Saturday, December 30, 2017

The HILL.  Madison, Connecticut. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Memories from Mac's daughters (2)

On 7/3/2015 Suzy wrote (in part):

"As kids in the late 40's and early 50's, Janey, Polly, and I were often at the Block Shop.  Ruth, your dad, and Peter were very much a part of our lives and conversations.  The three of us were occasionally pictured in the (Block Shop) catalog ... mostly Polly".  (She describes how excruciating it was to pose but not be able to play with the toys). 
"One of your uncles remembered 'the barn' in North Branford as being the plant ... I remember that barn well.  For two weeks during the summer of 1956 my sisters and I (along with my best friend Cookie L.) were pressed into being the assembly line for Silly Putty in that barn.  Janey (I think) pulled the lever that dropped the premeasured amount of Silly Putty into one half of an egg.  Then when the filled egg rolled down the assembly line I put the wrapper (cardboard and clear plastic) on it and Cookie stapled it together on four corners.  Sometimes we switched jobs and all of us decided that we would go to college and study hard because we couldn't imagine anything more boring than spending our lives on an assembly line. I was ... 14 or 15 ... Janey 11 or 12 ... and Polly 9 or 10". 
"That "pink stuff" ruined more than just Mom's couch.  It took out at least two tablecloths and several pairs of shorts and lots of shirts before we all became adept at playing with it.  I remember the day we found out that you could copy the Sunday funnies with it.  Wow!!! And play with it we did.  That stuff bounced as high as anything I had ever seen before.  And you could smash it into hundreds of pieces with one whack of a hammer.  I remember the first day that Peter brought it to the house.  It came in a huge plastic bag -- must have been ten pounds of it ... which when he was leaving was put on top of the refrigerator.  Then we watched the stuff in the bag slowly "melt" into a huge puddle which then proceeded to melt down the side of the refrigerator.  Fortunately, it was contained in the bag or I suspect Mom would have thrown Peter and his "pink stuff" out the door".
"Silly Putty brought all three families together often.  Fun times.  Enduring friendships for our parents.  Great memories". 

Memories from Mac's daughters. (1)

On 7/2/2015 Jane wrote (in part):
"I ... remember Peter bringing a huge bag of pink stuff and plunking it down in the middle of our kitchen floor (in Branford) and saying something like "Now what'll I do with it".  And I do remember our mother (Ruthie)  having words with him later about the permanent attachment of the pink stuff to her sofa, she was not happy.  (I think that when your grandmother wasn't feeding Peter my mother was).  I also remember having to give a deposition (much later -maybe mid 60's) regarding some other toy company trying to copyright the "copying" quality of their putty".
She continued by describing my dad (William H. Haynes):
"he was so handsome and so serene.  I remember how much my father respected him and enjoyed his company'.
"Polly was a model for one of (the Block Shop's) catalogs -- or it might have been Suzy". 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What this blog is about -

Unfortunately, blogging means that your most recent post will appear first. Therefore, if you are writing a story, everything ends up being backwards. Throughout this blog I advise folks to begin with the oldest post and read the blog from the oldest post to the newest post.
But, I will briefly explain here what this blog is about.
My dad, William "Bill" Henry Haynes, was an African American man from New Haven, Connecticut, who, along with other members of his family had worked, or were working, at a toy store in New Haven, Connecticut which was called the Block Shop. The Block Shop was owned by a woman named Ruth Fallgatter, who was a friend of Peter Hodgson, Sr. Pete was an advertising copywriter and in 1949 was going through a rough patch. He became close to my family and my uncle indicates that my grandmother would often take care of him (washing his shirts and feeding him) as if he were a relative. Pete got lucky one night though when he went to a party, was introduced to a useless substance, thought of a possible use for the substance, gathered up some Yale students and some members of my family and began to sell the substance in plastic eggs as Silly Putty. My dad, a 24 year old, and who was probably his only permanent employee, was tasked with running the operation from the production end almost from the start. A recent Yale law student, Macgregor Kilpatrick, came along and became, what I like to think of as the third leg of the stool (Pete, Mac, dad). Many interesting people were associated with Silly Putty and the Block Shop including the the jazz musician (and Yale music professor) Willie Ruff *, Elizabeth Huggins (Yale University librarian and mother of slain Black Panther John Huggins)**, John Payson***, Bob Cecil****, Libby Patton*****, "Tony"******, and others. These folks helped to produce and/or sell the product and they were instrumental in making Silly Putty one of the most successfully marketed toys in U.S. History. They built the company from a $147 loan into a $140 million dollar estate.
In an article entitled SILLY PUTTY CELEBRATES ITS 40TH ..." by James Barron (New York Times - February 15, 1990) he states that "So far 3,000 tons of Silly Putty have been sold - enough to ... circle th Earth at the equator three times. Without stretching". And he wrote that 21 years ago!!

