One of my top ten childhood memories is the late great Eaton’s Department store in Montreal, Quebec. It didn’t matter what province you lived in–everyone made a trip to some Eaton’s, no matter where they lived- or they got the Eaton’s catalogue. Every few months my Grandmother and I would make the one hour bus trip to the city for wig maintenance. A local hairdresser had burned off a lot of Grammy’s hair with a bad perm when she was still in her twenties. As she aged, her hair thinned out badly and became nonexistent, so she needed ‘Eva Gabor’ to help her out. After an hour of me giggling in the Eaton’s wig dept. we would finally go off to lunch in their cafeteria.
I would sit in hungry anticipation, with my feet dangling off one of their red stools at the lunch counter. The waitresses all seemed to be painfully thin, and looked the worse for wear. Some of them tapped their pencil on the order book impatiently, while you looked through their vast menu to order. The menu was never a challenge for me, as I ordered the same thing. It was always the traditional turkey dinner, with one scoop of potatoes, dressing, and gravy. Of course the mandatory canned green beans were always lying lifeless next to the runny cranberry sauce.
Sometimes the waitress would whisper to us that it really wasn’t turkey. She admitted that when they ran out, they subbed chicken, but frankly, I could never tell the difference. Then for dessert we would always order layer cake. Eaton’s was THE place where we bought our winter coats every few years. We would ooh and ahh over the expensive ones on the second floor but would finally make our purchase in the basement where there were bargains. After all- there is nothing like a bargain and there was nothing like Eaton’s!