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By Barbara Streisand Harry Bell

(Couldn’t resist that.)

I have many memories of my time working with Jack so here goes.

1.   I was doing a month in the air force when Clicks first opened and was working at Woolies at the time. I remember one of the opening specials was Bicycle playing cards for next to nothing. One of the card playing permanent air force members asked me why I didn’t go work for this new company so he could get cards cheap. I remember saying to him “They’ll never last” Little did I know that within a few months I would be working there and would spend 35 very happy years there.

2.   We had not been open very long and my late wife was a supervisor at Clicks. On receiving her year-end bonus the first year she was so annoyed by how little it was she turned to Jack and said “If this is all you can afford you obviously need it more than me” and gave it back to him. Everyone thought there was going to be an eruption of volcanic proportion but he was more hurt than annoyed and tried to get her to accept it. She refused to accept it and he refused to take it back. How long it sat in that office safe I do not know.

3.   One winter we had a particularly heavy downpour and when I got into my store, the old St Georges street store in the old Waldorf Restaurant, I found the staff canteen about 4 inches under water. I phone Jack to report it and he came through to the shop. He took one look at it and said “This reminds me of my bedroom at  home”

4.   The St Georges St store, having the Sea Point bus terminus outside its front doors, was one of the two busiest stores (takings per square meter) in the country. At lunch times you could only walk through the crowds sideways, like a crab. This particular lunch hour Jack was in the store and had seen something that upset him and was really tearing into me. All of a sudden a customer touched him on the arms and said “When you’ve finished abusing this young man may I have some service please” Jack immediately calmed down and left the store. I turned to the customer and thanked her and asked how “Can I help you” “No” she said, I thought you needed the help”

5.   Being right at one of the busiest bus stops in Cape Town the windows and doors of the store were always being dirtied and messed with. One particular morning I arrived at the store with the late Peter Watts who had the keys. He tried to open the doors but someone had stuffed match sticks into the lock and the keys would not turn. Peter tried and tried and managed to soften the wood but could not get the key to turn. There we stood, way past opening time, trying to get the doors open. Suddenly Jack arrived and took the keys from Peter. He put them in the lock and typical – they turned first time. Jack just had that knack.

I loved my time at Clicks.

We were the first to discount vinyl records. That put the cat among the pigeons. We were also the first to discount paperback books. Their prices had been previously controlled so that was very exciting for our customers.

Our working hours were very strange. We had to stay until the shelves were full, sometimes till one o’clock in the morning. There was no overtime. It was just part of what working in retail was like back then. But the advantage was that we did not work weekends. You finished on Saturday lunchtime and that was it.

We were one of the first retailers to move towards integration in management. Jack Goldin was a visionary whose thinking was ahead of his time. He said “The time is going to come when things are going to change so let us be first.”  We were in fact the first to put people of colour on the tills, which caused a bit of consternation, but Jack believed in ability above anything else.

I loved my time at Clicks. It was great to be there from the beginning. The opportunities for promotion were unbelievable because the company was growing so fast. The company was becoming so successful and that success rubbed on us. We liked to be linked to Clicks’ success.

I was told that I was not allowed to take out one of my staff.

I first met my wife, Les, when we were both working for Woolworths. However, our romance did not start then as Les returned to England for one and half years.

Shortly after I started managing the St Georges Street Branch, Les returned to South Africa and joined Clicks as a Supervisor.

Things started to happen but our romance was to receive a setback.

I was told that I was not allowed to take out one of my staff.

While I was most upset with this I must admit it is very difficult and trying working with someone you are keen on. We “broke up” but only for a while and then continued our romance in secret helped by Dal Hack who used to take us out in his car so that no one would see us.  This was a very unsatisfactory time for both of us and shortly after I was transferred to Plein Street I decided to see Mr Goldin and let him decide whether or not Les should leave Clicks.

I sat opposite Mr Goldin with my knees shaking but was told we could do what we liked as long as we were not in the same shop.

Harry Bell with Clicks from 1969 to 2003

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About mc1a

Matteo joined the Clicks Brand in 1974 as a Trainee Manager and spent the first nine years of his career in operational management roles within stores. In 1983 he was promoted to the role of Buyer and joined the Merchandise Division. During the following twenty seven years, he applied his extensive buying expertise to various categories and assisted the business in growing from a small retailer to the national household name that it is today. Matteo has not only gained the respect of his many colleagues through the years, but also with the many suppliers that he has dealt with.
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