Stickwood’s dry-goods store, and the red shoes that got away

Wilmington Dry Good Store

This beautiful old dry-goods store – which was in Wilmington, Del.; the photo is from 1956 – is far bigger and fancier than was Stickwood’s of Madoc in the 1960s. But I chose this photo because at least the store has a bit of a modern (okay, modern as in midcentury modern) sense to it, as Stickwood’s did. Most of the photos I found on Google Images when I went looking for dry-goods stores were sepia-toned ones with people in top hats and whatnot. My dry-goods-store memories don’t go back quite that far! (Photo from the Delaware Historical Society by way of oldwilmington.net)

Do people below a certain age – say, 50 – even know what a dry-goods store is, I wonder? One certainly doesn’t see them any more; we are decades away from the time when every small town in North America had at least one dry-goods store. (When you think of it, “dry goods” is kind of a funny name, isn’t it? What would “wet goods” be?)

Anyway, I got onto this train of thought thanks to a mention today of Stickwood’s. For many years Stickwood’s was the dry-goods store in the village of Madoc, which was “town” (as in “going to town”) for my family when I was growing up at the Manse in tiny Queensborough, Ont., in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The mention came in a comment I was very tickled to receive on a recent post (here) about long-ago McCoy’s Grocery in Madoc. The comment came from from Wendy Wagner Sniderhan and her mother, Marg McCoy Wagner, the daughter and granddaughter respectively of Bob and Prudence McCoy, the proprietors of that store. In her full-of-information comment (you can see it here), Wendy fondly recalls Stickwood’s as well as Ross’s Ladies’ Wear, the Beamish store (a small-town department store that kids loved because of its supply of toys and games and candy), Devolin’s and O’Riordan’s grocery stores, and Wilson’s of Madoc, a gift and decor store that I am happy to say is still going strong.

where Stickwood's was

If I’m not mistaken (and I could be!), this empty lot is where Stickwood’s dry-goods store stood for many years, between Johnston’s drugstore (still there, as the photo shows) and long-gone Pigden’s Stereo and TV. Ah, the good old days!

We all took Stickwood’s for granted back when I was a kid, but what a strange place it would seem to a young shopper in 2013! It was quite an expansive store. In the front of the downstairs part was men’s wear, both work clothes and dressier stuff: shirts and ties and sweaters and I guess even sports jackets. Suits? Probably. Much of the clothing was displayed folded on tables or shelves, as opposed to the way we’re used to seeing it now, hanging on racks.

In the back of the main floor was the shoe department, with shoes for all ages. One of the biggest regrets of my entire life is that I was utterly unable to persuade my mother to buy me a pair of bright-red patent-leather dress shoes, probably in about a kids’ size 12, that were offered for sale there in about 1968. Oh, man, I wanted those beautiful shiny red shoes; but they were fancy, and thus a little expensive, and we were poor as church mice – living as we did on my dad‘s rural minister’s salary – and I’m sure my mother sensibly recognized that I would outgrow them in less than six months. But I still think about them, to this day. (Obviously.)

1970s Simplicity sewing pattern

Remember sewing patterns in packages like this? All my 1970s home-economics-class memories are suddenly flooding back! (Photo from Karen’s Variety, karensvariety.com)

Then upstairs was the fabric and “notions” department, for people who did home sewing. Which my mother decidedly did not do; her own mother was an avid and a good seamstress, but something about it had completely put my mum off. She hated being in a fabric shop, or looking at dress patterns. (People – female people: Do you remember those huge pattern books? Vogue and Butterick’s and Simplicity? I know some of you do…) So she avoided it at all costs. But I found myself upstairs at Stickwood’s more than once due to the need to purchase fabric and patterns and “notions” (buttons and trim, like good old rick-rack) for sewing projects for home-ec class at school, or 4-H projects.

Sadly, Stickwood’s is long gone, and even the spot where it stood on one of the main streets of Madoc is empty; I don’t know what happened to it, but I expect there was a fire. But if I close my eyes for a bit, I can still imagine myself inside that store, can still smell the pleasant clean fabric-y smell of all those nice new “dry goods,” and can hear the voice of Mr. Stickwood helping people find what they’re looking for.

