| 10 February 2010
My fondest memory of Wally was in 1971 when I was a very junior product manager with a windowless cupboard for an office. I had been encouraged by my boss, Gordon Grossman,Circulation Director at the time, to develop a product I had been working on in my spare time for Valerie's and my 4 children. It was built around 26 plastic blocks and a large plastic play sheet and was designed to help toddlers learn the alphabet. We called it Playskills. ...(click Read More above)Gordon persuaded Chuck Chesnut, an editor in the Educational Division, to provide the professional input as he saw it's potential as a possible product for the Digest to test and then market. The initial tests were mailed in 1971. They were very strong. One day in the fall, the phone in my 'cupboard' office rings. "This is DeWitt Walace. I understand you are responsible for developing a product called 'Playskills'" I stammered, "Yes Sir". "Please bring it up to my office, now." After getting directions from Gordon, I presented myself at Wally's secretary's door, prototype in hand. I was ushered into the inner sanctum. Wally got up from behind his desk. I had no idea he was so tall. He came around, shook my hand and without any further ado said " Okay young man, take me through it." For over an hour, Wally and I played Playskills sitting on the rug in front of his fireplace with Chagall's 'Three Candles' looking down on us. At the end, he said: 'Ken, I want you to know that Playskills is exactly the sort of product I want the Digest to develop and sell. Congratulations and good luck".
I hadn't realized that Playskills was being auditioned but that was the blessing it needed. The following year it sold close to 300 thousand units.
It is a memory of a great man that I will take with me to my grave.
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