* In his book A CALL TO ASSEMBLY, Mr. Ruff indicates that he was never on the Silly Putty payroll, but he was very close to Pete. Pete asked him to be the musical director of Silly Putty.
** Elizabeth Huggins worked for the Block Shop.
*** John Payson is said to have been a brilliant marketing man who worked for a time on the marketing end of Silly Putty.
**** In Willie Ruff's book "A Call ..." on page 200 he indicates that Bob Cecil was one of the early Yale student workers.
*****Libby Patton worked for Silly Putty.
****** "Tony" worked in the shipping & distribution side of Silly Putty.

Dad holding Troy and Sandy

This is my dad holding my son Troy and his fourth daughter, and my half-sister, Sandra Haynes Thomas.

Troy (Bill's first male descendant - two male greatgrandsons would come later) decided to go
the entertainment rather than the business route. He is a master of ceremonies for latin dance conferences and conventions and he and his wife (Jorjet) are latin dancers, teachers, and choreographers. What Troy did get from his grandpa is his amazing ability to market and produce. Another grandchild is Mikele Haynes of New England (not shown).

This photo was taken in 1971.

Pretty much all of our parents worked at one time or another at either the Block Shop or Silly Putty and we all had a grandmother or greatgrandmother who worked at the Block Shop.
From left to right are: Rodney Ralls; James Bell holding Wayne Washington; Greg Rawls (Ralls) in front of Ronald Horner; Debra Ralls; Patricia Haynes holding Joey Jay Bell, Darlene Horner, and me, Carol Haynes. This was Christmas 1962 at 341 Norton Street in New Haven.

This blog is best read from the oldest post to the newest post.

William "Bill" Henry Haynes and Dawn Haynes

My sister, Dawn Haynes, was my father's third girl and she was the one who got his gifts and genes for marketing and sales. Dawn is (and has been) a stylist for such celebrities as Quncy Jones; Hallie Berry; Eddie Murphy; Teena Marie; Queen Latifah; Common; Eric Benet; etc. (The list is long and I could never adequately cite her accomplishments). Her agency is Dawn 2 Dusk Agency in Los Angeles.

A Silly Putty Family

From my point of view there were three core Silly Putty families (1) the family of Peter Hodgson, Sr., (2) the family of Macgregor Kilpatrick, and (3) our family Haynes/Horner.

Our family members mostly worked at the Block Shop, Silly Putty, the Winchester Gun Factory, the New Haven telephone company, or Malley's. My mother did some occasional work at the Block Shop (wrapping gifts), she worked a stint at the Winchester Gun Factory, but she mostly worked as a secretary for Grace New Haven Hospital/Yale New Haven Hospital pediatrics clinic (she was there when they were first doing a lot of open heart surgery on children).

This photo is of my mom and dad's wedding in New Haven (at my aunt Alice and uncle Booster's house) on July 17, 1948.

In the back row is (left to right) Ted Midder (husband of Dee, and father of Wes). Ted would have helped out at Silly Putty on occasion; I am not sure of the identity of the next man who is wearing a dark shirt and light tie; the next person is Wesley Obery Midder (who was in charge of stocking toys at the BLOCK SHOP); the next person is my paternal grandmother, Dora "Jane" Kelly Knight Lee Haynes Midder (who worked at the Block Shop and befriended Pete prior to the Silly Putty days - but during the Block Shop days); then comes my maternal grandfather, John Anthony/Joao Antao Santos of New Bedford (who worked in the cotton mills in New Bedford and Boston; then my maternal grandmother, Maria Santos of New Bedford (who worked for a while in the cotton mills in New Bedford; then my aunt Antonia "Tanya" Santos Bargasse of New Bedford (who worked at Cornell-Dubelier and Arovox); then an unidentified man; then Aunt Ethel Ralls (who worked at the telephone company and later for Mayor Daniels); my godfather Manuel "Uncle Manny" Britto (also from the Cape Verde Islands - he lived in Bridgeport and my father may have called him in to work a crew at some point in time); and Dee Midder (my step-greatgrandmother - who was a domestic servant for a number of families in the New Haven area).
In the front, seated on the edge of the chair (going left to right) is my father's oldest sister, Mary Bell (who worked at Malley's); then her son, Marvin Joseph Bell (who became a stonemason); then my aunt Alice Haynes Horner (who worked at the Block Shop for 17 years); then my father, William "Bill" Henry Haynes (who worked at the Block Shop and Silly Putty); then my mother, Juanita Haynes (who worked at the Block Shop during Christmas rush occasionally); then my "Uncle Booster" (Alfred Horner) who worked at Winchester Gun Factory but who, nevertheless, was an authoritative source about the Block Shop and Silly Putty. Finally, my cousin JoAnn Bell Washington (who worked at the telephone company).

