Thursday, May 19, 2011

Maybelline file reveals an era Gone with the Wind.

My grandmother, aka Miss Maybelline, often remarked "Nothing can be Lost, Strayed or Stolen,"  She was absolutely correct and here is a perfect example of her positive affirmation. 


So, here's how it goes.  I write the Maybelline Story, Mr Ramsey googles me and finds my publisher Bettie Youngs.  She gets the file Mr. Ramsey has been holding onto since he bought a safe from Plough Inc. in 1985 (Plough Inc. is the company that purchased Maybelline in 1967.)   In the safe is a file from Noel James Williams co-founder and Vice President of the Maybelline Co. - Bettie sends the file to Chuck Williams, Noel's grandson and away we go! 
Several of the Noel Williams' cousins gather to view and discuss the 80 year old missing documents in hopes of learning more about their grandfather who died before most of them were born. 

Cousin Chuck  organized, categorized, alphabetized and chronicled the papers until it read like a book dating from 1930 to 1941. 


Chuck Williams lost in thought as he reads his
grandfathers own words.
 After many hours of research Chuck concluded that during the depths of the depression his grandfather not only took a reduced salary ranging from $12,000 to $16,000, he also loaned $16,000 to his brother Tom Lyle Williams to keep  Maybelline afloat in 1939, just as WW ll was beginning to make headlines around the world.  

At first we thought, WHAT! How can a Maybelline executive live on such a small salary and still loan money?  Then we delved deeper into the numbers and understood just how far a dollar stretched in the 1930's.  It turns out a gallon of gas according to Noel's Tax Returns cost 18 cents. Today we pay close to $4.00.

So then we began to understand how an executive with the Maybelline Company could live quite well with a wife and four kids and still help keep the Maybelline Company afloat when the chips were down. 

Here's a list of some of Noel's expenses: 

Car maintenance -
Lube                        $   1.00
Car Wash                     1.00
Tune up                        3.00
Adjust brakes               1.60
Overhaul fuel pump      3.85
Replace rear springs     1.50
Overhaul Carburetor     4.25
Install complete set of rings, new head gasket, plugs, points, flush pump, gas, oil, grease - for a total of $57.41

When Noel got into a fender bender, the cost to replace the bumper was only $16.50 and when he decided to buy a brand new spanking 1941 Model 51 black sedan Buick with white wall tires from Western-Devon Buick Company he slapped down $1,374 cash and only paid $105 for a year of auto insurance. 
Chuck showing Nancy what he always believed was
true about their grandfather's tremendous contribution
to the Maybelline Co. 
I guess a dollar was really a dollar back then and people could afford to live the
American Dream
We were amazed at the amount of money we have to dish out in the 21 Century just to live the life our parents and grandparents lived once upon a time.  OH THOSE MAYBELLINE DAYS!   What fun it must have been when everything was wide open for young people like Tom Lyle, Noel and Mabel and being an entrepreneur was like throwing stones at a barn, you couldn't miss. 

And one more thing, when we looked at Noel's stocks it was even more shocking because he bought
US Steel for                $67.00
Texas Corp                   46.00
Commonwealth Edison 31.00
General Motors             30.00

Aren't those numbers almost the same today!  What is going on!  No wonder no one can make money anymore.

So after really combing through the numbers, we understood how it was possible for Noel to loan the Maybelline Company $16,000 in 1939.  Boy, could Noel save save and save and still live a good conservative lifestyle, while Tom Lyle handled the Advertising in Hollywood and Rags Ragland managed  marketing to the trade.  Can you imagine those three men making up the upper level of the world's most successful eye cosmetics company?  How many people would it take today?  Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe we should ask Maybelline New York!  

So that's the story of the missing file and we are most grateful to Mr. Ramsey for never giving up looking for Noel's family and returning this valuable piece of history to us at last. 


James Noel Williams, Nancy Williams-Fesler, Sharrie Williams  and Charles Allen Williams   - grateful cousins.
If you want the full scoop of what happened while building an empire, please pick up my book, The Maybelline Story and the Spirited Family Dynasty Behind it.  You will not be able to stop turning the pages.

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