On Dec. 18, 1913, an advertisement in the St. Marys Journal warned there were only five shopping days until Christmas. The ads in this century-old newspaper show that merchants at that time worked just as hard as they do today to attract customers.
Of course there were differences in the nature of the stores and the goods offered. St. Marys had several general stores carrying everything from groceries to clothing to dry goods and home furnishings. The oldest and largest of these in 1913 was Dickson’s Limited on the northwest corner of Queen and Church Streets. F.W. Hutton, operating on two floors at 113 Queen Street East, was another general store — “The Place Where Santa Claus Buys … in case of shortages he has made full arrangements to replace his supplies from our store … our candies, fruit and nuts are exceptionally good and suit him.”
Stores selling groceries competed with J.M. Adam in the current RBC building. His Christmas specials included fresh oysters, shipped directly from the coast, as well as late Howe cranberries and Thedford celery. For cheese, he had Ingersoll cream, Roquefort and fine old Canadian cheddar. Dickson’s offered fish (from kippered herrings to fresh Ontario Whitefish) and fowl. (Turkeys, ducks, geese – prices promised to be more reasonable.)
Dickson’s recommended useful and lasting gifts, listing them according to recipient. For Mother, suggestions included table linen, fur-lined gloves, wool knit underskirts and “Nemo corsets for comfort.” Father could receive Stanfield’s silk underwear or fine wool combinations. A “Scotch tweed suit” could be made-to-order for $20-$25. There were practical items of clothing for younger family members and also “standard books, all the famous authors,” ranging in price from 10¢ to 35¢. “Dear Old Grandmother” should not be forgotten but could be presented with enough fabric (from $1 to $3.50 a yard) to make herself “a rich black silk dress.”
Some stores offered more exciting gifts. Ready’s Shoe Store had skates for children and adults, as did St. Marys Hardware, although a new Bissell carpet sweeper was also proposed as a great present. Tovell’s music store (its interior is shown in this week’s photograph) offered items for “pleasure and service.” As well as pianos and parlour organs, the store stocked mandolins, violins, guitars, accordions, banjos, mouth organs, flutes, piccolos, fifes, flageolets, music rolls for player pianos and the latest sheet music at 15¢ per copy. Tovell’s also sold Victrola record players (from $100 to an extravagant $300), double-sided 10 inch wax records (90¢) and, on the practical side, White Rotary Sewing Machines.