This is the family that Peter Hodgson, Sr. came to know. It is the family who accepted him as if he were a blood relative (BEFORE the legend of Silly Putty began). It is a family whose members all, in some way, became involved in the Block Shop and Silly Putty.

Mom and Dad - early silly putty days - ? 1954

William "Bill" Henry Haynes and his wife, Juanita at 65 Asylum Street during the early days of Silly Putty. At this time my dad would have been at Silly Putty about five years.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Johnny Jump Up

Here I am on August 7, 1949, slightly over a month old, in a "Johnny Jump Up". (At our house at 144 Purchase Street in New Bedford).
The 1950 BLOCK SHOP catalog shows an advertisement for a Johnny Jump Up and it reads:
"JOHNNY JUMP UP. This is new, and the finest exerciser we know for fast-growing Johnnie and/or Janie. Just a slight push with the toes and the bouncing, rollicking fun starts. It is a strong canvas seat suspended from a special spring which is extra sturdy yet which responds readily to the slightest movement. Absolutely safe and ready to hang in any wooden door frame. Age range: 4 months to walking. $3.00. Shipping weight 2 1/2 pounds".

Inside cover of 1950 BLOCK SHOP catalog

The inside cover of the 1950 Block Shop Catalog reveals that the toy store was located at 58 Wall Street in New Haven, Connecticut and that their telephone number was 5-9919. (I remember the prefixes being Spruce and Main but this phone number has the third number as 5 - which is JKL - so I'm not sure what the prefix was). The inside cover bears Ruth Fallgatter's signature and indicates that it is the catalog for 1950.


This blog is best read from the earliest post to the most recent

(Regrets) Card inserted into 1950 Block Shop catalog

I will have to ask my aunt Alice whose writing this is on the card.

I think it is the handwriting of the woman who eventually received the catalog - Mrs. Thomas Leonard, 96 Neptune Avenue, Deal, New Jersey.

Apparently the catalog was sent out to one person but was returned to the sender (the Block Shop). Ms. Leonard must have requested a catalog but they had run out. So they sent her a "returned" BLOCK SHOP catalog with their regrets.

And I own the cataglog now.


Block Shop page showing Sargent Crayons

This is a page from the 1950 Block Shop Toy Store which advertises Sargent crayons. Was Crayola formerly Sargent?

Block Shop Toy Store cover (New Haven) (1950) - illustrated by Romney Gay

In an email on 1/10/2011, Pete's youngest daughter indicated that Romney Gay was a female who was around Ruth Fallgatter's age and that she had met her once. (Ruth was born in 1912). Margolis and Moss are booksellers in New Mexico ( and on their webpage they show a book and then they add "by Romney Gay who was a prolific writer and illustrator of children's books". One book that appears to have been quite popular was "The Tale of Corally Crothers" by Romney Gay, published by Harter Publishing in 1932.

Dad and Me - around 1966

The top photo is my dad and I around 66-67 in New Haven at my aunt's house on Ellsworth Avenue.
The bottom photo shows me and my cousin Gregory Rawls (Ralls).
We were a very close family. I cannot remember a Sunday when we were not all together after (most of the family) went to Church. This was, apparently, one such day.

Photographs of Carol and Pat in Martha's Vineyard

Same vacation. Me and my sister, Patricia.

Photograph of Dad and me in Martha's Vineyard -1955

Vacation time from Silly Putty was always the first week (or first two weeks) of July. We always went North (to Bar Harbor; Nova Scotia,; Putney, Vermont, New Hampshire; or the Cape). We only experienced racial discrimination on one occasion that I can remember and that was at a motel near the Bourne Bridge (going over to the Cape). My father had obtained a room but when the staff saw my mother they said they had made a mistake and that there were no vacancies. My father was steaming (but not in such a way that anyone else other than the family would have known) and I can remember him talking about the fact that his money was the same color as everyone else's money -- green. What made this event so strange is that my mother was from New Bedford which was not too far away from this motel. On this vacation, in 1955, we were at Oaks Bluff, Martha's Vineyard. Photo of William "Bill" Henry Haynes and Carol Haynes.

