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GUEST COLUMN: When Christmas shopping was an adventure

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Nadine Wark

“Do you have your money for shopping?” I questioned my younger sister, Adrienne. Yes, she had her money, and I had mine.  The ‘country girls’ were going to the big city for Christmas shopping.

The year was 1959; I was twelve years old and my sister, eight.  The village of Corunna was not exactly like living out in the country, but sometimes it felt that way.

We would walk from our home on Cameron Street in Corunna, a few short blocks to Hwy. 40 where the Chatham bus would pick us up for the ride to Sarnia.  We each had $10 to spend and that was enough to cover our gift buying.  Back then, of course, 10 bucks would buy plenty.

It seemed like a long ride to our destination, but we finally reached Christina Street where we observed the hustle and bustle of city life. We headed straight for Kresge’s where all sorts of gifts were on display, arranged on a long counter. What fun we had choosing just the right gift for the right relative!

I distinctly remember seeing men’s handkerchiefs placed in a row, along with socks, ties and cheap cologne. For the ladies, scarves, gloves, chocolates and yes, cheap cologne were some of the choices.

Other stores where we would sometimes shop were The Metropolitan and Woolworth’s. All of them had those round red swivel chairs and a mirror the length of the counter where we could watch ourselves (and everyone else) eat, while twirling around on the stools.

We got a first-hand cooking lesson watching the cook prepare our hotdogs and fries.  All three stores had creaky wooden floors and at Kresge’s a long creaky staircase led to the accounts dept. where customers deposited on their lay-a-ways. I remember going there many times with my mother.  It was a happy day when the balance was paid in full!

Another favourite spot to eat was Tuffy’s on Davis Street for the best fish and chips in town. (He also wrestled alligators and we saw him perform in Corunna but that’s another story). Sometimes our shopping excursion included a movie at the Capitol Theatre (now the Imperial), such as the Shaggy Dog, Pollyanna and Horrors of the Black Museum (we liked to mix things up).

Before we knew it, the day had passed and two tired but happy girls hopped on the 5:30 bus.

“Do you have any money left?” asked my sister. Checking my purse, besides the bus fare, I was pleased to find a quarter. My sister had some change left as well.  Thanks to Kresge’s and their cheap cologne!

Nadine Wark is a freelance writer who resides in Sarnia

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