the seventies part two

Canada February 1976

The hardware show was again held in Toronto and Daymond had a booth (stand) which was built from Click but also included their Ladders and Vinyl siding. The show only ran for 3 or 4 days so as I was there for 3 weeks I had time to get to know a bit about the Canadian market and to meet various players who would have an influence on my future. Before departing for Canada Mollie had said “If they offer you a job over there, take it!” She tends to deny having ever said this but we were in a pretty poor state n the UK, poor, that is financially. Needless to say they did offer me a job although not directly with Daymond.
 
Dave Bourne was the Sales Manager of Daymond and had a distant cousin called Mark Ferraz. Mark owned a company called “Toronto Fire Control” who sold and maintained fire extinguishers. Mark was anxious to expand his business into other fields and agreed to act as a marketing outlet for Click in Canada. He formed a new company called “Systems 2000 Ltd” and offered me the position of sales Manager. The initial salary was to be $14,000 per year and a company car would be provided as well as expenses. The car, incidentally, was a Ford Granada which was leased from a local dealership. After a brief telephonic discussion with Mollie I accepted the position and agreed to start on the 1st of September after she and I had had a chance to visit Canada together and make sure that we could live there, at least temporarily.
 
It was agreed that Mollie and I would come over together in May for 3 weeks to get familiarized with the Canadian way of life, at the same time I would start organizing the marketing of Click in Canada.
 
Daymond arranged for us to stay in a country motor inn in Oakville called Cedar Croft which was run by a lovely "Old school Canadian" couple, Warren and Jean Powley.


Jean PowleyWarren Powley
 
Cedar Croft Motor Hotel, Oakville, Ontario Canada
Left to right  - Cedar Croft Cabin and Ford Torino, Jean and Warren Powley in 1976

We became firm friends with these true Canadians, a friendship that has lasted for over 30 years except that Warren is no longer with us these days (2009). He died several years ago and eventually Cedar Croft was sold to Appleby College, a rather up market private school, and all the cottages have long since been demolished and the whole area is now school playing fields.
 
Our stay was eventually extended to over 5 weeks because of a BA strike but we made good use of the time. I spent the working days designing a complete marketing package for Click in Canada which included a triple shot mailing campaign which proved to be overly successful. More of this later. Daymond arranged for us to use one of their company cars, a Ford Torino , and we were able to do some local sightseeing. We eventually returned to the UK and set about obtaining the necessary visas and work permits etc. At this time it was taking anything up to 6/9 months to get a “Landed Immigrant” visa which would enable me to work there. However after a brief interview at the Canadian embassy and passing the inevitable medicals we were granted visas in just 6 weeks, instead of months. I found out several years later that “strings had been pulled” behind the scenes. Daymond belonged to Redpath Sugars who in turn were part of the huge Tate & Lyle organization. Word was passed to someone high up that Daymond needed this person, namely me, urgently, and would they please see to it that the necessary visas were issued promptly. Obviously it worked!
 
As agreed I started formally with Systems 2000 Ltd on 1st September 1976 having arrived and been accepted as a “Landed Immigrant” on August 31st. It was agreed that Mollie would stay behind and that I would return in about 4-6 weeks time to help settle the affairs of Cushy, i.e. get it rented and packed up read for the final move. In the meantime I would continue planning and launching the Click marketing campaign in Toronto.   
 
Initially I stayed with good friends Dan and Lesley Crone, Dan was Sales manager of Daymond and they lived in a delightful old house in downtown Oakville along with two Samoyed dogs. One of my first tasks was to find somewhere for us to live. Obviously renting was the only option. After looking at several properties I finally settled on a fairly modern townhouse on 6th line in Oakville. It came complete with the basic appliances, cooker, fridge, washer and dryer. It was on three floors with 3 bedrooms and two bathrooms. The next problem was to furnish it, I had no real money and needed to buy a full houseful of furniture along with all the other bits and pieces one needs to set up a home from scratch. I finally resolved this by borrowing $2,000 from the bank, an utterly painless process at that time, although I did have to get Mark Ferraz to act as guarantor. I also opened an account with Sears and was able to fully equip the house with furniture and accessories. As a matter of fact we still use some of the furniture to this day (30+ years later).
  
Things got so hectic in Canada that it soon became apparent that I was not going to be able to return to the UK to settle the affairs of Cushy, pack up our bits and pieces and arrange for the rental while we were away. (I suppose we didn't plan to stay in Canada for more than a year or two) In view of these circumstances Mollie did all the packing and organising, a gargantuan feat, and one that I have never been allowed to forget! Mollie in conjunction with a firm of estate agents, Moss Kaye, rented the house to a couple who seemed to be highly respectable. As it turned out they finally "did a midnight flit" and left us with a bounced rent cheque and the challenge of finding new tenants whilst we were in Canada. More about this later. Eventually she and Stuart arrived at the end of October by which time I had the town house more or less organized.
 