Photograph of Alice Haynes Horner and Alfred "Uncle Booster" Lee Horner

When my "Uncle Booster" (Alfred Horner) was alive he was a great source of information on anything about the family, New Haven, and the people that he knew there (including information about Ruth, Pete, Silly Putty, and the Block Shop). I am grateful that I spent time interviewing him about these topics before he died. His wife, my Aunt Alice may have been the first family member to come in contact with Ruth Fallgatter and the Block Shop (or maybe it was my Grandma Jane). Aunt Alice worked at the Block Shop for 17 years. While it was closing she was approached by one of the customers (he had first asked Ruth if he could approach her). He offered her a job and she went and worked for him for 40 years. My cousin Ronnie appeared in a Block Shop catalog around 1955-7. Uncle Booster may have worked at Silly Putty during emergencies but he mostly worked at the Winchester Gun Factory.

Photograph of Dora "Jane" Kelly Knight Lee Haynes Midder

This is a photo of my Grandma Jane, who apparently nurtured Pete shortly prior to the Silly Putty days. Grandma was a domestic servant and laundress and also worked briefly at the Block Shop. She mainly worked for Professor Rollin Osterweiss and/or his family. She was originally from Lewisburg, West Virginia, and she was the daughter of a Black/"mulatto"* female, Mary Alice Kelly Knight and a white male, Harry Suthcliff Cooper, who owned the Lewisburg hotel in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. She moved to New Haven around 1924. She was the mother of my dad, William "Bill" Henry Haynes, and also Alice (who both worked at the Block Shop). She was also the mother of Mary, Edna, Ethel, and Albert (who died as an infant). Even though Grandma Jane was a domestic servant, I wouldn't characterize our family as a "poor" family. Thus, I wouldn't describe my dad's ascent as a "rags to riches" story. Blacks were largely confined to certain occupations in my grandmother's day. She had a sister in law who was a podiatrist, though, one was the principal of an elementary school in WV, one was married to a physician, and others were teachers. But many of my father's aunts and uncles worked for families either in Ohio, WV, or Connecticut. For instance, my father's first cousin, Mary E. Brinkley, worked for the Woodbridge Country Club for many years.
*Because I am also a genealogist of sorts, I tend to characterize folks the way they were listed in the various censuses though I really don't like the word "mulatto". Nevertheless, it describes the person's condition (i.e. that, at least from what I have learned of my family, they were most likely born of a Black or "mulatto" woman and an unidentified white male).

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Uncle Oscar says:

On 1/6/2011, I interviewed my Uncle Oscar (Oscar Ralls*). Uncle Oscar said that he first learned about Silly Putty through his wife, my aunt, Ethel Haynes Ralls. Aunt Eppie was my dad's youngest sister.

Uncle Oscar said that in the beginning Pete was living in a green house on Temple Street. The house was on the corner and right next to what is now a girl's dormitory. From his account, some early Silly Putty work may have been done at this green house as well as at the Block Shop.

I asked him about the North Branford plant because I keep reading accounts of the plant being in a barn and that it didn't look at all like a barn to me. He indicated that it was initially a barn but that they "built over it" to make the building that I remember. The north Branford land was formerly a farm and, of course, he said "they had animals on it".

In my interview with Uncle Oscar I learned something new - that he had also worked at Silly Putty after meeting my aunt.

Uncle Oscar apparently met my dad and aunt Alice after my family had moved back from New Bedford because he says that he can not remember my dad living out of town and what he remembers is that dad and Alice were working at the Block Shop. He indicated that Pete and Ruth Fallgatter were close friends; that when Silly Putty started Pete needed someone to be in charge; and "who did he know? He knew your father"; that Alice continued to work at the Block Shop for Ruth and that my dad went with Pete.

Uncle Oscar then answered the question that I posed at the beginning of the blog, namely, Why were our families so close? He said that my Grandma Jane (Dora Haynes Midder) used to wash Pete's shirts and that she would feed him. He said that during that time period (apparently before Silly Putty got off the ground) Pete didn't have any money. Uncle Oscar stated that Grandma Jane treated Pete as if he were a relative. She treated him as if he were one of the family. This partly explains why we were so close.

