In general, business continued smoothly with the expected hassles and stressful moments, but overall, no major problems arose.
After a couple of years operation in our new format and premises, the Kolotex Group of Companies faced a take-over. The original owners of Kolotex, the Lieberman Family of Melbourne who had been ousted a few years earlier during a take-over by Paul Kornmehl and John Louwes came back with a vengeance determined to regain control of the company. This they did after much in-fighting between the factions. I linked in on all telephoned conversations between John Trimmer and the head office and power-players in Sydney, making verbatim notes of everything that passed in those conversations. It was a reasonably stressful time, but eventually a conclusion was reached, which was satisfactory to each party. Pride, also had been a major factor in the take-over; one Jewish power against another. The structure and day-to-day operation of our Queensland office didn't change. It continued forward without a hiccup.
Upon the successful completion of the take-over, the new heads of the company, led by Chaim Lieberman, visited Brisbane to meet with all the "top-dogs" of the department stores. A special luncheon was organised by John at the Tattersall's Club. After much discussion and "to and froing" with the committee of the Tattersall's Club, a men's club that is steeped in tradition, I received "special dispensation" and was allowed to attend to the "greeting and meeting" of Kolotex's special guests. I was the first female, ever, to be permitted to enter their hallowed halls to attend to such a function. My role was to welcome our guests and usher them into the main dining room of the club. Once I fulfilled my "chore", I left the men to their exclusive domain and luncheon,returning to Baxter Street. It was quite a feather in my cap to have been allowed to attend the commencement of the function, not that anyone out of the immediate circle were aware of the "breaking of tradition" and my small part in the history of Brisbane's Tattersall's Club.
Our offices and warehouse in Baxter Street became a "happy family", with the staff, most of the time, working together in harmony. Baxter Street bordered on the Brisbane Exhibition grounds. Every year when the exhibition and its fairground attractions came to town the traffic around the area was horrendous, but we managed to utilize the disruption. Another young man, Peter King, had joined our merry band. Peter was employed as a city sales representative in training, to assist John Trimmer out in the field. Rather than attend the Brisbane Exhibition, which lasts for ten days, I came up with a light-bulb idea. Gathering money from the staff, with enough left over for Peter's entrance fee into the showgrounds, he became the chosen one to go to the show where he purchased the decadent fare on offer, such as creamy waffles, Dagwood Dogs (Corn Dogs to those in the northern hemisphere), Tasmanian potato chips and whatever other disgraceful, but delicious food we could think of! We had a good little plan in operation. Arriving back laden with food, the rest of the staff eagerly and hungrily descended upon him. He was the most popular young man in town!
The Wednesday public holiday for the Brisbane Exhibition became the company's "Staff Picnic Day". Reflecting back as I write this story, I'm beginning to think I spent the majority of my time, not attending to the important clerical matters, but to creating fun events! That's not entirely true, but perhaps it was I who coined the phrase "multi-tasking"...I enjoyed expanding the horizons of my position, wanting to make it as interesting as possible. And, as I like "fun", why not, I ask?
John, Shirley, their two boys and I would be the scouts, arriving at the chosen picnic area a couple of hours before the others and their families, etc., so that we could claim the whole area, squeezing any "foreign" inflitrators out. By the time the rest of the crew arrived, the campfire would be under way, with the billy bubbling away and hot cups of tea at the ready for those interested or cold beers for those with a more desperate thirst. The day was filled with games of cricket and touch football and a barbecue lunch. The day's celebrations were paid for by the company. The day following the annual picnics, a battle-scarred, weary staff dragged themselves to work but our aching bodies with their pieces of missing skin weren't enough to stop us re-hashing the happy events of the previous day.
One funny incident occurred on a New Year's Eve. From Christmas through mid to late January most of the staff took their holidays, in particular our sales representatives, as it was the most appropriate time of the year for them to be away from their territories. Business was always slow during those times, so it was also a good time to let the other staff take their leave. The office and warehouse operated on a "skeleton" staff. I was always one of those "skeletons" by my own choice. Holidays meant nothing to me. I preferred being at work. Debbie, one of the clerical staff and I covered all angles and things that needed to be done. With the New Year weekend beckoning, I decided to close the office early on the Friday, around mid-day. Locking everything up, Debbie waited for me outside at the top of the stairs leading out of the building. I had to phone into the security firm to advise them that the building was now unattended until the following Tuesday before joining her. Having done that, Deb and I were about to leave the building when in the distance we heard a faint..."Lee...Lee! Are you there, Lee...is anyone there?" Debbie and I looked at each other in askance. Again, a faint muffled cry sounded in the background. Then the penny dropped. Simultaneously, Debbie and I broke out laughing. Opening the door to the warehouse section, we discovered the young storeman, the only other staff member that day. He'd been in the toilet when I'd locked up. I thought he had already left the premises. Poor Chris...he walked out, his blue eyes, under his sun-bleached blonde hair, as large as saucers, if not dinner plates! He thought he was going to spend his long weekend and New Year locked in the toilet! Poor guy, he didn't receive much sympathy from Deb and me...just laughter!
