With travel bans and stay at home orders, I imagine there may be even more than usual Mother’s and Father’s Day cards in the mail this spring as well as sentiments for would-be graduates. So I thought it might be fun to share some fascinating tidbits I found in a 1979 book titled “When you care enough,” the personal memories of J.C. Hall who founded the international Hallmark business empire.
Born in 1891 in David City, Nebraska, his early years bordered on poverty and he had no formal education. His father left the family, and his mother was in ill health, often leaving him to cook for his two brothers and sister.
Johnny Cash wrote about a boy named Sue in a song, but before that, Mrs. Hall named her baby boy Joyce after Bishop Isaac W. Joyce from Minneapolis who was in David City the day her son was born. You can imagine the taunts he suffered as a child.
However, the book talks about Joyce’s ambition, work ethic, tenacity, common sense and personal integrity that would carry him through the many difficult times of his life including the great depression and a fire that destroyed his business in 1915. He was said to be a perfectionist and to possess a disciplined imagination and a deep commitment to uncompromising decency and the concept of good taste.
A young Joyce sold lemonade at the circus and made sandwiches at home to sell to passengers on the three railroads that ran through town. He was mesmerized by the yarns told by traveling salesmen, and at age nine he had a door to door route with the California Perfume Company which became Avon Products. Little did he know that the only women with money for cosmetics were those who were politely called “the women across the river in white cottages.” Later he worked at his brother’s book store then landed in Kansas City, Missouri with two shoeboxes of postcards which he kept under his bed at the YMCA. Selling those postcards began his long struggle to success creating America’s most popular greeting card company; today it includes party ware, gift wrap, keepsake ornaments, gifts, puzzles, candles, stationary, calendars and much more.
Hallmark became the first greeting card publisher to advertise in national magazines and radio, and in the 1950’s the award winning Hallmark Hall of Fame dramatic TV series was launched. What would Joyce think of the Hallmark movie channel now? Art work of Winston Churchill, President Eisenhower, Walt Disney, Norman Rockwell Grandma Moses, Charles Schulz and Salvador Dali are among paintings and illustrations that have graced Hallmark cards. The company has made personal and official Christmas cards for U.S. presidents and Hall is credited with reconciling President Truman and President Eisenhower after the two hadn’t spoken in eight years.
From selling lemonade, popcorn, and sandwiches to the building of the 85 acre Hallmark Crown Center complex in Kansas City, Missouri, Joyce Hall’s rags to riches saga is truly an American dream story. He is quoted as saying, “If a man goes into business with only the idea of making a lot of money, chances are he won’t. But if he puts service and quality first, the money will take care of itself.”
I found it especially interesting and timely that during the depression Joyce felt people would be more concerned with communicating with each other and that they would buy cards as a substitute for gifts. He developed the Hall plan for businesses, and newspapers reported that it aided in the economic recovery of the nation.
Sherry Maves is a freelance writer and co-author of the book “Endless Love and Second Chances.” She may be contacted at email@example.com