And you won’t be at all surprised to hear that I can also still conjure up those shiny red shoes.

28 thoughts on “Stickwood’s dry-goods store, and the red shoes that got away

  1. There was a fire that took the building where Stickwood Dry Goods was. It burnt in the 90’s. I believe the store was vacant at the time of the fire. I too remember the stores you have mention. I also remember Madoc was pretty busy town on Friday night. The stores were open to 9:00 pm

    • Hi Greg! You know, you really evoke a time and place when you mention how busy Madoc was in those days, especially on Friday nights. Not so much anymore. Friday night – end of the work week, paycheque in hand, stores open – was really a big deal back then, wasn’t it? I wonder – do you remember the general stores (Bobbie’s and McMurray’s) in Queensborough, and how they were open till 9 or later several nights of the week? And how people would gather there to sit and share the news? Those were the days!

      • Hi Katherine, Friday nights were a big deal. You have explained it well. Also I do remember Saturdays being pretty busy also. The stores would have sidewalk sales. Always remember my Dad haviving to drive around to find a parking spot. Oh yes I do remember Bobbie’s & McMurray’s store in Queensborough and how people would gather there to share the news. They were the days.

      • My ‘big town’ when I was a kid was Fort Erie, and it was always bustling on Friday nights. My mom would do the grocery shopping (of course having had to be driven into town by my father), while my dad would take me down the main street to the chip wagon so that I could get a cone of chips sprinkled with vinegar and salt. Mmmm. Angle parking, and not many empty spaces.

      • Angle parking! Oh my. Now that is something one does not see much of anymore. (Save for Montreal after a blizzard, when people ram their cars at an angle into the giant snowbanks that line the streets because that’s the only way they’ll ever get out again.) Though I might make mention of Lindsay, Ont., which boasts an incredibly broad main street (Kent Street) and angle parking on both sides. Clearly the builders of Lindsay had big dreams! Meanwhile, my mouth is watering at the thought of that “cone of chips sprinkled with vinegar and salt.” Yum!

      • Wow, Greg, imagine having trouble finding a parking spot in Madoc! Different times. But of course there were so many more people living in the rural areas then, and the weekend would be when they all came to town. I’m happy that you too remember the good old days – or should I say nights – of people from Queensborough gathering to share stories and community at Bobbie’s and McMurray’s. May I ask how you are connected to my old friend (and fellow St. Andrew’s United Church member) Jean Tokley?

  2. “…but I expect there was a fire..”

    Apparently, the unofficial motto for Madoc is: “if it isn’t being used, burn it down!”. Hence, the gaps in the main street facade…

    • I am constantly surprised at how often one hears of fire having destroyed buildings in the Madoc and Queensborough area. I guess in the “olden days,” when buildings weren’t up to the Fire Code, it wasn’t all that surprising; and I’m sure (or at least I hope!) that people didn’t actually burn things down deliberately. But it certainly is sad to see those fire-induced gaps on the main street of Madoc, no question about it. Time for what the architectural-heritage people call “sympathetic infill”: new buildings that are respectful of the heritage environment.

      • Ah, no. Double parking is a second row of parallel parking. Thus, the second vehicle is actually parked in a driving lane!

      • Attendant? We don’t need no stinkin’ attendant!

        Quite often, those engaging in double parking intend to zip into a store for just a minute or two. Delivery trucks were also notorious for double parking. So, those parked inside would just have to wait for the vehicles before or behind to vacate their spots or for the double-parker to move.

        Of course, many of the vehicles parked on the main street were the store owners themselves and were often there all day.