No one could have imagined that Silly Putty would become what it became. It was a genius use of marketing (as one of my lawyer co-workers said to me today). Probably because it was first intended for sale to Yale students, or possibly the local market, it was started with a small family (though not necessarily blood related) group and with the additional help of Yale students. When the company grew, fortunately the members of this small group were up to the task of operating on a large scale. They stuck together and Uncle Oscar indicates that family members were able to be called in when needed.

Uncle Oscar said that "Pete put your dad in charge and your dad went from there" and that my father "was the big boss - the big wheel". They worked in "crews". Uncle Oscar was on the crew that would take the putty, cut it up, and put it in the eggs. My father supervised all of the crews. Under his supervision was a man named "Tony" (Uncle Oscar does not remember his last name but says he was of Italian origin). Tony was over packaging and shipping.

Uncle Oscar also said that the Block Shop and the Silly Putty office at 424 Temple were one block away from each other.

In his book, A CALL TO ASSEMBLY, Willie Ruff talks about the challenges that the Yale students had trying to deal with the barrels filled with the silicone rubber and that "watching ... Silly Putty's college crew wrestling and packing the stubborn stuff was more fun than playing with it". This must be why Pete needed my dad (who had machinist and production skills) as Mr. Ruff continues that, in the beginning "there seemed to be no systematic process that would speed the job along". He says the the "meanest task" was getting the silicone rubber out of the barrels.

(*originally Rawls)
** The photo is of Oscar Ralls greeting Delores Butcher as our family reunion in Virginia Beach in ?2000.

Contact me

If you have any information about the early history of Silly Putty, or the Block Shop, I would love to hear from you.

Interview with Willie Ruff

On 1/3/2011 I had the opportunity to speak with Willie Ruff by telephone. He advised me that he wrote about Silly Putty in his autobiography A CALL TO ASSEMBLY. I immediately ordered two books. Today, 1/6/2011, I received two copies of his book. The book answered some questions that I had about the use of Yale students and how Silly Putty was produced in the early years.

Some of the things that Willie Ruff said to me in the interview, but which are not in his book, are as follows:

I asked him how he met Pete. He answered that he knew him through one of his Yale student friends even before he became involved with Silly Putty (In his book he states that this friend was Bob Cecil. Mr. Ruff, in his book, states that he was never on the Silly Putty payroll. Peter did, however, make him the musical director of Silly Putty - which I think was fantastic for everyone who was able to benefit from Mr. Ruff's vast musical knowledge**). He indicated that a number of Yale students were working for Pete.

I asked Mr. Ruff how he had come to know my father and he indicated that he met dad "entirely at Silly Putty".

Mr. Ruff had come to New Haven in 1949 to go to Yale. In his freshman year one of his friends got a job at Silly Putty, packing putty into eggs. Silly Putty had posted flyers for student workers as they had a great number of orders after the toy fair.

Mr. Ruff indicated that Pete had worked in 1939 for the World's Fair. He also worked for Mike Todd. His job for Mike Todd was to "tail" Bill Bojangles (and make sure he appeared at events). He then went to work for Wendell Wilke.

Mr. Ruff indicated that Pete was extremely interested in jazz. He would bring Willie to New York in his Hudson Convertible with the Modern Jazz Quartet "blaring on the" radio. Willie said that the first money that Pete spent was on the Hudson.

Mr. Ruff also mentioned another attorney who was involved with Silly Putty and/or Arnold Clark; Joe DeSessa.

Mr. Ruff indicated also that he learned of my father's death one day when he visited Pete and Margaret at their house and "what a shock it was".

Mr. Ruff said that the Silly Putty story "is a southern story". I'm going to have to question him further on this point*.

Willie Ruff conducted a concert at Pete's memorial service. Margaret had instructed that there was to be no speaking, no preaching, and no religious references - only music , and she wanted a concert featuring the music of an English composer who was a contemporary of Bach. Willie Ruff gathered a group of musicians and they performed the concert. The memorial service was held at Yale Divinity School. I wasn't present. I'm not sure why I wasn't able to make it except that I was living in Boston at that time and had a small child. Wish I could have been there.

* Willie Ruff is from Alabama. Even though Pete was born in Montreal, his parents were born in Virginia and he was raised in Virginia.
** My parents were both jazz fanatics.
Note: There are two Mitchell Ruff Duo videos on YOU TUBE, both good. Especially endearing, though, is the one that captures part of their experience in Shanghai - when they were the first jazz musicians to go there (in 1981) after the cultural revolution. The duo was made up of Willie Ruff and Dwike Mitchell.
Note: Also see Mitchell and Ruff: An American Profile in Jazz by William Zinsser.