A Madoc mystery, thanks to a reader

Dack's matchbook

If you’re anywhere around my age, I imagine the Dack’s logo on this matchbook (which can be yours for just $9.99 U.S. on eBay) takes you right back to about the middle of the last century. But the mystery I’m writing about tonight isn’t what’s on the front of that matchbook; it’s what’s on the back. Read on! (Photo from eBay.ca)

It’s been a while since I’ve done any posts about the commercial establishments that I remember from my midcentury Manse childhood as being located in the two nearby towns, Madoc and Tweed. (Technically Madoc and Tweed are both villages, not towns, but I think most of us think of them as “town.”) A while back I did a fond look back at two of those, Ross’s Ladies’ Wear and Stickwood’s dry-goods store, both located in Madoc – just click on their names and you’ll dig up my original posts.

Anyway, this very day a most interesting thing came in thanks to regular reader Sash, who grew up in midcentury Madoc (I believe just a few years ahead of me). Sash posted it as a comment on my Ross’s Ladies Wear entry, but since that was a while back, many of you may not find it there. And since it raises a question about commercial history in Madoc, and since I know the answer to that question must be out there among my knowledgeable readership, I thought I’d give it a post unto itself.

In poking around Madoc-related items for sale on eBay, Sash found the vintage matchbook that you can see at the top of this post. Now, I know that many of you of a certain age (like myself) will remember Dack’s shoes; in my youth there was a Dack’s store in every mall and on many urban street corners. The company had rather a sad decline; here is an interesting article about the company’s history and the aforementioned decline – though as you’ll see from the note at the top, not long after it was written there was a relaunch of a refreshed Dack’s brand (more here). The website for what look to be some pretty spiffy 2014 Dack’s shoes is here.

Okay, but as spiffy as those shoes are, it’s not Dack’s per se that I’m interested in. It’s what’s on the back of the matchbook, here:

Dack's from Thos. A. Ross matchbook

(Photo from eBay.ca)

What, people, is “Thos. A. Ross, Madoc, Ont.”? Is that a connection to Ross’s Ladies’ Wear? But this matchbox is an advert for men’s shoes – and aside from some fluffy slippers (as I recall), Ross’s didn’t sell footwear of any sort, women’s or men’s.

So who can tell me about Thos. A Ross? Was it a shoe store, or a dry-goods store like Stickwood’s that sold shoes and many other things? And where was it located? And when was it in existence? And what was its connection (if any) to Ross’s Ladies’ Wear?

I know you know, people. Please share!

(And Sash: thanks for digging this up!)

28 thoughts on “A Madoc mystery, thanks to a reader

  1. Somewhat off topic, but I wanted to share this: A couple of years ago, I went into Gemmell’s Shoes in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The first thing the third-generation owner did was pull out one of those metal plate thingies and measure my foot. When is the last time this happened to you? I bought three pairs.

    • Oh my lord, does that bring back memories, Elinor! I remember having that shoe measurement thingy brought out when I was a kid, but yeah – can’t believe they’re still around! Good for you for supporting tradition by buying lots of shoes at that store!

  2. Thos. A. Ross was the owner of the Ross’ Ladies Wear store that you remember, and must have been the agent for Dack’s shoes at one time. When I went to Madoc High School between 1937 and 1942 it was the elder Mr.Colin Ross who owned the store. I have just read the whole series of comments on your original post about Ross’ Ladies Wear, and enjoyed the history. Your blog gives me so much pleasure, with your memories and discoveries of the Queensborough area, and names so familiar to me, a product of Cedar School and Hazzard’s Church. I have some good memories of your father which I’d like to share with you.

    • How lovely to hear from you, Doris! Thank you so much for the information on Ross’s and Dack’s, but more importantly for introducing yourself. A Cedar School graduate, wow – I would be so interested to talk to you about that! And of course would love to hear your memories of my dad. I am so glad you found the blog!

      • When your family moved to Queensborough, my parents were still living on the farm, but I was long gone…living in Montreal (Pierrefonds, to be precise) with my husband and four children. My father died in mid-July of 1964, and Mr..Sedgwick was so kind and helpful to my mother, my brother and me. In planning the funeral service, he suggested that we include a hymn of praise or thanksgiving along with the traditional mournful music. He was the first person I ever heard expressing the idea (now commonly held) that a funeral should be to celebrate a life, not just to mourn a death.
        Hazzard’s Church was officially closed in July 1967, a few weeks before my mother’s death, but Mr. Sedgwick arranged for the funeral to be held in the church she had attended for forty years.
        After 1981, when we moved back to Hastings County, I occasionally saw your dad at a meeting of the Maple Syrup Producers Association, or the church’s Bay of Quinte Conference, and was reminded of his thoughtful pastoral care.

      • Doris, I can’t tell you how much your sharing of those memories of Dad means to me. Thank you so much. Am I right to think that your family’s farm was the one that Mr. and Mrs. Melbourne later bought, on Hart’s Road? If so, it’s interesting that your mum belonged to Hazzard’s Church – your family’s home would probably be about equidistant between Hazzard’s and Hart’s churches, would it not?