That winter, 1976/77 turned out to be one of the worst that Ontario had experienced in many years but of course we had no yardstick by which to measure it. We were actually snowed in for a few days and they eventually had to dig the snow ploughs out with diggers before we could even get out of our front door. What an introduction to Canada. By this time our two cats, Woody and Tiggy had joined us and they were equally confused by all the white stuff outside. They firmly refused to outside and also since they didn't know any better decided to use the family room carpet, just under the patio door as their toilet. The smell was awful and was probably a major factor in our deciding to move from the townhouse to a detached bungalow in west Oakville. Thus we moved to 615 Unsworth Avenue in West Oakville. It was good to be back in a bungalow and to have a small amount of garden to look after. We had a decent sized basement which had a finished family room and shortly after moving we acquired a very old piano which was duly installed down there.

615 Unsworth Avenue, Oakville.Unsworth Avenue kitchen
615 Unsworth - August 1977        Unsworth Kitchen Christmas 1977
 
Working at Systems 2000 Ltd.
 
 We literally had to start from scratch with this newly formed subsidiary of Toronto Fire Control, Mark Ferraz's existing and reasonably successful company. We initially moved to an industrial unit in Scarborough where we hired a "salesman" Tom Thompson. A good lad but not exactly dynamic. I did my best to train him in the mysteries of the Click system, but he never really got very enthusiastic.
 
The response to the initial triple mailing shot was overwhelming. I had originally forecast around 200 replies, we actually received over 1100!. Clearly there was no way we were going to be able to follow up such a huge number, particularly as they were from all over the province of Ontario, which for your information, in case you don't know, is more than four times (4X) the size of the entire British Isles! I believe we wrote them all a letter and sent a brochure, saying that we would be in touch in the near future, needless to say we never got in touch at all.
 
For this and several other reasons Systems 2000 never really got off the ground, Ferraz was obviously short of cash and what with my salary and car lease along with Tom's salary, we obviously were not going to survive. Unknown to me or Daymond, the Click people had been talking to Colin Hammond an English guy living in Syosset, New York. Colin was the President and owner of various companies including, Meteor Light and Sound, Hammond Industries and few other sundry odd companies. He had seen Click at a trade show somewhere and was negotiating to get the distributorship for the USA. I was not party to these negotiations but the final outcome was that Colin finally took over the entire distributorship of Click for North America. A new company was formed in Canada known as Hammond Industrial Industries and Colin's existing Montreal company was transferred from Montreal to Toronto. Colin sent his personal secretary, Carmel Docherty up from New York to do the necessary administrative work. Carmel was an attractive girl of about 28 and had worked very closely with Colin. She was bright, attractive and very ambitious. The staff of the Montreal office were let go with the exception of the then Managing director or General Manager, Brian Stables. A really nice guy who had known Colin for many years and who was somewhat reluctant to move to Ontario. He had little option of course, being a man nearing 60 with little chance of getting gainful employment elsewhere. He bought a small house in Acton and after a few months Carmel managed to persuade Colin that Brian was next to useless and convinced Colin to let him go. I didn't realize that this ambitious and ruthless female would do exactly the same to me later. Poor Brian was destroyed and never really recovered, he had sold up in Montreal, moved to the Toronto area and finally ended up without a job. The crowning insult for him, was that his company car was taken away from him, leaving him without transport and handed over to me. I well remember going to his little house in Acton and collecting the ca. A most unpleasant and embarrassing task. the car, incidentally was a large and fairly ancient Chevrolet Impala.
The net result of this "shake up" was that Carmel became General Manager of the Canadian operation and I was made Sales Manager. We leased a brand new industrial unit in Rexdale, Torbram Road actually, and Carmel and I busied ourselves building racks for click, shelving for all kinds of other items. These other items were products related to Colin's company, Meteor Light and Sound a company that was dedicated to supplying disco equipment of all kinds. I learnt a great deal about the disco business and we even built a mini disco demonstration at Torbram Road where we were able to "rock" the neighbours.
 
It again gradually became clear that Click under Colin Hammond's guidance was not going to take off to his or the parent company's requirements. Chris Sykes, one of the original partners of Click together with his co director Nick Boileau came up with a plan to create a "Click Systems Canada Ltd" which would take over Hammond Industries and effectively buy out Colin Hammond. Basically the deal was that Click UK would provide the stock on consignment, provide part of the working capital and they asked me if I could raise $30,000 to buy a 10% share in the company. Since the value of Cushy had escalated considerably I was able to raise a £12,000 loan against it's security thus providing the cash required. With the benefit of hindsight it is now abundantly clear this my so called 10% of Click meant absolutely nothing. It was just a plan to enable the Click directors to get their hands on some cash and set up the Toronto operation. I had little or no influence in company policy and was little more than a hired hand.

At this time Carmel was living in a one bedroom apartment in  Mississauga. In the process of setting up the entire Canadian operation it was necessary for Chris Sykes to visit Canada regularly, to save money guess where he stayed? At Carmel's single bedroom flat which conveniently had a double bed. It doesn't take a stretch of one's imagination as what went on during his visits. This is borne out by the fact that Chris eventually left his wife and set up house with Carmel. Also with hindsight it was obvious that I was just a nuisance that had to be got rid of. This of course was history repeating itself à la Brian Stables detailed above. there is no doubt that Carmel wanted total power with no competition.

In the summer of 1979 our tenants in Cushy left. A it turned out "the highly respectable and wealthy tenants" the estate agents description not mine, turned out to be a pop group drummer


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