In 1974, while Noel was helping the local doctor build his dream boat, and I was counting bolts at the hardware store, we somehow managed to produce four dollhouses. We were working fools, eating clams we dug on the nearby beach and having fun. We had no idea what kind of a market there was for our houses, but thought of them as toys and wrote to Gump’s in San Francisco, and FAO Schwarz in New York, to see what would happen. Schwarz offered to take all four if we could get them to San Francisco. Two houses would stay there, and two would go to New York—we were ecstatic. The glitch was, they wanted 50% of the asking price—a big bite, but still, half of $1200.00 each was $600—our first dollhouse money. Plus there was the publicity, and who knows how many more orders.
Shipping was out of the question, so we packed the houses into a U-Haul trailer, hooked it to the back bumper of the VW camper and towed them the 740 miles to San Francisco. We sang all the way, amazed at our dumb luck. Nearing the city the U-Haul started making serious noise due to the fact it had slowly been pulling the bumper off the back of the camper. At one point we stopped for Noel to try to tie the bumper back on, but it was a borderline repair. Due to more dumb luck, we made it, just, limping our way to FAO Schwarz’s downtown store intact. They were thrilled, and down the houses went, elevatored away, unceremoniously, through an opening in the sidewalk. Wow!, I thought, all that work just gone. Then we found out the houses were on consignment, and we would see no money until they sold. Ah well, we had our jobs, our health, and clams were free for the digging.
That November, when we had yet to see a check from Schwarz, the San Francisco office called to say their president wanted to meet us. They wouldn’t say more, but it sounded promising. We couldn’t both afford to go, so we decided Noel would be our emissary. Somehow we dug up a round trip plane ticket for $59.00 (this was 1974), and off he went in his only remaining “good” clothes—a pair of Navy surplus wool sailor pants, and a cashmere turtleneck. It was 90 degrees in San Francisco. The president postponed the meeting until 4:00 p.m., and Noel literally sweated out the day on the streets. The president showed no interest in our houses, he merely wanted to tell us one thing–Plastic!