This photo is probably one of my favourite photos of all time. This little girl is standing directly in front of what is now (was in 1991) Don Drysdale’s store in the village of Lanark, Ontario
I don’t think I was much older than this week gal when I used to be sent to Bonneau’s grocery store on the corner of Albert and Main Street in Cowansville, Quebec every week. Things were different in those days and communities were safe and most grocery stores looked the same in every village or town. Stores had a human element, and there was nothing you couldn’t buy in the family-run stores. There was always fresh bread, gossip, and the grocery store was arguably one of the most important businesses in town. Each store had a wooden counter that people shared conversation around. The grocer always had a pencil behind his ear, a smile, and quick precision as he wrapped a piece of fresh meat, in brown paper tied with string
The penny candy in the grocery store was always a favourite of mine even though a neighbour informed me that her Grandfather had warned her that such candy could spread polio. In those days everything “caused polio”, but candy was supposed to be the number one culprit. No doubt some mindful parent had began the rumour to keep her children away from the sweets.
My favourite penny candy was a pair of big red wax lips. Every summer day I would sit on the edge of the Cowansville public pool kicking my legs in the water with the wax lips that were slowly melting in the hot sun. If they were not available I would buy the little wax bottles and bite off the top and drink the liquid that was probably heavy on Red #40 food colouring. The bottles were made of edible wax, but all everyone did was chew on them forever and then spit them out after the juice was consumed.
Cowansville Swimming Pool -photo thanks to Claudia Allen
Our favourite hang out away from my grandmother’s eyes was Dion’s lumber yard next door to my home on Albert Street. I would go to Mayheu’s corner store and with 10 pennies come out with a paper bag full of potato chips, marshmallow filled mini ice cream cones, wax lips, and Popeye candy cigarettes.
“Smoking” on our candy cigarettes, my friends and I would sit on the top of the piles of lumber and have earth shattering conversations about why I cut my bangs so short like Bette Davis. I explained that you can’t control everything in life, but your hair was put on your head to remind you of that.
My mother was in a wheel chair so I was sent every few days to buy things needed for meals. Eggs were not sold in a dozen and one by one they were placed in a small brown paper bags–but I could handle getting those suckers home. Potatoes on the other hand were another matter. They were put into larger bags and usually I brought my sisters baby carriage along as they were too heavy to carry. One day I thought I was too cool for school to bring that carriage and thought I could handle the situation all by myself.
I made it down half a block until my arms began to ache and I began to worry how I was going to get that heavy bag home until I had an idea. Every few steps I threw a potatoe out in the neighbour’s yards and thought my Mother would never notice. Once I got home I only had half a bag left and of course she thought the grocer had made a mistake. Upon calling the grocer he insisted I had left with 10 pounds and could not understand how I got home with 5 pounds, so I had to fess up. After I confessed she laughed and said that everyone on Albert Street was probably having potatoes for lunch. For years the vision of hot mashed potatoes being served to all my neighbours has haunted me each time I have bought 10 pounds of potatoes. In all honesty I wish I had done things differently but as they say, hindsight is common and as bland as boiled potatoes.
This wee gal is standing directly in front of what is now (was in 1991) Don Drysdale’s store on the village of Lanark, Ontario across from where Dave Hornell believes the “new” post office is. She’s probably 250′ south of the olde towne hall and the store with the awning (upper right of photo) is on the current site of LCBO store (It was E.C. Pace’s until 1945, then my father’s store until the fire of ’59).
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (US)
I have been writing about downtown Carleton Place Bridge Street for months and this is something I really want to do. Come join me in the Domino’s Parking lot- corner Lake Ave and Bridge, Carleton Place at 11 am Saturday September 16 (rain date September 17) for a free walkabout of Bridge Street. It’s history is way more than just stores. This walkabout is FREE BUT I will be carrying a pouch for donations to the Carleton Place Hospital as they have been so good to me. I don’t know if I will ever do another walking tour so come join me on something that has been on my bucket list since I began writing about Bridge Street. It’s always a good time–trust me.