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.
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.)
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.