Researching stories for this blog come out of unexpected places. At times it’s stories I have been told through my regular gig as a bartender , presently at the Alvinston Legion or stories told to me while working at Lou’s Country Cookin’ when I first moved here.
When I first began this blog project a friend, Joanne Barnes, handed me a couple of things she thought would be of interest. One was this typewritten story, by Robert Shortt. His name was one I had never come across or wasn’t one of the familiar with from the area but as soon as I read it I was hooked! The story has made me want to build a visual picture of this young boys walk down River Street on a Saturday night in 1948.
My hope is to publish this story by Robert and ask readers if they have any old photos of the businesses or people mentioned, artifacts from any of the stores or anything that would help me build a visual story to accompany this post to please contact me and I will add it in the photo section (email@example.com or 519-614-2882).
Saturday Night In Alvinston, 1948
By Robert Shortt
Saturday night was payday. Mother had made arrangements with me to grant me the spoils of a number of leghorn hens so I could earn myself a new bicycle. All I had to do was feed and water the birds and gather the eggs to turn them into cash. This was a win-win situation as I never bought any feed. All assets and no liabilities!
Therefore, my first stop on Saturday night was to visit Mary Livingstone at McNeil and Trenought’s to pick up my pay packet, somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2.45. Then I did the town.
As I left the egg grading stations, of course the Post Office Next to it was closed, but “Gus” was open and next week’s Free Press was taking shape.
Art Gelinas was standing in the open door of his Hardware Store wishing for business that never seemed to come his way.
I met Granny in front of Al Bindner’s and since it was a hot night in August she invited me into Bindner’s Ice Cream Parlour for a cool treat. I had a strawberry soda. Mmmmm good! As I thanked Granny for the goody I walked slowly by Bindner’s outdoor wonderland peering through the narrow spaced pickets. I could see multi coloured lights, concrete tables and benches and could hear water flowing so I pictured water fountains and probably fish ponds too. To this day I still wonder what it was like because I never set foot in that place. I think it was only for the rich and famous.
I continued my journey down Main Street and dropped into Oliver Fernette’s Ford Dealership to gaze at the new 1947 Ford V8. It was shiny and it was black. After a number of stares of “What the hell are you doing here kid?” I left.
Helen McKeller had a number of heads under dryers as I passed and Johnny Black had undertook to close.
The old fire truck sat on guard in front of the Fire Hall in the capable hands of Nelson Putt.
Percy Cox and his brass band from Petrolia entertained the townsfolk upon the old bandstand with a local lad as a member – that flamboyant Raymond “Stiff” Willis. He blew on a stick that looked like one would use to kill a snake, which I believe was called a clarinet.
I didn’t care much for brass at the time so I moved on to Whitten’s Clothing Store. I was interested in shoes so I took the stairs to the second floor and thank heavens that Dunc Livingstone was busy with a customer because the shoes were five bucks! Whoa!! I quickly departed and moved on.
Steve Simon, the old shoemaker was very busy in his shop as always and he half soled many shoes for me. Fine workmanship.
Miss Connors was at her post in the library but not busy. I bet the old girl was reading. Although I didn’t borrow many books from the library, I had to wait for a “forgiveness day” to return them.
The last stop on this side of the street was Maggie Joe’s Danceland and I blew a nichol on an orange popsicle but it was worth every penny.
I crossed the street. All was quiet at Dr. Bell’s. The streetlights cast ghostly shadows on the proud cenotaph.
The Bowling Green was lit up like high noon as the town’s elite performed, all dressed in white and optioned into the situation with white shoes trimmed with brown. I had my own opinion of this fine lot only to realize in a few short years that I was under their employ, cutting grass and maintaining their equipment, taking orders from the Charlie Gray’s and the Mark Burford’s, etc.
I continued on and there was Tom Shea, hands behind his head, leaning back in his chair against Prince’s Garage. Tom pumped gas and sold oil and looked dashing in his Supertest uniform. Arlo Prince had the Chrysler Dealership and sold many Dodge and Plymouth vehicles locally. A nice man.
The next business, Mac Reid’s grocery seemed to be the social spot for our new Canadians, the Czechoslovakians, to gather on a Saturday night. Cora Shaw was out sweeping the steps of the front door as I passed by.
Harold Warner was standing in the door of his Drug Store with his hands on his hips, wishing he was far, far away. Pickin’ and grinnin’ in some distant tavern would suffice just fine.
I noticed Jean Bowie was on duty at Bell Telephone Central.
Danny Macintyre was weighing some pork chops for a waiting customer in his Butcher Shop.
There now was a space of some 85 feet that the town fathers could not decide upon. One year it was home to the bandstand and the next it was for public parking, the bandstand being moved across the street. This was an issue that was never decided until the bandstand became in such a shape that it had to be destroyed.
