A visit to Ross’s Ladies’ Wear

where Ross's Ladies Wear was

The storefront with the symbol of the I.O.O.F. (the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a service club – or “lodge” – that I believe has a women’s adjunct, the Rebekahs) on the sign is the building that once (if I’m not mistaken) housed Ross’s Ladies’ Wear – a magical place for a little girl like me in the long-ago 1960s and ’70s.

Having written a post just a few days ago paying tribute to Stickwood’s, a wonderful old-fashioned dry-goods store that the village of Madoc used to boast, I thought I should also make mention of Ross’s Ladies’ Wear, also long gone. While Stickwood’s sold men’s work and dress clothes (and maybe kids’ clothes too? I’m not sure) and footwear for all – and upstairs had fabrics and “notions” and patterns and whatnot for people who sewed, which was almost all women (save my mother) in the days of my childhood – it was Ross’s that had the things women really wanted: dresses and skirts and blouses and those newfangled slim-jim trousers. Not to mention pretty dressing gowns and sleepwear and of course unmentionables. (Or should I say “foundation garments”?)

Yes, there was a lot of stuff for sale in that not-very-big store. I remember very crowded racks and shelves, full of colourful garments. (Doubtless many made out of those space-age new fabrics like polyester and Ban-Lon and whatnot. Hey, it was the ’60s!) But the proprietor, Mr. Ross, and the handsome woman whom I remember also working there – I’m not sure if she was Mrs. Ross or not – were sure guides to customers in search of just the right thing, and they knew on which crowded rack to find that perfect thing, and in just the right size.

I also have it stuck in my memory that there was some kind of upper level or gallery at the back of the store – perhaps where the offices were? Can anyone enlighten me on whether I’ve got that right, or am utterly deluded?

Anyway, all I can say is that for a girl growing up in tiny Queensborough in those years, when going to “town” (Madoc) was always something of an event, a visit to Ross’s with my mum was a special treat. As I’m sure it was for my mum; we didn’t have a lot of money (my dad’s salary as a rural minister being about what you would expect, only less), so for my mum to buy a pretty new dress at Ross’s was a big deal.

Ah, those were the days. Have I ever mentioned that?

63 thoughts on “A visit to Ross’s Ladies’ Wear

  1. Dr. K with a factoid: The store was originally operated by Colin Ross. When you knew the store it was run by Tom and Irene Ross. Irene Ross, (nee Kilpatrick) is still alive, living with her son Eric and his wife Mary, north of Madoc along #62 hwy..

  2. As soon as you posted the words “dry-goods” store, I pictured my mother. We had one not too far from home and I loved going there with my Mom. Notions, undergarments, men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, etc., etc. Down in the basement store there were paper dolls, coloring books, and some toes. This floor also housed shoes for the entire family.

    I can picture it all (as well as the clerks) as if it was yesterday. Ah, those WERE the days!!

    >

  3. Not “toes” but toys.

    As soon as you posted the words “dry-goods” store, I pictured my mother. We had one not too far from home and I loved going there with my Mom. Notions, undergarments, men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, etc., etc. Down in the basement store there were paper dolls, coloring books, and some toes. This floor also housed shoes for the entire family.

    I can picture it all (as well as the clerks) as if it was yesterday. Ah, those WERE the days!!

    >

  4. Oh, how I remember my grandmother’s wardrobe…everything purchased at Ross’s. The sleeveless polyester dresses with the short sleeved jackets of the same colour that went over top. Grandma Tobin always looked so elegant, trotting off to church every Sunday. I miss her.

    • So nice to hear from someone who shares my fond memories of Ross’s, Karen! So many Madoc-area women owed their “look” to the inventory and good advice of the friendly staff of that much-missed store.

  5. I remember the Ross store well, as I remember Stickwood’s (where my parents used to buy me my trousers, dress shirts, etc., and how I hated wool pants!) Do you remember the restaurant between the grocery store and Ross’s? It had a mural of Front Street, Madoc.

