Gary and Martha McDonald. Gary was at that time Control Tower Manager for Lester B. Pearson (Toronto) airport Control Tower. It was through him that I got to develop both the St. Luke's Church Software (PRAE) and also the Airport incident recording programme (LOGB).

In many respects it was a perfect house, its one huge disadvantage was its location. Headon Road soon became a very busy road, there was a stop sign just two doors North of us and therefore there was a constant starting and stopping of traffic with the attendant noise. Although we had very good neighbours all round us we were, nevertheless, far too close to them. If one could have only transported the house to a larger lot out in the country I think we would have still been there to this day.

Next page: The Nineties
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