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Ernest Shenton
28/03/2008
Place of Birth:Vienna
Born:December 19, 1930
Died:March 7, 2008
Born Vienna, December 19, 1930. Died London, March 7, 2008, aged 77.

Founder of Photo Shop in 1982, Austrian refugee Ernest Shenton brought one-hour photo processing to the high street.

He came to Britain as Ernst Shneck, aged eight, with his mother and sister after the 1938 Anschluss, Hitler’s annexation of Austria. Evacuated to Manchester and Gloucester, he came to London on a scholarship to St Marylebone Grammar School, where his contribution was £1 a year, thanks to a compassionate and far-seeing headmaster. He was an all-round sportsman, excelling in hurdling.

He did his national service in the RAF ground staff where, he said, he learned lifelong lessons in how not to do things. In the early 1950s he joined Dixons, then a camera shop run by Charles Kalms and his son, Stanley, two years younger than Ernest.

Within the growing Dixons empire, Ernest built a photographic processing plant. Though he had scant knowledge of science and chemistry, he trusted the people he employed. He pioneered various initiatives — such as in the field of industrial relations: in the still formal and class-divided working environment, he introduced a culture in which employers and employees were on first-name terms and shared the same facilities, such as eating areas.

When Dixons went into mail order, he launched the easy-to-use mail-order envelope and introduced own-brand film for large companies.

He finally left as managing director to launch and run his own business, the high-street Photo Shop for fast, on-the-spot film processing. Its success allowed him to retire at 59, when he worked as a volunteer in Bulgaria advising young entrepreneurs on behalf of the Volunteer Business Services Overseas. He also served on the Business Arbitration Panel and responded to calls from the Association of Jewish Refugees to help needy cases.

Always enthusiastic and open to new ideas, he filled his university education gap with subjects ranging from French and history to orchids and tap-dancing.

He loved questioning nature and seeking the causes of things. He experimented with building log cabins and carp ponds. He loved the stimulus of children’s views and questions but always gave them a challenge in return.

In 1961 he married Denise, an orphaned Holocaust survivor, whom he had met three years earlier, and together they rebuilt their lives. Three months before his death from cancer, Denise held a party for friends and family to come and talk openly to him and say goodbye.

He is survived by her; his son Nik; three daughters, Jessica, Nadine and Gaby; and eight grandchildren.


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