Bennett’s store on the corner of Bridge and Bell Street–Photos from Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum
A long time ago sugar used to be sold in barrels, along with good old brown sugar– and there wasn’t a plastic bag around in sight. My Grandmother Mary Louise Deller Knight used to often remind me to be careful of using sugar as she remembered when sugar was a luxury. She smiled when she remembered the sugar barrels in her neighbourhood London, England store were empty and then they were removed to the store’s rear yard, where the kids hurried out of their homes like bees, to that great treat of salvaging a tasty scrapings where miraculously enough no germs were known to scare the children away.
My late Mother on the other hand spent a geat deal of time on her Grandfather’s farm in island Brook Quebec where eggs were loaded into the back of the car and brought to the local general store. Milking was done twice a day beginning at 6 a.m.; initially by hand then later by machine. The milk was put into cans and taken down to the railway tracks for transport. She remembers getting 5 cents an hour for helping out. Even though the fields and roads were frequently flooded in winter, they met the schedule with aching hands from handling the bone–chilling dairy cans.
The “general store,” which carried a wide range of merchandise, was an important part of small towns. Not only did they offer food, housewares, clothing and equipment, they also served as a gathering place where residents could exchange news and gossip. At at my local store on South Street in Cowansville, Quebec there would be a big round of cheese covered with a glass cover. The clerk would cut wedges from the round and weigh them on a two-foot-high scale. The scale display was at the top and it had a big round glass that you put your item on it to be weighed.
I don’t remember much fresh produce in those days except what came from my Grandmother’s garden. Shelves of canned vegetables and fruit were sold, and depending on the store sometimes Peanut Butter came in a big container.Then there were the rows and rows of cookies not sold in boxes and penny candy.
There were no credit cards in those days and people paid cash for purchases, although some paid by cheque but most had a credit account. I remember picking up things after school for my Grandmother and asking them just to charge it– which the last person I remember having charge accounts in Carleton Place was Fred Veenstra from the Maple Leaf Dairy.
A typical day in Christie’s store on South Street meant arriving at about 6 in the morning and closing up at 5 or 6 in the evening. On Fridays, they stayed open until 9 p.m. After unlocking the store in the morning, the first order of business was to sweep the sidewalk. Then would begin stocking the shelves.
I can still see the large counter along the side wall. Shelves along the walls held the canned goods and next to them was the bread. It was a long time before I remember a store acquiring the conveniences of shopping buggies. Before that, each shopper would call in their order by phone in the morning or hand their shopping list to the clerk who would gather all the items up and put them on the counter, while the customer was free to visit or do other shopping.
Of course business was still competitive, but the relationship among competitors was amicable and the merchants from the other stores would often exchange information on prices and made joint decisions.If one of them dropped a price, the others would soon learn of it from their customers and would match it, or discount another item to keep the customer’s loyalty.
Mike Kean– What a great picture Linda. I worked there as a young teenager. The man in the foreground is “Taffy” Williams. He was so kind. The man at the back is Mr Bennett but I don’t know if it was Bill or Aunie. They were quite a father and son duo and knew everybody in town. Ground beef was 3 pounds for a dollar. Our current dept of health, labour and agriculture would have had a hey day there and yet we all lived.
Patti Ann Giles– So true Mike! My mom used to send me to get 25 cents worth cold meat for lunches and Taffy would always give a couple of extra slices! Lots of great memories growing up in small town CP.