    • I totally do! That would be Mary Jane’s, named for Mary Jane Kincaid, who was connected (I’m afraid I don’t remember how) with the Kincaid Brothers who ran the IGA. But wait a minute: even as I type that, I’m questioning myself. I am sure the restaurant (a takeout place, if I recall) was called Mary Jane’s, but I also now think that the person who had a connection to the Kincaid Brothers was Katie Kincaid, who I think was the proprietor of that restaurant but, before that, had been the person in charge of the cafeteria at Centre Hastings Secondary School in Madoc. The specialty of that cafeteria (in those pre-nutrition-concern days), and of Mary Jane’s, was the immortally delicious dish of – fries and gravy. Do you remember that?

  6. Fries and gravy at the CHSS cafeteria? You bet I remember! I loved them. Do you remember when you could get a complete lunch for 37 cents at the cafeteria? It was likely a bit more during your time. There was a Mrs. Kincaid in the cafeteria and with my 1968 CHSS Patter yearbook on my lap, I am verifying that the other woman (at that time) was Mrs. Burke. The restaurant beside Kincaid’s that I was referring to is not the one that Mary Jane had. I was thinking of the one before that. Booths were on the right as you walked in, and there was a counter, with stools. The mural of downtown Madoc was on the wall next to the booths. I used to love getting strawberry milkshakes there. BTW, since I have my yearbook handy, it confirms that Mrs. M. Wagner was the Phys.Ed teacher, just as I remember. I see photos of her with the senior girls’ volleyball and basketball teams. Why they couldn’t have typed her name as Mrs. Margaret … instead of Mrs. M. … is beyond me.

  7. Hi Katherine,

    I’m wondering if you have seen this interesting video on YouTube, about a walking tour (the history of Madoc.) It’s worth seeing. I can remember the fire the speaker mentions (at the dollar store), around 1960.

    • Thank you so much for this, Sash! I had read in the local papers about the historical walking tour that Al Danford did in Madoc last summer (unfortunately we were not around that day, or I would have been on it) but I didn’t know there was a video. This was most interesting! When you say the dollar store – that’s the one that you and I (and many others, I am sure) remember as the Beamish store, right?

      • You’re welcome! And thanks for embedding the video within your blog. It is really interesting. I’d never forgotten those unusual lights in the Presbyterian Church, but I couldn’t remember much else about the interior, as it was 1963 when I was inside the building. I think it’s wonderful that a working pipe organ is still used, and still maintained. It can be quite expensive to maintain a pipe organ, and many smaller churches simply get rid of them and use electronic instruments. In Toronto, even huge St. Michael’s Cathedral has been without a pipe organ for 20 years now (although, they will be getting a new one soon.) Anyway, the video about the tour is very thorough.

        I also remember the old mill at the corner of St. Lawrence W. & 62. Yes, the dollar store is the old Beamish store, but before it was Beamish, I think the sign read, “5 cents to a Dollar” or something like that. We went downtown the day after the fire, and there were lots of people milling about.

        I wonder if the person in the video has any more footage. It would have been nice if he could have included Trinity United, the library, etc. Speaking of Trinity, do you remember when they used to have lawn bowling beside the church?

      • I sure do remember the Madoc lawn-bowling club beside the United Church, Sash! I always thought it was a lovely little green oasis in the heart of a town that was busier then than it is now. The medical centre that takes up that space now is definitely a great thing to have in town, but it’s too bad the lawn bowling got displaced. I believe the greens are now at the northwest end of town. Thanks for the nice memory!

  8. How interesting! I’ve lived in Madoc for about 3 1/2 years but haven’t heard most of this information. Thanks for the link.

