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GUEST COLUMN: My summer job at Walker Brothers Men’s Wear

Published on

By Bob Boulton

Bob Boulton

That morning, walking west from my house, along Wellington Street to Walker Brothers, I was more bathed and spiffed up than ever. Gleaming. Shining. Smelling good. It was 1962 and Day One of my summer job.

Past the Five Corners, barely across Mitton Street, through the modest side entrance to Walkers’ clothing stores. Once inside, made a fast right into the Men’s and Boy’s store. Straight ahead, I would have set my unauthorized foot into the out-of-bounds Ladies’ and Girl’s shop. What alarms would go off? Police summoned? Why, even Iven Walker himself might find out. Who knew?

I wore charcoal dress pants, polished shoes, a white dress shirt, a necktie, no jacket. My father had taught me how to tie a four-in-hand knot. My shirt had so much polyester (my folks called it Terylene) it was shiny, slippery, and pretty much transparent.

School was out. I could tie one of my father’s neckties. I had a dress-up summer job I could walk to. I didn’t blunder into the girls’ area. Yes, now I was a contributing member of society. Ta da.

Frank, the manager, welcomed me and introduced my co-workers. Frank was a no-nonsense guy who each day was professionally courteous but impatient to have everything just so. For me, that meant he was untiring in his determination that I dust the displayed dress shirts again and yet again. What if Mr. Walker showed up? Glanced around the corner on his way to another of his stores? Frank couldn’t be too careful.

Bill was older, the made-to-measure guy. Unflappable expertise. Bill regretted the world was a weary off-the-rack place.

Dick was in his late 20s. He was lively, engaging, and ambitious. Dick went on to manage The Den Menswear in the south section, now torn down, of the Eastland Plaza.

I was not without my own triumphs, or so I thought. I had a regular every-other-Saturday customer. He came to the store with his girlfriend and bought something, always from me. One Saturday, I made the mistake of bragging to Frank who replied, “that customer” charged his purchases on his Walker Brothers account, was behind in paying his bill, and that we (meaning his abruptly humbled servant) wouldn’t be selling to “that customer” again any time soon.

Walkers is no more. But was, for then, an offbeat combination of clothing stores, grocery store, bakery, fabric and drapery shop. Iven Walker himself was Mayor, inspired the creation of Lambton College, and arranged for the Queen and Prince Philip to visit Sarnia on their Royal Visit to Canada.

Yes, Iven Walker was exceptionally accomplished. But I’ll tell you this. Back then yours truly gave Walkers store the most dust-free men’s dress shirts in town.

Bob contributes regularly to our Opinion Column. His verse, short stories, and articles have been published in a variety of small magazines. His blog, Bob’s Write from the Start, is aimed at others who are also renewing writers

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