John Bell has sent us a wonderful account of how Trebor led his family from Essex to Canada in 1950.
I was born in Essex, England in 1946. A year earlier, my father had returned from the war not sure of what he was going to do with his life. He toiled at a number of blue collar jobs, including house painting, but Richard ‘Dick’ Bell remained out-of-sorts until 1949, when my uncle presented “an opportunity of a lifetime.” Those were my Uncle Harold’s words.
Harold Dolphin was a handsome, charming man, with lofty dreams and ambitions. One of those dreams was relocating to the new world. His employer Trebor Confections would be the means to that end. Harold convinced Trebor of a burgeoning market for British sweets in Canada. The country was courting the British Empire for aspiring immigrants. At the time, Canada’s population was 14 million, and half its 2 million immigrants were born in the UK. Presumably, the transplanted Brits would delight in the availability of Trebor candies in Canadian shops.
Harold Dolphin, general manager.
Dick Bell, warehouse manager
My uncle’s mandate was to set up an overseas operation and serve as the company’s General Manager. Harold said he would need a reliable right-hand Englishman to help out. So, when Trebor offered to pay the travel expenses for the Bell family, all that was left for my father to do was convince my mother that this was a good idea. Dick resorted to his brother-in-law’s words of inspiration. He told my mother that Canada would present “an opportunity of a lifetime” for their young son, John.
Travelling several months ahead of the two families, Harold and Dick arrived in Toronto on one of the coldest days of the year, 25°C below zero. They soon signed a lease for an icicled warehouse and office in the east end of the city. Harold hired a small staff that included Trebor Canada’s first and only salesman, a Canadian-born Scotsman, William J. McLeod. Bill, his wife Grace and daughter Elaine, would become family friends for life.
Toronto warehouse 1950
Bill McLeod in 1980
On May 2, 1950, a month before my 4th birthday, the Empress of France pulled into the docks of Quebec City where I was declared a landed immigrant by the Canadian authorities. By train, we journeyed to our new home in Toronto.
Trebor made a big splash as an exhibitor at the Canadian National Exhibition. Brits lined up to buy Barley Sugar sticks and an assortment of other wrapped sweets.
1951 Canadian National Exhibition. Harold at the back. Dick up front serving customers.
1951 Canadian National Exhibition. Bill McLeod’s the balding man with glasses to the left.
But making money for the mother ship proved challenging. Importation put Trebor at a cost disadvantage. Other British competitors such as Cadbury and Rowntree Mackintosh were already producing in Canada. After 3 years, it was all over. Trebor terminated the overseas venture. They made a generous offer to bring the two families back to Britain but it was not to be. The Dolphin’s moved to the USA where Harold became a car salesman. That venture was also not to be. Harold’s marriage ended in 1962, and he returned to England where he spent the rest of his days.
My father remained in Toronto and worked in the industrial wire and cable industry in a materials management capacity. He retired from Canada Wire and Cable at 62 and died in 1990 at the age of 70.
The decision by Dick Bell to immigrate to Canada ultimately became my “opportunity of a lifetime.” It afford me a university education, and a successful career that led me back to confectionery industry.
In 1968, I began my business career in marketing and sales in the consumer packaged goods business. After stints at Bristol Myers, Beecham, and Leo Burnett Advertising, I moved to Vancouver and eventually became CEO of Jacobs Suchard’s North American coffee and confectionery operation. At one time, Suchard’s portfolio included a US company known as Brach’s whose specialty was hard candy. Eventually, Brach’s and Suchard was sold and I became a strategy consultant. Now 69 years old, I spend my time writing books and blogs, playing tennis, and enjoying my life with my wife of 45 years, my children and grandchildren. In 2015, my business book, “Do Less Better. The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World” was published by Palgrave Macmillan USA.
Thank you Trebor, for that opportunity of a lifetime.