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Jesse (Johnnie) Smith - Skyscraper Builder - Jesse (Johnnie) Smith -

Jesse (Johnnie) Smith

Jesse (Johnnie) Adamthwaite (Nee Smith)

A personal recollection – Saturday 21st November 2015

I left school at the age of 14, in the summer of 1946.

I got a job at the Kiddicraft factory and warehouse in Kenley, packing products and preparing them for dispatch - it was easy walking distance from my home.

Hilary Page gave me the nickname Johnnie which I’ve kept to this day.

In early 1947 Hilary asked if I would travel to Earls Court each day and work in a room on the floor above his flat at 66 Barkston Gardens, London S.W.5.

I worked with a young man called Michael Duck and our job was to build as many models of anything we could think of, to be displayed in the Kiddicraft sales catalogue that was being produced to introduce the Kiddicraft Self-Locking Building Bricks.  I feature as the model on K301 Self-Locking Building Bricks Set No. 0.

We built skyscrapers, but could not reach the height that we wanted because the ceiling was too low!

These models were then rebuilt for The British Industries Fair held at Olympia and Earls Court on the 5th to 16th May 1947.  The stand at Olympia was No. 2430 and it was on the third floor.

They were built again for The Earls Court Toy Fair in September 1947.

I recall that Queen Mary with Princess Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh stopping at the Kiddicraft stand, and Queen Mary said that she felt that the bricks would certainly have been good for her children. 

The Lord Mayor Of London also spent time talking to us and congratulated us on our stand. 

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who had been commissioned to design The Bankside Power Station had built a model of his design in paper and balsa wood.  He approached Hilary and asked if he would build, using his plans, a model in Kiddicraft Self-Locking Building Bricks.  Michael Duck and myself, whilst demonstrating the product in Selfridges modeled the power station.  The Architect was delighted with it.   Bankside B phase 1 was built between 1947 and 1952 and is now home to the Tate Modern.

After the toy fair in September 1947, the skyscrapers were moved to the toy floor in Selfridges in Oxford Street, London.

I spent a lot of time there demonstrating the products to the many children visiting the store.

From the end of 1947 until 1949, despite my young age, I toured the country demonstrating and selling Kiddicraft products.  I remember visiting Cheltenham, Nottingham, Chester, Manchester and Glasgow.  I of course travelled by train and had to carry a great deal with me.  On one occasion I used a taxi and when the driver picked up my heavy bag, he said, "what have you got in the case, Bricks?  I could only laugh and reply. YES!

During my visit to Glasgow, near the end of my time with Kiddicraft, I met a fellow and fell in love.  I lived with his parents and had to look for a new job.

I got a job selling perfume, which opened the door for me to join Max Factor and become a beautician.   I worked in Glasgow and married in 1952.  Unfortunately my husband, a tartan cutter, which was a well-paid profession, spent most of his time and all of his money trying to drink Glasgow dry.  In the end I returned home to Kenley and continued to work for Max Factor in one of the large stores in Croydon.  I worked for Max Factor right up until my retirement.


Johnnie Adamthwaite  - Saturday 21st November 2015




K301 Self –Locking Building Bricks Set No. 0 features a photograph of Johnnie building a model – she would have been 15 years old at the time.


Johnnie is adamant that they only had small bricks while she was with them.

The skyscrapers and the Bankside Power station were all built with small bricks.


My thanks to David Bush, Johnnie's Brother in law, for facilitating the interviews.


SLBB - 1947 Selfridges Cover.jpeg
SLBB - 1947 Selfridges Cover.jpeg
SLBB - 1947 Selfridges Leaflet 1.jpeg
SLBB - 1947 Selfridges Leaflet 1.jpeg
SLBB - 1947 Selfridges Leaflet.jpeg
SLBB - 1947 Selfridges Leaflet.jpeg
SLBB Set No. Box Lid.jpg
SLBB Set No. Box Lid.jpg
SLBB Set No.0 Johnnie.jpg
SLBB Set No.0 Johnnie.jpg