Page 5 of 9
She was fired in 2001, and because her supervisors gave her no specific reasons, she believes it was because of her age — she was in her 50s. "Some people would fight that. Some people would get a lawyer. But I just couldn't focus on something that could make me so bitter," she says. "It robs you of your life."
One recently laid-off writer says the constant downsizing makes Hallmark a tough place to be creative. A humor writer, she says it had become difficult to bring in funny ideas when people were worried about losing their jobs. Before she was fired, she says, her job description became more and more unclear; she figured they didn't want to set quotas for her because then she might have hit them and stripped them of a reason to lump her into the forced rankings.
"People are browbeaten to come up with submissions, and then you're looking over your shoulder to see if your supervisor is coming for you."
Clara Johnson Scroggins has written nine books on Hallmark's Keepsake Ornaments. The company used to bring her in every year so she could review the next season's lineup. Hallmark also paid her way on nationwide trips so she could talk to women's groups about what to expect from the next series. Her books, printed by small publishers, are now prized by collectors. "You could say," Scroggins says by phone from her home in Tampa, Florida, "that I am the foremost expert on Keepsakes."
So when Hallmark was preparing to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Keepsake Ornaments in 2003, the company asked Scroggins to star in a promotional video. The video was called "A Stroll Down Keepsake Lane," and it played on a loop in Hallmark stores across the country.
Scroggins flew to Kansas City and was taken to the production department at Hallmark's headquarters. There, employees had built a fake-snow-covered Keepsake village out of cardboard, with ornaments as the people. In the center of the scene was Don Hall Jr.
Hall played the part of the village mayor. He read from cue cards and asked Scroggins questions about her three decades collecting ornaments.
"He was just a nice, nice man," Scroggins recalls, "a perfect gentleman."
It's rare to find anybody with much else to say about the current head of the Hall empire. Unlike his grandfather, Don Hall Jr. isn't a hands-on manager. Not much is public about the 51-year-old Hall. Little has been published about his personal life. According to Forbes magazine, Hall stands to inherit one of the country's richest private companies. His father, 73-year-old Don Hall Sr., is listed on Forbes' list of the world's richest people, with a net worth of $1.8 billion.
The younger Hall's bio on Hallmark's Web site is just 151 words and does little more than recite his résumé: Hall has worked for the company since 1971. He became vice president of the creative department in 1995, and two years later switched to product development before taking over as CEO in 2002.
It's rare to see photos of Hall when he's quoted in news reports. However, Hall does occasionally give interviews, sometimes to far-flung media outlets. In a 2002 article in a magazine published by Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Hall said he wasn't comfortable in front of the camera.