The Wallis's ~ The Complete Story
Some people started paying for their child’s Christmas gift in January and by Christmas it would be paid for. There were no credit cards in those days.
The most popular toys were train sets, dolls, dolls’ prams, pedal cars and little bicycles. It was a lovely trade seeing all the children and they were so well behaved. We stocked marbles and suchlike so the children could spend their pocket money. Children used to save for what they wanted and often they would come into the shop with their money- box and count it all out to see if they had enough.
There seemed to be a different atmosphere after the war. Parents used to say, “Well I had to go without, but my children aren’t going to”.
Dorothy used to get upset with the teachers who came in because they always wanted something educational. The children really preferred things that gave them pleasure. One day we had a grandmother who came in and wanted help to choose a gift. Everything we suggested she said the child had already got or that it was not suitable. Eventually she said, “What shall I give him?” and I replied, “A bloody good hiding”
Triang invited Ted husband to a show in a film studio in Wembley. There he saw a thin doll and real models modelled adult versions of the dolls clothes. We knew it would sell despite being quite expensive and we were right, the doll was called ‘Cindy’
Dorothy trained all the staff. They would start as Saturday girls. First of all She had to train them to say “Please” and “Thank you”. Then they were taught how to dust. This had a duel purpose – it kept the shelves clean and it taught the assistant where the stock was kept when a customer inquired. The newest assistant had to make the afternoon tea for all the others. Often these girls had to be taught to make the tea as well. She taught them how to handle the money and how to talk to the customers.
She didn’t have the patience to argue with difficult customers. If they came back with a complaint she used to replace the toy or give them goods to the same value. She was not obliged to do that by law but it was easier.
During their leisure time we would walk in Wickstead Park. We went to the Wembley ice shows and I used to take Pauline to the ballet and the theatre. Ed used to take Edward to Silverstone because he as very interested in cars.
When Milton Keynes was built they bought a third shop there. By this time her son had left school. He had completed his National Service and held a job in Dunstable for two years. He then took on the responsibility of the third shop.
They didn’t really have any holidays while they were at the shop. She used to take the children to Wales and they would stop with her mother for two weeks but Ted never had a holiday. She would have one night away at the toy fair and we were so exhausted we would sleep for most of the time.
Ted belonged to the Chamber of Trade, the Conservative Club and the Working Men’s Club. He would go out for a drink most nights and socialise with his friends.
Pauline her daughter went out to America with the friend who was married from our house. She first went to America when she was fourteen and stayed for four years. She completed her high school education there. Ted and I went to fetch her home after that and that as our first real holiday.
Ted died in 1984 and Philip began to get disheartened with the toyshops. They were no longer as profitable as they once were. The rent on the Milton Keynes shop rose with each rent review until it reached £125,000 per annum. On top of that there were rates of £14,000 per annum so you had to sell many, many toys before you even began to show a profit. I still receive a rental from the Bletchley shop.
Over the years the retailing business has altered so much. Most shops are owned by shareholders whereas when Dorothy was a child most shops were family owned and managed.
Her mother eventually died in her nineties. One of her brothers died from tuberculosis when he was only seventeen and my other brother died at the age of fifty-two. She keeps in touch with her niece but her nephew died when he was only eighteen months old. The family line continues but their story, with the passage of time, will be very different from Dorothy’s story.
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