Picture from an Awards Dinner for Home Interiors, Inc. in 1960. Mary Crowley is on the left, Sunny Wilson is on the right, next to Mary’s son, Don Carter. I apologize for the damaged photo and not knowing the names of the two women in the center. This is the only photograph I can find of Mary and Sunny, although many were taken during the years they worked together.
Entrepreneurship Opens The Door
Mary Crowley, the Sunday School teacher who had organized her class to bring prepared food and groceries to Sunny’s family during the winter of recovery, stepped into her life again in the late summer of 1954. This time she became the light at the end of the tunnel that finally started Sunny on the beautiful road to solid ground financially.
Mary had a special understanding of Sunny’s predicament. Years before she, too, had been left with two young children, but without a husband’s support. To put food on the table, she began working in a local Montgomery Wardsand discovered she had a knack for salesmanship.She also realized that as the bread-winner, she needed more than a high school education. So she put herself through business school while working at the department store, and then moved with her children to Dallas, Texas.
There, she became an accountant/salesman for one of the larger downtown furniture stores. During the Post War building and baby boom, she grew more and more aware of the huge numbers of the young families buying their first homes and wanting to make them beautiful.So she began sharing information with customers about putting pictures on the wall, selecting pretty lamps, choosing complementary colors in the upholstered furniture, as well as explaining the store’s finance terms. Very soon she became their leading salesman.
But in early 1954, (while Sunny was recuperating at home) Mary left the established business to work on a new venture with Dick Kelly selling decorative objects for the home on the “party plan.” They called it World Gift Company since most of the merchandise was imported, similar to the products now sold at Pier One. Dick made the executive decisions, while Mary became the sales executive to recruit and train the women who became their independent representatives.
They sold each new recruit at least one large suitcase full of samples to show at the party. Then she trained them with many creative ways to use the items for home decor and got them started by presenting at the first two or three parties that the newbie booked.The official training continued every Monday when Mary showed additional possibilities for using the decorations; she also shared stories about how and why each imported item had been made and used in its country of origin. And she made the sales meetings the most upbeat, inspirational programs anyone could imagine.
When Mary realized that selling insurance was providing neither the income nor the satisfaction that Sunny wanted, she recruited her to sell for the new company part-time while she also taught school as she had done the year before. Sunny couldn’t begin to pay for the cost of the suitcase full of samples and sales aids that she needed, so Mary kindly lent her the money and let her repay the debt over several months of work.
When school started in September, Sunny had to miss the Monday sales meetings, but again Mary came to her rescue by offering extra phone support as well as tape recordings of sales talks.Also, she mailed out inspiring sales letters every week to every one involved with new stories and new ideas about the products.So, Sunny happily addedteaching home decorating lessons at parties to her lessons in poetry and public speaking at her school.
Each month became less of a struggle with money than the month before. By the end of the school year in 1955, just one year after facing total financial destruction, she decided to leave teaching her beloved students to selling full-time because it was so much more profitable. And she had the privilege of spending all of her working hours concentrating on creating beauty. One year after that, she had earned enough rewards from World Gift Company to win a one week free vacation in Mexico City for herself and as a high school graduation present for her daughter.
When some disturbing issues arose between Dick Kelly and Mary over executive decisions in 1957, Mary left World Gift to begin her own company, Home Interiors. She asked Sunny to join her as executive assistant. The two had become close friends in the previous three years and knew they could work well together. And Sunny had social and business skills that complemented Mary’s talents.
Home Interiors grew rapidly. By 1983, at its twenty-fifth anniversary, sales topped $400,000,000. And profits were over $20,000,000. By the early 1990’s, after Mary’s death, sales were over $850,000,000. Her son, who had continued to run the company, sold it during the nineties.
But Mary and Sunny had led the company to its early successes as great friends and as co-workers.The friendship continued, but the business relationship ended when Sunny’s daughter finally found the man of her dreams – a step father. But that’s another chapter in the life of this beautiful woman.
Copyright 2018 by Kaye Fairweather
This Is A Beautiful Woman: https://wordpress.com/post/oneeyehalfsense.com/1877
This is a picture taken at a tea honoring the women in the back row who were graduating from college in 1953 despite having started the process at a later date than usual. Sunny is second from the right. Her daughter and her best friend, recruited to serve as kitchen help, sit on either end of the sofa. Sunny’s mother is second from left. The gracious hostess and Sunny’s favorite college professor is seated on the sofa at the far right.