        And you lived in Montreal – how cool! And it’s also interesting that you got to know Dad again later through the Maple Syrup Producers, and at Conference. Connections all over the place!

  3. Dr. K is here for you. You already know about Tom and Irene Ross’ great ladies wear store. Tom’s father Colin owned the store before him and I believe Tom Ross’ grandfather was in the business before that. That I think is the historye of Thomas A. Ross. Irene Ross is still very much alive and might enlighten you further…

  4. Happy New Year, Katherine & Raymond et al!
    Yes – Ross’ Ladies Wear was a fixture during my teens in the mid-60’s and while he had ladies’ shoes for certain, the only place I remember Dack Shoes was from the George West Men’s Wear – my brother bought them there, and they were pricey, but so sharp and long-lasting, so well worth the money!

    • Happy New Year to you too, Ruthanne! I was thinking about you today as I drove past your old family home outside Queensborough on my way home from work. What a nice house that is! Still beautifully kept up, and with a lovely garden. Anyway: George West Men’s Wear – man, that rings a bell with me, but an ever-so-distant one. Where was it located? On the main (Durham) street?

      • Yes, Katherine, it was just south of Stickwood’s… Perhaps the Johnston’s Drug Store was betwixt them… before you got to the 5 and dime!

  5. technically Tweed and Madoc ( Centre-Hastings) are both Towns as per the old definition of population of 2000……Deseronto had 2000 population and more and was a town…..this also gave them the distinction of having a Mayor with Tweed and Madoc having the position of leadership called Reeves. All of this has changed with amalgamation….as you approach the old Village of Tweed limits you see a sign saying 1800 …..This in fact refers to nothing as Tweed as an entity has a population over 5000

    • Ah, Richard, you are reminding me of the time when municipal organization made sense! When a place of a certain size was a town and had a mayor, and a place of a bigger certain size was a city, and a township had a reeve. Now we have urban(ish) and rural municipalities glommed together (Hungerford and Elzevir townships joined with Tweed to become a new, larger Municipality of Tweed, with a mayor yet[!]; Ivanhoe and Madoc and everything in between all one big happy[?] family; and the city limits of Belleville starting about 15 miles outside the city itself. I miss the old days when towns were towns, villages were villages, townships were townships, and reeves were reeves (not mayors)! Don’t you?

      • Hi, I was there. We were given limited options by the Harris Regime to somehow make things work in the amalgamation process. In actual fact Tweed was incorporated as a Township. The economic development and highways people should be hanging their heads in shame. All these definitions should be revised and signage and population figures updated. After all if we don’t know who, what and where we are how are others to know?

      • Totally agreed, Richard, and: hear, hear! And I completely get (and sympathize with) the fact that the provincial government that forced all those municipal mergers to happen kind of went at it with a sledgehammer as opposed to considering individual situations on their own distinct merits and issues.

  6. The men’s wear shop was on the west side of the street, in with Devolin’s and Stickwood’s. And wasn’t there a shoe store in there, somewhere? I remember we bought shoes in that area, but I don’t think West’s sold shoes.

  7. Hi Katherine, I don’t know quite where to post this, but I guess this page will work, but feel free to move it elsewhere if you wish. Thanks to the kind folks at CHTVMadoc, here is a video about the Centennial Year celebrations in Madoc. The video starts with cart races (which were usually held at the top of the big hill where the old Dale mansion is, on Elgin Street). In the video, I can see the Catholic Church at the top of the hill, so this would be on Prince Albert Street. Ada Adams (the Queen) appears early on in the video, and in the parade later on. Miss Adams was the Latin teacher at CHSS. What a nice piece of local history, and thanks again to CHTV.

    • Thank you for visiting Meanwhile, at the Manse, April! I can guess from your last name (which only I can see) that you have a Madoc connection. I am pretty sure I went to school with some male relatives of yours, way back in the day!

  8. Now if any of your readers have something that definitively belonged to the /Cross/ family of Madoc, I know their descendants are looking for such pieces of history. Especially photos and personal tales of their ancestors with the Cross Dry Goods store, run by Thomas Cross, or stuff belonging to William Cross, barrister and solicitor, and any of the other numerous Cross family members from one century and further ago… all the old sports teams seemed to have had a Cross or 2 on them. That sort of thing could help me help them quite a bit. Or old personal effects, furniture etc. Would thrill them to no end.

    • Eliza, thanks so much for your query, and I hope that my readers might be able to help you. I will confess that the name Cross is not familiar to me as a prominent Madoc one – are there any Crosses left, do you know? When would the dry-goods store or the legal practice have been in operation? I have to think it would be long before my 1960s and’70s childhood in these parts. You might want to address a query to Brock Kerby of the fantastic Facebook page Madoc and Area Local History – he has collected and shared an enormous amount of valuable historical material.

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