  9. You’re welcome. I think it’s wonderful that a working pipe organ still exists (and is in playable condition) in Madoc. I was in that church for a cousin’s wedding, back around 1963, and I remember the unusual lights and the beauty of the church. And, the bells (chimes?) from the tower would play at various times. The part about the old Dale Bank and the vault was also very interesting. The old Dale house (at the top of the hill on Elgin Street) was vacant in the 60s and, as kids, we always thought it was haunted!

    • Raymond and I went to a Christmas Eve service at St. Peter’s last year – I believe the first time I’d ever been in that church, despite all my years growing up in the area – and it really is beautiful. In addition to the pipe organ, I was struck by the ornate lampstands in the aisles – to my eye, most unusual.

      • Yes, those light fixtures are unique. Another church that I seem to recall that has unusual lights is Christ Church (Anglican) on Coleman Street, in Belleville. Do you know if St. Peters in Madoc still has the chimes/bells in the tower? I can remember hearing them from downtown, and coming south on Hwy 62 (just north of Madoc), one can see the steeple clearly.

  10. And what a beautiful case for the organ at St. Peter’s! All of that wood is hand-carved, and the pipes look like they’ve been hand-stencilled.

    • Those Presbyterians who built the church must have been wealthy. Incidentally, have you ever stopped to think about what an unusual name “St. Peter’s” (usually associated with the Roman Catholic faith, since St. Peter was the founder of it) is for a Presbyterian church? Someone from the Presbyterian church that Raymond and I attend in Montreal who was familiar with the Madoc church suggested it might be the only St. Peter’s Presbyterian extant!

      • Thanks for this, too, Sash! I was tickled to see that one of the compilers of the information about St. Peter’s Presbyterian, Madoc, was Lamoine West, who was, I believe, the principal of Madoc High School and later Centre Hastings Secondary School in the 1950s-’60s era, and an exemplary (and lovely) person all round.

      • You’re welcome! Yes, Miss West was the Principal of Madoc High School, later CHSS. She didn’t have too far to travel to get to work, either — she lived just three doors from the school. BTW, speaking of CHSS, do you know what became of the gym in the old part of the High School? One used to go down stairs to get to the gym. Around 1969, they were building the addition to the west end of the newer complex, and also that new northern part that runs parallel to Elgin Street. A new gym was built in the new addition and, of course, there was the main gym across from the offices (near the main entrance). So, with two newer gyms, I’ve often wondered what happened to the original gym in the old part of the building. Thanks.

      • Then, I guess they re-purposed the original gym, and I vaguely recall that the gym was closed during the construction project of the late 60s. In the oldest part of the building, there used to be an entrance on Elgin Street. One went up stairs to the classrooms, or down another set of stairs to the gym. It was a much longer staircase going down to the gym, because of the high ceiling for the gym. The girls’ change room was at the north end of the gym, and the boys’ change room was at the south end. Another set of stairs (south end) took one up the first floor. At the same point, a shorter staircase connected to the top level (above the gym) where some classrooms were located. Do you know what the lower area is used for now? Classrooms? It was likely back in use by the time you started high school. Being it was such a large space, I’m wondering how they rebuilt the area (if they did, in fact, rebuild it.) Thanks.

      • Your memory is amazing, Sash. I have a pretty good recollection of how CHSS was laid out when I was there (which was not exactly yesterday), but I can’t really get a handle on matching that up with your recollection of an earlier layout. I was driving by the school a few days ago and thinking how interesting it would be to visit it today and see how the 2013 layout compares with my recollections. I hope I’ll get a chance to do so one of these times!

  11. I’ve just found the floor plan for CHSS. Rooms 101 – 113 are where the old gym was. Since the gym was basement-like (and very big), it must have been quite a job to re-structure the area.

