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OPINION: Those were the days, when a waterfront home cost $16,900

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Phil Egan

While leafing through a 64-year-old edition of the Sarnia Canadian Observer, I stop in surprise.

Gazing up at me from the old pages is a young, but unmistakeable image. It’s the face of my then 31-year-old father in an advertisement for his company, Power Installations – then one year old.

The address shown was our home address, 212 Maude St. in Point Edward.

Looking at the ad brought back a flood of memories. I was six years old at the time, and used to wait at the top of Maud Street at the end of the workday watching for Lorne Lucas – one of my Dad’s first employees.

Lorne would watch for me as he turned onto Maud and slow down while I jumped onto the truck’s running board to ride down the street and into our driveway.

Old ads are a mirror to a younger Sarnia.

The same newspaper announced the “only Sarnia engagement” of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” at the Capitol Theatre, starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. The adult evening admission price was 75 cents.

Wilson’s Radio Shop on Christina Street promoted itself as the “first in Sarnia with television.” Five 21” screen TV’s from Admiral, Crosley, Dumont, Philco and RCA were offered at prices ranging from $299.95 to $625.

Highfield Motors at 395 Christina St. N. was advertising a 1952 Pontiac with radio, heater and sun visor for $1,700, and a 1949 Meteor sedan with heater for only $850.

Meanwhile, a 2-bedroom home overlooking Lake Huron with a finished recreation room, built-in garage and oil heating could be had for $16,900.

Christmas was approaching and, if you were a six-year-old, as I was in 1953, a Meccano set was a coveted gift. “Build hundreds of working models,” the Christina Hardware ad urged. The shop offered four Meccano sets priced from $1.95 to $6.95.

Simpsons-Sears announced that it would be opening “a modern shopping centre” on Exmouth Street in the fall of 1954. Barge’s Cleaners, in business in Sarnia since 1926, had three stores at Christina and Davis, Russell and Cromwell, and on Maxwell Street.

Hungry? The Town Coffee Shop, situated on the southeast corner of Christina and George streets, was serving “budget beaters for hearty eaters” and promoted itself as “Sarnia’s favourite place to eat.”

On a more solemn note, the Korean War had ended only months earlier, although Canadians would remain as observers. The Royal Canadian Air Force was advertising for positions in the RCAF Reserve “in the event of a national emergency.”

Old ads, as much as stories, are mirrors of our times.


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