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In love with Timothy Eaton

That great merchandising house is gone but the aroma of the doughnut machine, the ground coffee

and Laura Secord chocolate will linger forever! That was the delicious aroma that flooded your nostrils as you walked onto the third floor of Eaton's from the Parkade crossover. With that introduction you were ready to partake of the thousands of great foodstuffs and imported cheeses laid out for your happiness. And buy we did! Fifty cents of every dollar spent in Winnipeg went into those Eaton cash registers!

Yes, we all loved Eaton's! When I was a kid it was a rare thing to go to Winnipeg but one cold Christmas we actually met my aunt and uncle 'under the clock' in Eaton's and watched that marvellous parade. That was also a season for fantastical moving Christmas window displays. Some of those best windows ended up in Saskatoon when Eatons closed. Before we left for home we stopped at the Nut House. Their operational mantra was “if your waitress doesn't thank you, your purchase is free!” Later in life Mom and I used to swing into Eaton's Parkade in the new 1957 three toned Dodge sporting those big fins. (fins were the craze!), and it also featured torque flight selector and cost $2,335 from Portage Garage). The basement was different, no air-conditioning, just big fans attached to all those supporting pillars! The ceiling was of fireproof metal emblazoned with Eaton's logo. Still hanging from the store opening in 1905 were the pneumatic tubes that used to suck the cash and slips up to the cashiers dept. The depths of Eaton's was also the final destination for the large bank of cage elevators that worked noisily up and down that shaft through the store, wheels and pulleys bringing carloads of shoppers to a floor with a “Bing”! Over the sounds of thousands of Christmas shoppers one could hear the uniformed elevator operator girls calling out the floors: (before the war it was a man's job). “Seventh Floor, Fine Furniture, Interior Design Studio, Pictures, Wall Decor, Fine Art, Mirrors, Lamps and Assembly Hall.” The best thrill was to be passing packed cages as they slid up and down on their greased tracks! Eaton's Foodateria was also in the basement and it contained Winnipeg's best meat market. I was really familiar with it because I got to see it from the other side in the sub-basement where I, when I turned sixteen, delivered loads of prime beef into the vast coolers. This meat dept. was a reflection of the eastern European population of north Winnipeg. Even if just selecting a piece of stew meat there was sure to be much kvetching over size and weight and price. “No, No, don't be cheep, take the vun on the left!” Those trips alone down that long ramp took me into a sub basement where the meat coolers were and it was a beehive of trucks unloading the smoked sausages and hams, etc. that made this just one more of Eaton's special departments. By the way, Portage had an Eaton's Foodateria for many years occupying part of the Shoppers location. It too had a meat dept. and the local meat shops were not pleased to see that come to town! Eaton's specialized in barbequed chicken very much a novelty when it first came to town. Donnée and I used to shop in Eaton's a lot because we kept a house at 144 Yale in Winnipeg, the old Mayor Deacon house.(Another one of the “stolen houses”that helped bring down the Conservative government of Rodman Roblin) Once Donnée managed to leave her kidskin gloves on the rail of the overpass. Hours later as we headed back to the car we were shocked to see those gloves still there! That must have been a very civilized era!

Eaton's was constructed of brick, structural steel and wood. It was put up in just a few months with a huge labour force. Originally of six floors, business was so astounding that three more floors were added! It had 895 thousand sq. feet and was the tenth largest department store in the world. The store covered 21 acres and employed 8,000 people!

Do you recall the Eaton bags in the 60's blue with white criss-cross lines? And who remembers or could have afforded the Eaton “Beauty doll”? They sold at $245 so probably not many of those around here. There was a tunnel that went from the basement under Hargrave to the Parkade, and that was the route for your purchases and they would be carefully placed in your trunk by a uniformed attendant, a real gentleman. The third floor had extensive housewares and was the site of much of the special attractions for Eaton's annual depth of winter promotion called “Uncrate the Sun”. It was very popular because by that time we really wanted to see Mexican dancers and marimba bands, tons of flowers and stands selling burritos and tacos. Of course it as all about making money and for a long time Eaton's was a gold mine for the Eaton family. I could go on forever about Eaton's!

The picture is the cover from the T. Eaton Co. Fall and Winter Catalog Number 1 owned by Mr. S. Wilson .I own it now and as well, as a maniac collector, I have the last Union Jack that flew from the roof of Eatons before it was permanently desecrated!


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