Out of the blue, in the middle of getting ready for church this morning, a little ditty from my childhood burst into my head. I opened my mouth and (will spare you the music) sang, “$1.49 day, Woodwards! $1.49 day, Tuesday!”
Woodward’s department store, one of the places in childhood where adventure could always be found. My Mum loved the place. Dad and Mum both worked for them shortly after their arrival as new emigrants to Canada from Scotland, and my parents were loyal until the doors closed forever.
My dad was paid every other Friday night, so on those evenings, after supper, the gang piled in the car and headed down to Woodward’s to buy groceries. We hung onto the cart as Mum or Dad pushed it, generally making a nuisance of ourselves but loving having dad home after his week of traveling for work. We were together, and it felt safe & warm, especially in Woodward’s.
Many a treat got thrown into that grocery cart, unknown to Mum until we got to the check out counter. “Now how did that get in there?” she’d grin, and dad would just shrug his shoulders, ally to the end. There were cream biscuits with jam at the center, and special “sweeties” imported from Scotland. I’d look longingly with jealousy at the older teenage female clerk, a neighbor from up our street, who checked us out and filled the brown paper bags marked with the famous logo, wishing I was old enough to do her job. To me, a pre-teen, there was nothing more wonderful than being a check out clerk at Woodward’s on a Friday night!
After the groceries were placed in brown bags and these were placed in plastic bins that were sent out to the pick up area near the parking lot for collection later – a marvel now reproduced by one of our local grocery stores – the clan headed up to the top floor to check out the “bargain basement” …. yup, on the top floor … where we rummaged for treasures. I still have a terrific bread knife I bought there when a young teen for only 19 cents. I loved that department, trying to supervise my younger siblings as they hid between the racks of clothes, driving my mother to distraction.
It was $1.49 day that got our Scots blood pumping, tho. Hearing that little ditty on the radio made my mother & I grin. I remember being so jealous that she could go without us, as she only once (and it was a very special morning!) allowed me to stay home from school so I could go with her. I still remember her purchasing a large bag of oranges, a fine china tea cup, or so many loaves of bread, each for $1.49.
Woodward’s gave me one of my first jobs … in the fabric & notions department. I measured out miles of yardage for women. Despite my best attempts, I never could get to be a bagger in the grocery department. Instead I learned about selvages and different weights of yarns, found great buys on knitting patterns and made my Nana’s day when I could talk “shop” with her at her little house in the evening, over a cup of tea.
Contentment and gratitude for good memories of a dear gathering place, for that’s what Woodward’s was for us. We rarely went through the doors without seeing someone we knew. As a child, I remember going to the luncheon area and getting sandwiches cut into four little triangles. What a marvelous treat. Sometimes my Nana would take me for lunch there on a Saturday, and I in turn took my siblings, one at a time, for the thrill of being made to feel special, just like Nana made me feel special.
Economic “progress” brought with it the outlying malls and the demise of our family’s favorite store. Woodward’s closed its doors forever in the 1990’s and with it came the end of an era. In one of my memory albums I have a little paper bag from the store, alongside one of my mum’s treasures, her Woodward’s credit card.
We all need to walk down memory lane occasionally, and journal what was dear to us. Maybe a ditty is inside your head, waiting to be sung!