      • Hi … I am attaching a link to the CHSS website page that has the floor plan of the school. If you click on the plan, it will enlarge.

        http://edu.hpedsb.on.ca/chss/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=92&Itemid=162

        OK … Rooms 101 – 113 are where the original gym was, in the old “Madoc High School”. Rooms 112 and 113 would have been the boys’ change room, and Rooms 106 and 107 (approximately) would have been the girls’ change room. My memory is a bit sketchy on this next part, but I am 99% certain that the location of Room 104 would have been a spectator gallery. The rest of the space was the actual gym, although 101 would have been where the stage was located. It must have been quite a job filling in the lower part of the gym. Also, part of the classrooms in the oldest high school part were closed off for parts of the work. I’m guessing they re-built everything. You’ll see 115 — that used to be an old Science lab, and 119 was another lab. 115 (after it was no longer used as a Science lab) had the gas and water removed from the desks, but 119 had those installed. And the rooms numbers have changed for everything in the old part. For example, 115 was 102; 119 was 104. Speaking of Science, did Mrs. Graham teach science when you attended?

        I haven’t been in the school since 1970, so I don’t know how they re-configured the main entrance to the old high school. From what I can gather on the map, it looks like 104 and 105 might have taken up the part that was the entrance area (where the stairs went up to the 2nd floor, or down to the gym, from Elgin Street.) I was never in the newest front part that runs along Elgin (2nd floor), except for a very few minutes at the end of the school year (1970). The construction project was basically finished, and they had taken down the barrier and tape, and we were allowed to walk through the hall, but not very far because workmen were still finishing up.

        The back part on the main floor (pink rooms 122, 126, 128, etc. were the shop rooms. 122 was Automotive Mechanics, 126 was Machine Shop, and 128 would have been Electrical. I see two 126s and two 128s. They must have built dividers because those, originally, where one big room for each of the old rooms.

        Another thing … on the map, you will see Gyms 1 and 2 (across from the Main Office). There used to be only one gym there. The 2nd gym was an open court for sports. Since it was only usable during mild weather, it was a big waste of space, so they decided to enclose it when they built the newest part around 1969/70. Mrs. O’Riordan’s office used to have a window that overlooked the court. When they were doing the reconstruction, they had to remove the glass in the window, as they were going to fill the space with bricks. Well, some of the boys were in the open court, tossing volleyballs, and they got the idea of throwing a few up through her window. She mustn’t have in the office, because we didn’t hear of any yelling, or of anybody being called up to give an explanation!

        And, where the Guidance Office now is, is the space that was the former Staff Room. The Student Resource Centre and Staff Room must have been part of the add-on, because nothing jutted out like that in earlier days.

      • Sash, I’ve said it before (or at least something similar), but I’ll say it again: you are an absolute mine of information and resourcefulness when it comes to mid-century Madoc! And yes, I do remember Mrs. Graham – at least, if it’s the same Mrs. Graham I’m thinking of; didn’t she become a guidance teacher later? I went to school with one of her daughters, and another daughter gave my sister guitar lessons. Theirs was the house where I first heard Carole King’s Tapestry. Oh my, that takes me back…

  12. Hello all,
    Just a note that I am Irene Ross’s grandaughter and I practically grew up in that store. I spent hours watching ladies shop and seeing how my grandmother (and later mother) worked the store and visited with everyone who stepped in the door. It gave me a great appreciation for small towns and the community ties they create. And YES the room up above was my grandfathers office. He sat there every day doing the “books” and smoking his pipe. I truly miss the days of playing under his feet and using the empty boxes from deliveries to create imaginary worlds of castles and houses for my dolls.

    On a side note we are having a SURPRISE 90th for my grandmother coming up on Dec. 8th at the Anglican Church in Madoc. If anyone misses reminiscing like I do, this is the place to come and share your memories.

    Thanks so much for blogging the story and bringing back some warm memories on such a cold day!

    • I am so glad that someone who knew Ross’s so well – from the inside, so to speak – found my post! Your memories of the store are delightful. I hope the party for Mrs. Ross will be lovely (I am sure she will be thrilled) – and if I can, I will pop in and hope to meet you!