Another promotional evening to launch a new line of panti-hose was being organised. This time the theme was built around Marilyn Monroe. I spent weeks coercing the city radio stations offering them gifts of panti-hose in exchange of any tapes they had of Monroe singing. My bribes succeeded and I gathered together a lot of recorded material. I then approached an advertising agency, giving them a black and white photograph of "MM" in her most famous pose from "The Seven Year Itch"; the one where she stands over the air vent on the sidewalk with her dress blowing up around her thighs. When I received the free-standing, over six feet cut-outs of Marilyn blown-up and backed on very thick, heavy cardboard, I could hardly believe my eyes. They were magnificent. We were ready to go!
Again models suited to our particular theme were chosen. My office became their dressing room on the nights of the functions, and during the day it was filled with racks of their clothes. Most of the time, I was busy in the staff room finalising the evenings' food or assisting John set up the displays and sound equipment in the showroom. Our new national Marketing Manager, Bob Tiffin, flew to Brisbane from Sydney for the opening evening. He'd only been with the company for a of weeks. He arrived full of hot air, arrogance and ego. I took an immediate dislike of him. Tiffin was a person who found it difficult to look another in the eye, and when he did manage to do so he appeared to look down at you with a half-smart smirk on his face. It was apparent he thought Brisbane and Queensland to be "Hicksville". John Trimmer, like me, wasn't impressed with this so-called new "whiz-kid", but we held our tongues and treated him graciously, when our time permitted. There was little time to waste worrying about the attitude of an upstart from the "big city". He would be out of our hair the next day. We had more important issues at hand to be completed before the "curtain" went up on the evening's presentation.
Our guests arrived, eager for the night's event. By this time, the Kolotex Queensland office had gained quite a reputation amongst the retailers and its competitors for its grand stagings of such promotional launches. We were the only ones putting on such lavish openings of new products, and of course, word spread quickly throughout the trade. Deservedly, John was held in very high regard amongst his peers in the industry and amongst the retail trade. Not only did he have years of experience in the fashion industry, he was an intelligent, knowledgeable gentleman. One of his strongest traits was his sincerity and integrity. He called a spade a "spade". He had an excellent command of the English language, when he spoke, everyone listened.
During John's "talk" on the benefits and highlights of the new panit-hose lines, I noticed Tiffin scoffing and smirking. I eased myself to his side. Without wanting to draw the attention of our guests, I nudged him and quietly, but firmly, told him his behaviour was out of line and for him to "shut up", act according to his position within the company and show respect to the speaker and host. He was acting like an arrogant brat and I didn't give a damn who or what he was. Heeding my demand, he held his tongue and smirks throughout the rest of John's "sell-in". However, his good behaviour didn't last once the business part of the evening was over.
As the guests mingled, ate and sipped on their choices of beverages, I noticed Tiffin had had more than his fair share of alcohol and his behaviour was getting out of hand. One of our major buyers from a well-known chain of department stores was in his line of fire. She, the buyer, was no shrinking violet but I could see she was uncomfortable from his unwanted attention. I grabbed her eye and beckoned her over to me. I said I had noticed what was going on and would take care of the situation, thereby not causing her further embarrassment. Diffusing the situation, once again, I took Tiffin aside and told him to "wake up to himself...that he was "our" guest...he was representing the company and head office and that his behaviour was way out of line." The buyer who was the centre of his unwanted, uncalled for attention was an important player in the industry. His drunken advances certainly wasn't the way to conduct business. He slunk off like a mongrel dog and for the rest of the evening kept not only out of my way, but that of his chosen "prey".
At the end of the night, John was my chauffeur home, but on the way we had to drop Tiffin off to his hotel. While John was locking up the premises, going through the necessary security measure, I bailed Tiffin up against the wall in the car park and told him exactly what I thought of him and his behaviour, telling him I didn't give a damn what position he held within the Kolotex Group of Companies. He was a newcomer within the ranks and I doubted he would stay employed by the company for much longer, so he'd better start making enquiries about another job. I also told him that John Trimmer had more knowledge in his little toe, than, he, Tiffin would ever have in his whole body and mind. By the time John appeared, Tiffin was a cowered little mouse of a man. I was so angry, I didn't care how he felt.
The next morning Tiffin arrived at the office very meek and mild. John drove him to the airport to put him on his flight back to Sydney. On his arrival back from the airport, John came into my office and said, "Tiffin was very quiet this morning. He hardly said a word during the drive to the airport." It was then John became aware of what had ensued the previous evening. I told him all that I had said and done. He laughed, thanking me...and said the great Aussie term..."Good on you, Lee!"
Tiffin lasted about another four to five weeks with Kolotex before he went on to spread his nonsense and ignorance on some other unsuspecting employer. He wasn't missed by us and we never heard of him again.
To Be Continued....