Corner Store Memories

Published in The Equity – August 20, 2014

Just a snapshot in time, that’s all it is. The building on the corner of Centre and Main Street in Shawville has remained quiet for quite a few years. Perhaps hoping, that someone will be bold enough to come along and open it up again someday. The sign ‘Corner Shop’ still hangs above the door.

That doesn’t mean the building doesn’t have stories to tell. My grandmother, Marshallene Campbell has one of them. The tale starts with the father she had never met – Marshall Sherwood Howard.

Marshallene reads from her father’s obituary, “[Marshall] annexed the mercantile business of L.E Thomson of the corner of Main and Centre Street and in serving his many patrons he was always found most courteous.” To simplify the words, Marshall bought the general store from Lionel Thomson in 1930.

Marshall was born in Yarm on September 4, 1891. He enlisted in the First World War and fought in the battles of Ypres, France and Vimy Ridge. He returned home at the end of the war and married Mary Grace Sly in 1924. The exposure of ‘Mustard Gus’ which was used in battle is said to be the cause of his death in the fall of 1932. He was only 41. Marshallene was born in 1933.

“Mother ran the shop for five years until 1937,” continues Marshallene. The family lived upstairs during this time. “She died of a blood clot in the lung. She was 32. After mother died, Andrew Sly, which was Mary’s father and her mother, Sarah Harris, took over the running of the shop. We called it The Shop and we called it The Drugstore. So, Grandpa and Grandma Sly and Uncle Roy and Aunt Betsy, who was Mary’s sister, raised the children. This was John, Rona and me. We all worked and did our share.”

The Main Street of Shawville was a hub of activity on Saturday nights. It was the time when the farmers came to town for shopping and a visit. Marshallene remembers working until two in the morning, serving ice cream. This of course was when no businesses would be open on a Sunday.

The ice cream parlour was a popular part of the store. There were tables, chairs and the soda fountain. A sink was in behind to wash the dishes, which Marshallene did at a young age. There was plenty of ice cream selection with flavours of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, butterscotch, ripple and orange, along with strawberry, chocolate and butterscotch sundaes and milkshakes to drink. A scoop in an ice cream cone was five cents.

“We also made ice cream sodas,” says Marshallene. “We put in a scoop of ice cream, then the sauce and the soda water and gave it a stir. We added a straw and a long handle spoon. I can remember a man name Bert Belsher came in on Saturday nights and ate a brick of ice cream. It came in a cardboard box and we put it on a plate to serve. We sold Borden’s Ice Cream.”

There were shelves for the glassware that were used for the sundaes and big tall glasses for the sodas and milkshakes.

“We sold cosmetics, perfume and all that kind of stuff. There was the candy counter with chocolate bars, gum and what you would call loose candy, so candy we sold by the pound and chocolate drops, they were my favorite. There was a cash register and a scale where we weighed things. Behind that counter were the patented drugs like aspirin, cough syrup, rubbing alcohol and bandages.”

People could also find a shelf of cigarettes, along with an ice-filled drink cooler with glass bottles of Coca-Cola, Ginger-Ale, Orange Crush and Cream Soda. The racks of magazines and comics were a big seller. The train would come to the station in town and that’s how the newspapers arrived at the store.

“Mr. Schwartz, he had a horse and wagon and he brought the mail from the station and the papers. He never stopped at the corner, you went out and grabbed the bundle of papers off the wagon and took it in,” says Marshallene. “People paid by the month for the paper, and we would write all their names on the Ottawa Journal or Ottawa Citizen. The Journal had the bigger stack.”

In 1943, Sarah Harris passed away, which meant Marshallene’s brother, John, was allowed to leave the army to help their grandfather, Andrew Sly to run the store. As Andrew grew older and spent less time working, John eventually made the decision to sell. Weldon Hobbs took over in 1950. The Drugstore had stayed in Marshallene’s family for 20 years.

Weldon Hobbs did not keep the business long and eventually Larry Lamb ran the operation. Marshallene remembers Lamb when she worked,   “Larry was the traveller for the National Drug Company in Ottawa. He would come up and take our orders on the Patented Drugs for whatever we needed. We got to know the family really well.”

After Larry Lamb was Keith Horner’s Shop. Keith was also the man behind the hockey team name, ‘Shawville Pontiacs,’ which still remains till this day.

Recollections about Keith’s shop came in from Ottawa, N.S and Maine. Kim Murray and Dawn Hearty were frequent visitors. Kathy Murray and Lynn Coutts shopped as Friday night regulars with BBQ peanuts, Teen Beat magazines and chocolate chunks as their purchases. Shawville Mayor, Sandra Murray, bought chocolates and magazines for Christmas gifts and for Shawville Councillor, Bill McCleary, he remembers the display of warm nuts (cashews etc.) The blue and white wrapping paper comes to mind for Janet McCord and for Rhonda Morrison and Karen Campbell they think about sponge toffee and Archie comics for 12 cents. While Wendy Horner spent a lot of money on magazines, make-up, BBQ peanuts and chocolate chunks

Other businesses occupied the corner after Keith stopped working, but things slowly faded. That brings us to the vacant building we see today. It doesn’t mean there isn’t lots of history. There will be more stories to come.

This is just a snapshot in time, after all.

By: Scott Campbell

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