      • Ah, I see – I thought you were referring to some kind of organized system of double parking to allow for all the commerce in downtown Madoc. (Though I was only joking when I suggested there might have been an attendant!) But I see it was just the Madoc equivalent of the frustrating phenomenon that we also experience all the time in downtown Montreal. Don’t get me started about those delivery trucks holding up traffic…

    • As I suspected! That is great to know, Greg. I will make the connection with Jean the next time we’re at St. Andrew’s, and I’m sure she’ll be tickled to know that I’ve heard from her grandson on that crazy internet thing.

  3. From an old CHSS yearbook, I’ve found a photo of Stickwood’s (interior), with a customer and a sales associate. There are bolts of fabric and what are likely boxes of buttons. This is from the “Advertising” section at the book of the yearbook. And guess what Stickwood’s motto was: “Remember the Fabric Shop”.

    O’Riordan’s Grocery Store also had an ad in the same section of the yearbook. Their motto: “Quality, Value and Courtesy”. The photo is of the exterior of the shop, and they had posters in the windows, advertising the specials. Check out these prices: Palm Garden Tea Bags 69 cents; Heinz Sweet Pickles 35 cents; Dole Fruit Cocktail 39 cents; and my favourite — Habitant Soups Pea Vegetable 2 for 49 cents. (Those Habitant soups are around $1.79 each these days.)

    Other ads includes those of Linsmore Upholstery, Embury Building Supplies, Nickle’s Jewellery, Wilson’s, Pigden’s Radio, Richard’s Restaurant, Grant Brett, Madoc Pro Hardware, George West Men’s Wear, Kincaid Bros. Ltd. IGA, Mary Jane’s Take-out, Johnson’s Pharmacy. There are also several ads by businesses in Marmora, Stirling and Tweed.

    The slogan for Richard’s Restaurant is cute, and it’s based on the location. Wanna try guessing what it was?

      • Very good! The slogan was “The Corner for Good Food”. And I love the one for Nickle’s Jewellery Store: “A gift for every person, a price for every purse”. And, they sold CHSS pins and rings.

  4. Another business from the downtown area that’s long gone is the old Bell Telephone office. It was on Durham St. N., just a couple of doors from St. Lawrence Street. I think there is a dog grooming place where it was (or Bell was just next to that). Does anybody remember that? I seem to recall that it closed around 1961 when people did not require local operator assistance as much (thanks to dial phones).

    Do you remember the old Madoc Hotel? I can’t recall when it was demolished, and I’m afraid I don’t know why it was demolished. Was there a fire?

    • I don’t remember the Bell office, Sash, but others might. The dog-grooming place that you mention (All Bark No Bite) is owned by a Queensborough friend of ours, and sometimes when Raymond and I are in “town” (Madoc) we like to stop in and say hi to her and watch as she keeps the dogs happily calm while she makes them look all tidy and nice.

      I do remember the Madoc Hotel, although (as you can imagine) I was never inside it. When I was a kid it was run by the Bossio family, and the Bossio kids were my contemporaries at school. I don’t know the story behind its demolition, but I have a vague idea that there was a fire – as happens all too often with historic buildings.

    • To a crisp. That’s how things seemed to be done in Madoc: if it’s not being used, burn it! [Ok, I’m being sarcastic, of course]

      • It seems uncanny how many buildings have burned in central Madoc. That said, when you step back and look at the downtown streetscape, it is very handsome indeed – there are a lot of great 19th-century buildings left. The potential is huge!

  5. I believe Ross’s Ladies Wear sold shoes. I seem to remember a Dak’s sign in their window. I personally bought a few pairs of women’s shoes there, as well as a dress or two. I shopped at Stickwood’s both upstairs and downstairs, including buying galoshes on the men’s side for my husband.
    Helen

    • Ah, good memories of the old stores, Helen! I wish they were still there. Funny, no matter how hard I try I can’t conjure up an image of shoes for sale at Ross’s, but you are not the first reader to confirm that shoes were among the goods on offer.

    • Hi John – how great to hear from you! I’d love to know what connection you are to Gord (hope I’ve got his name right) and Larry Stickwood, whom I remember so well from the much-missed dry-goods store. Hey – you should bring back the family tradition and open such a store in Madoc. We could really use a place like that!

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