Attached to Percy Barber’s Five and Dime was a public phone. I can’t explain why, but every Saturday night I would enter the booth, close the door, lift the receiver off the hook and when asked “Number please,” I would respond in the best foreign dialect I could muster “You give me correct time breeze”. Jean never failed me. The devil made me do it!
Then there was Percy Barber’s – the hub. You could purchase everything from ice cream cones to newspaper clips, groceries to blue jeans and e new pair of shoes cost a buck! I spent a lot of time in this store.
The next place of business was Lester Dudley’s Ladies and Men’s Wear which was never over-crowded with clientele, but in later years I made a number of purchases from good old Lester – mostly spring jackets and shoes. Ken Winnett’s Rexall Drug Store was always busy and I had to drop in every Saturday night and spend 10 to 20 cents on comic books.
Borrowman’s Hardware – the only store in Alvinston that still remains open as I write this 50 years later, was my headquarters for fishing lures and ammunition for my BB gun.
Next door was Cliff Campbell’s Barber Shop, where customers received five minutes of hair cutting and 15 minutes of tall talk. One day as i was waiting my turn in the chair, I had a sudden call of nature. When I returned in a few minutes I was told that I had forfeited my place and I was now last. Even though I was quite insecure at this age I was not about to take this kind of rudeness so I left his shop and went to the Deacon (Ralph Hurst). There was never a line up at Deke’s and no chit chat either as the Deacon was a man of very few words. Cliff Campbell never cut my hair again!
Then came Stover’s restaurant, one of my favourite spots. Today I would gladly pay five dollars for one of Bill’s delicious Hamburgers – cigar ashes and all. They were truly a connoisseur;s delight!
Next was Ed McLean’s Grocery Store – dimly lit and old fashioned but he had a unique tool that I had never noticed in any other store. It was a long stick with rubber clamps on one end and a control on the other. With this instrument he could grab a box of corn flakes off a 12 foot shelf and never leave the floor! It impressed me. When mother sent me uptown for groceries I always chose Ed McLean’s just to see him use that reacher and to listen to him add up the bill. He talked out loud you see and it sounded something like this: “6 and 2 she be 8, 8 and 7 she be 15 and 9 she be 24”, etc. He wasn’t a real friendly man but he was always polite and never treated me like a “dumb kid”.
AN I remember that most of these stores stayed open till 11:00 pm, as some of the farmers had chores and haying to do until dark and never got to town till after 9:00 pm. Now they call that kind of shopping “midnight madness”. Then it was done out of necessity – both for the farmers and the shop keepers.
Of course the Bank of Montreal was closed on a Saturday night, in direct contrast to the hotels on the corners – the Grand Central on the left and the Columbia on the right. This was their busiest time.
I made a right turn here down Railroad Street past Eddy Brown’s Hatchery (later to become Hans Meiers Glue Factory), directly across the street from Clayton Cox’s White Rose Garage. The last street light on our road ended between Aaron Wilson’s and Harry Swartz’s, so for the last leg of my journey home I ran because it was pitch dark!
Remember those days?
A Brief History on Robert Shortt
Robert (Bob) Shortt was born at home in 1934 in Alvinston, the son of Russell and Maddie (Mitchell) Shortt. Bob grew up in Alvinston with his sister Donna and brother Bruce until 1966 when he married Doreen Patterson Wade and moved to Glencoe, Ontario.
Bob’s parents delivered mail in and around Alvinston for 53 years. Russell started on his mail route in October of 1930 by delivering mail by horse and buggy eventually switching to his father in law’s 1924 Durant. They retired from the Post Office in 1985.
In Glencoe Bob worked at the Tender Tootsies factory into the mid 70’s, approximately 20 years eventually taking on a managers role. After that he took a job at the Glencoe LCBO until he retired.
His spare time was spent singing and playing guitar as a member of a country and western band throughout the 60’s and 70’s playing gigs at many local Legion dances on Saturday nights.
Saturday Night in Alvinston, 1948, was written by Bob in the year 2000. It was based on his memories of his youth, as a musician writing and story telling all go hand in hand for some and this story for me leaves such a rich impression of what that walk was truly like. With many of the buildings now long gone this story is an important part of the history of this community.
Robert Shortt died in 2002 at the age of 68 following a stroke. I hope sharing his story and sharing a little of history here helps keeping this communities history alive.
I will continue adding more photos of the businesses and people mentioned in this story as I find them or people allow me to copy them from their personal collections. Please let me know if I have any of the business locations wrong, names or info please let me know. It’s important to me that I build a proper history of this community through this blog. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 519-614-2882
2 thoughts on “Saturday Night In Alvinston, 1948”
good pictures,well researched J Annett
I love this, Liana!! _____________________________ Kathryn Shailer Email: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathryn-shailer-212734132 https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathryn-shailer-212734132