life and times
hiram who
birth of the auto
border cities
sports heritage

Give Me a Dollar To Spend On Wyandotte St. in the 1930’s

reprinted from Walkerville Times, Issue #6

When my daughter Cathy came back from Mexico, she brought quite a collection of jewellery with her. To add to the leather coat she had purchased in Spain- to add to the new outfits she bought in Vancouver.

In the early 1930’s my world of stores (apart from the occasional visit to Detroit) was confined to five blocks along Wyandotte Street East in the Town of Walkerville. Come along for a little tour with me, Gentle Reader, and we’ll look in on some of the honest merchants, who are no longer with us, to listen to the tinkle of the little spring-held brass bells above their front doors.

Leaving my boyhood home on the northeast corner of Wyandotte and Devonshire Road, walking west along the north side of Wyandotte, past Lanspearys Drug Store #1 and the CP telegraph office (Mr. A. C. Donaldson, manager) into the John A. Jones grocery store. Mr. Jones, with his white cotton apron tied in back (before World War II shortages put him out of business), reaches into the bins in front of his counter and brings out handfuls of cookies which cost 15 cents per dozen. And the free aromas- fresh ground coffee, spices and tea in large open tin foil-lined boxes.

Proceeding past the offices of the Walkerville Land and Building Company (where my mother pays her $35 per month rent) and the Walker Insurance Agency Ltd., we come to A. H. Black’s Jewellery Store where Mr. Black will one day sell me my first watch – one of the best in his exclusive store – for $39.

Past A. J. Stevens and Son Bicycle Shop (where I will buy .22 ammunition during my brief and fruitless hunting career as an 18 year old, skipping classes at Walkerville Collegiate Institute on magnificent October mornings to walk country lanes in search of elusive crows).

Into Cole’s Book and Stationery Store at the corner of Kildare Road. The proprietor, Mr. Charles F. Cole and his assistant, Mr. Jacobs, exude the dignity befitting genteel merchants and tell us of the window display of impressive (and expensive) toys planned for next Christmas. The Border Cities Star will carry a photograph of the display– a battlefield scene with tin soldiers attacking, real barbed wire, tanks, field guns and exploding shells (little white lights flashing on and off within cotton puffballs).

Across Kildare past the barber shop in the old brown frame house where Mr. Snowden cuts my hair for 15 cents. Past lean and grey Nate K. Cornwall (the area’s first curler) standing in shirt sleeves and bowler hat in the April sunshine in front of his real estate office.

Past the Chinese restaurant, the Victoria Café and on to the tiny BA service station (always looking and smelling of oil and grease). Where the proprietor tries once again to lure us into the large leather armchair he has wired to give neighbourhood boys a mild shock.

Across Victoria Road (Chilver) to the vacant house where we defy ghosts on our nocturnal visits and into Nessel’s Department Store- old Mr. Nessel with his head of steel wool sells me my new pair of $1.98 Sisman scampers every spring. Scampers conveniently left at home throughout most of the long hot barefoot summer.

Drop in to see Mr. G. W. Dickie standing on the sawdust-covered floor of his butcher shop- hoping he will offer us a raw wiener. On to visit Mr. Zakoor at the Sunshine Fruit Land on the corner of Windermere Road. Where my mother is shocked to see large cabbages offered for sale for five cents and wonders how much of even that minuscule sum reaches the farmer.

Across Windermere, past the familiar red United Cigar Store and James Meat Market to the Walkerville Flower Shop where I buy my annual Mothers’ Day plant for 35 cents and dream of the day I will be able to walk in with a dollar and order the best in the house from the proprietor, Miss Lucretia J. Bamford.

Past Gascoyne Soda Fountain (with its mouth-watering display of Easter chocolate bunnies and chickens). Past the Morris Funeral Home and the old grey frame house at the corner of Lincoln. Across Lincoln. Past the Imperial Bank of Canada. Past Loblaw’s, with not its name but a huge sign reading "We Sell for Less" across the front of the store. Past the Tivoli Barber Shop.

On to the Tivoli Theatre (formerly the Walkerville) managed by a young man named J. J. Lefaive (of future Cleary Auditorium fame). Who once caught us trying to sneak in to see Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery in "The Champ" but changed his mind about sending us to jail for ninety-nine years and let us go with a warning.

This is the west boundary of Walkerville and the end of my world. And so across to the south side of the street, keeping a wary eye out for crawling streetcars. Across from the Tivoli we glance at the Dandy Bar-B-Q and Economy Lunch.

And so east along the south side of Wyandotte Street. Crossing Lincoln again we pass Paterson’s #4 Drug Store. And come to the M&P (for Mailloux and Parent) where I will one day deliver groceries for 15 hours on Saturdays for $1.25. (That’s right, it works out to about eight cents per hour.)

Past Bernhardt’s Furniture Store (where all of the rich people buy their furniture), across Windermere, past Pleasance Jewellery Store and into the old red and gold decorated F. W. Woolworth’s emporium, where I bought my first school bag for 25 cents. Past the Walkerville Bakery and Tea Room (in the Bates Building-1914) where my mother buys Saturday donuts for 20 cents a dozen on Monday mornings.

Past the Bank of Montreal ("Established 1799"), across Victoria, past Lanspeary’s #12 and so on the southwest corner of Devonshire and Wyandotte, where the large, screen-porched home houses the office of Dr. G. Gordon Little. On the second floor Dr. L. D. Hogan tries, with limited success, to straighten my crooked teeth. Across Devonshire to the Royal Bank of Canada’s Walkerville Branch and north across Wyandotte. And so home.

Spain? Mexico? Vancouver? As shopping centres, they’re all right, I guess. But give me a dollar to spend. On Wyandotte Street. In the 1930’s...

back to Life and Times



©1999-2015— Walkerville Publishing — All Rights Reserved