  13. I don’t know if Mrs. Graham became the Guidance teacher later on. When I was at CHSS, Mrs. Graham taught Science, and her husband was the Vice-Principal (he was also a Science teacher). Mr. Griffith was Principal at that time, and Miss West was the Guidance teacher. I remember the time someone was fooling around in the science lab when we were working with mercury. A beaker of mercury took a jolt (it did not spill), and Mrs. Graham was furious. That, and the time the same person turned on a gas jet as a prank — it’s no wonder she was furious!

    • This is a page from the book Way Back When… , an invaluable history of Madoc and Madoc Township that was written by Centre Hastings Secondary School students Ardith McKinnon and Garnet Pigden back in the ’70s. The book is hard to find now, but I was very fortunate to find a copy at a yard sale – for $1!

      • Thanks for the information about Way Back When. I see that many parts of it are online at the Madoc Public Library site, and I’m attaching a link, below.

        http://images.ourontario.ca/madoc/1708218/page/3?n=1&q=way%20back%20when

        Speaking of ‘way back when’, do you remember O’Hara’s Mill’s Centennial events? I remember visiting, with people working at the mill, as they would have done, so many years ago. Ladies in period dress were in the buildings, explaining various parts of the daily household chores. O’Hara’s Hill was always so much fun to visit, but the Centennial year displays were particularly interesting.

      • I remember school visits to O’Hara’s Mill, Sash, but I can’t remember any Centennial visits specifically (though I’d be surprised if I wasn’t there for one of them). Have you been to O’Hara’s Mill in recent years? Thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers, that historic site has been improved and expanded immensely and there are lots of fantastic special events there. The next event is Christmas at the mill, the weekend of Dec. 6, 7 and 8; Raymond and I quite enjoyed this last year, and I wrote about it here. Read all about the mill and the special events here!

      • I haven’t been to O’Hara’s Mill since 1968. Where has the time gone? I’ve seen their site, and I can see some differences. Thankfully, the old buildings remain, and it is a tremendous tribute to the builders of the time, and to those who helped who settled the area. Really, it was like taking a step back in time whenever we visited. That’s wonderful that they have a Christmas event. I’ll check out your post about last year’s visit, and I hope you’ll enjoy your time at this December’s event, too.

        You’re likely too young to remember when Hwy. 7 was extended around the northern part of Madoc. Until 1964 or so, Hwy. 7 went through the heart of Madoc (St. Lawrence Street). I can remember times when they had to blast through rock to clear the land for the making of the new road. Thinking of O’Hara’s Mill reminded me of that construction project, as the western end of the “bypass” (as it was known then) is just south of the Mill’s general area.

      • Sash, I don’t remember when Highway 7 went right through town (it was totally news to me that St. Lawrence Street was the highway – thanks for that tidbit!) but I certainly remember (though admittedly rather dimly) people talking about the new “bypass” (which I wrote about here). And in those days a bypass was seen as a good thing, a modern invention that improved efficiency. Now, of course, we realize that bypasses were the death, or near-death, of many small towns, or at least of their downtown districts.

      • If you go to Google Maps and enter a search for “Atkinson Road, Madoc, Ontario” you can see where the bypass begins (western point). St. Lawrence Street West, at that point, was Hwy. 7 prior to the bypass, and then the highway took the name of St. Lawrence Street as one entered Town. That area where the bypass begins has been re-jigged slightly, to allow for the access to Hwy. 7 (bypass) from St. Lawrence W. Speaking of that area, do you recall when there were train tracks east of Atkinson Road? They crossed St. Lawrence St. W., where Madoc Farm Supply is located.

      • I don’t remember the train tracks, Sash, and it’s interesting you should mention them; I have been trying (without success) to figure out where it was that the Madoc train station once stood. Do you happen to know?