The Tough Summer of 1954
Although grateful and inspired by the many kindnesses extended to her family during the bout with hepatitis, Sunny was delighted to began earning a living again. The only problem was that she could bring home just about six weeks of pay before the schools closed for the summer. Still, she and her children were eager to work at any job available because it felt so good to be independent again.
Sunny took classes so she could sell insurance door to door during the summer and planned to add weekends during the school year. However, that was not a good career move for her particular talents. She doggedly put in the time and foot work, but never did quite well enough to consider herself a success or to become comfortable in that venue.
The older son, whohad graduated from Washington’s elite, preppy Capitol Page School in May, came back to Dallas and found work as a hod carrier on one of the big buildings going up down town. He earned enough at that to save some for college in the fall and to help fill in a few of the gaps for the rest ofthe family.
The daughter, still in high school, kept up her baby sitting career in the neighborhood.She earned a few shekles for spending money and frequently helped purchase gas at twenty-five cents a gallon for the family car.
Sunny’s mother continued to live with them for awhile and cheerfully contributed portions of her social security check to help out as she could.
Despite the joy of beginning to recover from total financial devastation, the Tough Summer of 1954 was the hardest period financially that Sunny and her family had to face.For example, many times they drove to town well after dark to put a house or utilitypaymentin the night depository box so they could avoid the late penalties which would start at the beginning of the next business day.
Another frequent trial was buying gas. At a time when all service stations were full service, they frequently purchased two or three gallons at a time because that was all the money they had. Even so, they didn’t always make it back to the house or station before car ran out of gas again. Then they would have to ease the car to park it in front of the nearest stranger’s house, and walk to a nearby gas station to buy enough to start the car again, if anyone had any money. If everyone in the car was flat broke, they just walked home until they could afford to rescue the car.
Fortunately, the big bad city was much safer and friendlier in 1954 than it is today. No one worried about the car being stolen or tires slashed before they could return with a gas can to begin a new trip. The strangers in the house near where they parked never complained. The police never gave Sunny a ticket or had the car towed.And when they did get the car back home, they always left it in plain sight in the drive with the keys in the ignition —- for fear of ever losing the keys. They continued doing this at least until the early 1970’s without any anxiety or loss.
Also, they never locked their doors – even when going away for the weekend. Actually, Sunny never was quite sure just where the door key was and didn’t find it until she packed up to move to another town, years later. The term, home invasion, had not been invented yet and no one would have known what it meant, should he hear the term.If burglar alarm systems were available at the time, only the ultra rich knew about them.
A big sacrifice for the daughter was to reluctantly give the family dog to the neighbors three doors down because there just was not enough left over scraps to keep him alive, even with the bacon grease gravy she had learned to make for him. And buying dog food was totally out of the question. Many days, a half piece of bacon a day for each family member was all the meat they could afford.
Although it was a tough summer, everyone pitched in to help any way possible. No one gaveup hope,grew depressed, or became angry with either God or society. Yes, life was more onerous than they had expected, but never impossible. They still laughed at each other’s jokes; still listened to classical music on vinyl records; still reminisced over escapades from New Mexico; and they still teased about how hard they all worked to get a college degree for Sunny. College life for a whole family had also started a new tradition that they continued – keepingthe Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary near the dining table.That made it easy to reseach new words that came up during dinner conversation.Any time that any of the family heard a new word, they talked about it. Often one word would lead to another and then, another. While the practice improved vocabulary without the kids catching on, it also cultivated their social skills. Times were tough, but Sunny and her family were tougher and just as much fun to be around as ever.
This is a picture proof of Sunny’s three children taken during her freshman year in college.
This Is A Beautiful Woman: https://wordpress.com/post/oneeyehalfsense.com/1877
“Life takes you to unexpected places; love brings you home.” Author unknown
“We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home. We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world.” (link)
Statement by Kim Dong Chul, Kim Sang Duk (Tony Kim), and Kim Hak Song
While I believe that beauty has power, I’m not quite sure that I agree with Mr. Ray that a smile is its sword. Smiles can be powerful too, maybe even considered a weapon in some situations. But I just don’t see the connection of smiles to all forms of beauty. What do you think? Please feel free to comment.