Mother’s Day Revelations
A Shared Experience
On April 26, my mother turned 80 years old while I was on a plane flying from Los Angeles, CA to be with her in Toronto, Canada. I landed and spent over one hour in traffic on my way to the house. Ding Dong! Who comes to open the door for me, none other than The Creator herself, Mrs. Colthilda C. Phills. There she stood, all 5 feet of her with her silver- hair and big, beautiful smile on her face. I walked through the door and like clockwork, food was waiting for me on the table. Nothing like being home and the feeling of making your mother happy.
I spent Thursday working. On Friday I was about to do the same, but ended up spending the day talking with my mother. We all talk with our parents, but this time I was actually able to have a really deep conversation with her. Usually, parents at this age don’t really like to talk much about the past, but today was my lucky day. My eyes actually became teary as she shared such revealing information about her life with me; things I never heard before this very special day.
Tip 1: Anthony — When spending the day with your mother or parent, have your mobile phone available to record audio; you will absolutely have some great audio recordings that will last you a lifetime, trust me!
The Little Ones
It’s about 11:00 AM and we are sitting at the kitchen table. She just finished making me a little something to eat. Our conversation started with what I was doing in Los Angeles. I couldn’t help thinking about my dad who passed away in 2010. I changed the topic and asked her to talk about him. As a youngster I spent time in Trinidad and Tobago with my grandfather Waldron Caton, my mother’s father. He was an entrepreneur and I always said that he put me on the path of entrepreneurship. Little did I know that it was actually my mother who was responsible for setting me on this wonderful path. All these years I gave my grandfather all the credit and it turns out I was wrong.
People, who know me, know about my connection to my father, Norris W. Phills, and only recently did I learn about how generously he continually “gave of himself”. I only became aware of all he had done when he passed away. People shared the good deeds he did for them over the years. I even did a talk at Century City Toastmasters called “Who’s Your Daddy” focusing on what people told me about my dad that I never knew when he was alive.
“Back in the day, I never quit and always had to be doing something,” said Mrs. C. Phills
In 1952, while living in Trinidad and Tobago, my mother finished commercial school. She learned short hand, bookkeeping, and typing (140 words per minute). She immediately applied for a job but did not get it. She knew she had to do something. At this time she was living on Caledonia Road in St. George District. Around the age of 16, she noticed that there were many little kids in the village and there wasn’t any daycare. She sat down and spoke with her mother and father about using the downstairs part of the house for a daycare center. Her parents agreed to her plan and her father even made the benches for this new venture of hers. She then went out to the village and spread the news of her new daycare center. Note: At this time you didn’t need to get government approvals for creating a “pre-school”. This same course of action would not be possible today with all the safeguarding strict regulations that are now in place. My mother’s daycare center had, on average, 20 kids, and to this day she is still friends with some of those kids she once cared for.
Fast forward to Montreal 1983, I was sitting at the table with my mother and father asking for $10k to invest in my first company called TNT Advertising and Promotion. At that time, I didn’t know a thing about advertising or promotions, but I knew I could change the company into a design firm, which is exactly what I did. Little did I know that my mother was familiar with the borrowing money “talk” a child has with parents because she had the same talk with her parents. We have now come full-circle and now I was having the very same same start-up money talk with my parents. She told me that her father and mother always supported her dreams and I have to say that my parents helped make my dreams come true.
Tip 2: Mrs. Phills — Listen to what people say because there may be some great ideas in what they are saying.
My mother reminisced…back in the day, I never quit and always had to be doing something. After having the daycare center for about 5 years, a new opportunity presented itself to me. Our house was located on Caledonia Road and everyone had to pass it when they were coming in or out of the area. One day a building called, “Juman’s Garment Factory” was constructed right next to our house. Every day during lunchtime people would pass by the house and ask Mrs. Caton (my mother) for ice for their drinks. Then one Monday at lunch, a little girl of about 16 years old, along with her 14 year-old sister, came into the yard and asked for ice. The older girl said to my mother, “Mrs. Waldron, why don’t you make a parlor (what a store was called in our time) because everyone working in the factory is here sitting in your yard”. So that evening I sat down with my mother at the dinner table and we talked about making a parlor. Once we decided what we were going to do, my father and family friends created a parlor for my mother and me.
Tip 3: Mrs. Phills — Do something other than what you’re studying in school because you might not use what you studied.
When my mother and I were sitting down at the table, we discussed what to sell in our new parlor. We started with mauby, orange and grapefruit juice, along with the crushed ice. To our amazement we sold out of everything everyday!
Anthony: Mom how did you and ma know what to charge for your goods?
Mrs. Phills: I used to go into town to see what they charged for different items, and I charged the same. People like tamarind balls and they cost one cent, so I knew how to make them myself and charged one cent for mine too.
Before we started the parlor, I learned to bake and make cakes. This was something that Tantie Lu on my mother’s side used to do. So next on our salable item list were treats: coconut drops. With a jolly laugh my mother leaned back in the chair and said I used to make such beautiful ones. After the drops, we moved onto making sandwiches. Then once my father retired, he joined us and we expanded to having a grocery store.
It took her 80th birthday for me to find out all about my mother. Now I have to rewrite my history because my mother had just turned everything I previously thought I knew upside down. As a little boy born in Trinidad and Tobago and growing up in Montreal, Canada, I spent my summers in Trinidad with my grandfather (Mr. Caton) thinking he was behind all this great stuff. When I was a kid, Mr. Caton used to take me everywhere he went. I would see him purchase goods for the store. My sister, brother and I used to work in the store during our summer holidays.
I would just like to say, “Happy Mother’s Day Mrs. Clothilda Caton-Phills, and thank you for sharing all this great family information about your life as a young entrepreneurial woman. You had dreams and visions and you turned them into reality. That was no easy task. This talk we had helped me to connect the dots and form a new and amazing family picture. You are a true entrepreneur. You are incredible! I am so proud to be your son.
Your loving son,
Anthony W. Phills — your visual storyteller.
In addition to being an entrepreneur, Anthony Phills is the author of Designing for the Home Run King, a retrospective on the creative process involved in Phills’ marketing and branding campaign for “Home Run King” Barry Bonds. Packed with images, commentary and videos about Bonds’ 2003–2007 home run journey, the book gives designers and marketers an inside look at the creative designs behind one of baseball’s greatest hitters in history. #HomeRunKing — Photo by Anthony Phills Title: Revelations #shotoniPhone