  14. I’m afraid I don’t know where the Madoc train station was. I seem to recall a building on the north side of St. Lawrence St. W., near where the tracks crossed, but my mind might be playing tricks on me (and that’s not to say that that was the location of the former station.) There is a book called, “The Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore”, by Ron Brown. Ron has written some other interesting books, including, “Ghost Towns of Ontario” (and many others.) I had a copy of both of those books, but they’re still out “on loan” (extended loan, I’d say!), so I can’t refer to them at this time. I do recall, though, Ron included a bit about the former train station in Queensborough, and something to the effect that it’s a private residence now. Here is a link to Ron Brown’s books, and you’ll see another reference to a volume about trains in Ontario.

    http://www.ronbrown.ca/books.html

    • Thanks for this, Sash. I think you might actually be right that the train station was on St. Lawrence Street West, but I will have to look into that further. Meantime, yes, Ron Brown: as a former bookseller in small-town Ontario I know that his books are always popular, and he has done an excellent job of chronicling the ghost towns of Ontario and other bits of its history. The new book about the province’s railways looks splendid – and useful!

  15. Hi Katherine: My copy of “Ghost Railways of Ontario” (by Ron Brown) has been returned to me. Ron notes that the railway entered Madoc 1.5 km west of Hwy. 62. He says that the little wooden station survived, but it was vandalized and had become overgrown and neglected. In 1990, it was burned, and several earlier arson attempts had been tried.

    There is a photo of the former train station in Queensborough (now a residence), a white frame building. Ron says that the sidewalk leading to it was the platform. Ron describes Queensborough as a quiet beaten track that possess many century-old wooden hotels and stores, and the remains of a mill. Ron gives terrific directions in how to get to various places, which is quite handy for someone who might not know the areas he’s covered.

    Speaking of trains, a friend says that near the Log Cabin on Hwy. 7 at Actinolite (or, as many of us remember it: Price’s Park), there is a converted railcar behind the restaurant, which is used as a residence. I’ve never noticed it, and when I was in that area during this past summer, it was hopeless trying to spot it, because of the trees and foliage. Have you ever noticed this? Apparently, it can be seen from the restaurant when leaves are off the trees.

    • So Sash, it looks like you were right when you said you thought the train station was in the west end of town, near where the farm-supply store is. As for the former train station in Queensborough (yes, now a private home) – you can read all about it in our Historic Queensborough walking-tour brochure!

      And yes, some friends told us a while back about the converted railcar behind the Log Cabin restaurant (and bus stop), and we’ve caught a glimpse of it, but never had a good look. We heard that it was going to be turned into a restaurant, but that hasn’t panned out – yet, at least.

    • Thank you so much for finding that, Sash – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo of the high school from that era. The postcard is a little pricey for my taste, but I might have to consider bidding…

      • You’re welcome. Why not do as I’ve done … download a copy of the photo? That way, you’d have a JPG long after the bidding is over (and the item is removed from the site.)

      • So, Katherine, looking at the photo, I’m wondering if you can tell me if the current layout of the school (with the wing that goes along Elgin, connecting the west and east wings) retained the double-coloured brickwork at the old entrance? Or, did they cover it up when they attached the new wing?

        I’m guessing that the photo was taken in the early 30s. I don’t know when the first addition was put on after that (same size as the original part), and then it would have been around 1962 when they built the major addition, with the technical and commercial sections, new gym, cafeteria, etc.

      • Sash, I still haven’t had the chance (since returning to my roots here) to visit CHSS and re-familiarize myself with its layout. Every time I drive by it I wish I had an excuse to visit! But I’m sure I’ll get an opportunity before too long, and rest assured I will check out the architectural situation as much as I possibly can.

      • You’re very welcome. I just wish I knew the answer to your question. As far as I can recall, the store was always “Ross’s Ladies Wear”, but I’m wondering if, at one time, the Ross’s had sold shoes and clothing for both men and women. I do not recall any other Ross’s store during my time there. Hopefully, another reader will have the answers.

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