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I remember it was this large department store downtown called “Woodwards”. We used to catch the bus in the early morning and take a trip straight down Hastings Street right into the heart of the city. In fact it was only blocks away from where we first started our journey in coming to Canada. The difference between three blocks downtown meant skid row or the bustling business district. My mother and I went on trips quite frequently. Her favorite stores were Woodwards, The Army and Navy department store, and The Save on Meats Butcher Shoppe.
The biggest Department store I have ever been in was the Woodwards. Everything imaginable could be bought here. The first twelve floors were full of household wares. Hardware, furniture, appliances, and of course a half section of the fifth floor was every toy I had ever seen and more.
My mother’s favorite sections were clothing, fabric and sewing notions. It was the reason we went shopping. We would go down to this department store on Tuesdays, because everyone knew the jiggle on the radio, “dollar forty nine day Woodwards, $1.49 day Tuesday”. I believe that every woman went on Tuesdays. It was the only day that we would have to wait in a line up to get lunch.
The best part about this store, besides the toy department was the restaurant. Tucked away in the back corner was a nice diner for its patrons to sit and have a bite to eat between their shopping frenzy. It wasn’t the diner below that was special, but when you looked up to the ceiling there was a balcony that stretched across the far wall overlooking the entire first floor of the store.
When you arrived for lunch you might stand in a line up at the bottom. Then a lady in a uniform would ask if you wanted to eat at a table in the diner, or did you want to go up the stairs to sit at the counter on the chrome padded stool.
As soon as we were shown the vacant stools, I would quickly climb up and spin a few times, until mother put her hand on my thigh and said, “Please behave young lady or you will be in trouble when we get home”. It was very rare, like never ever that I didn’t listen to the words of my mother. It was a treat having lunch on the balcony, but sometimes the lineup was just too long and my mother refused to wait. She liked shopping, but it became very tiring when her hands were full of packages and me.
When my mother went out shopping downtown it was like being on a mission. It might be that we would first get off the bus right in front of the Army and Navy Department Store and look for the bargains there. This store didn’t have a toy department, but clothes were a lot cheaper than the big name stores. Shoes were also a favorite to purchase here, since I was outgrowing them so fast.
The next store on route was Woodwards. By the time we had finished shopping here, grabbing all the seasonal favorite fashion print material and color matching threads zippers and buttons, to coordinate the next one two or three patterns that she found in the $1.49 day sale we would stop for a bite to eat.. It was the energy draining three mile walk through stores that was deserving of a lunch time treat in the balcony, unless there was a disappointing line up.
The final shop we went to before our bus ride home was the butcher. It was marked with the spectacular neon Save on Meats and the pink piggy sign that could be seen down the street. I hated the smell of the butcher shop; even just walking down the sidewalk passing by the front door was an overwhelming smell of slaughtered animals. It was a clean meat store, and everything was freshly ground, cut, or sliced by the butcher man. Behind the counter was the same man who greeted us every week. He always gave me a fresh hot dog as a treat to eat while I stood patiently waiting for my mother to select her cuts.
One time I remember my disappointment when the same smiling faced man who supplied me with a treat disappeared forever. As I stood there next to my mother patiently watching her make the next section, my heart felt broken that the task of watching and waiting felt longer without a hot dog to nibble on. Then my thoughts were that it was rude and impolite to ask for the hot dog unless it was offered to me. I missed that man who made my daunting wait bearable.
I will always remember these treasured moments as a very young girl and her family coming to Canada in the early Sixties. It was the starting over in a new country with its challenges and hardships, but the promise of a better life definitely had wonderfully memories.
PS “The Woodwards Sign” The same day that I was posting this entry, my Daughter had me look at photos she took yesterday