Memories of ‘The Hardware Store’

On Friday, I drove up High street and saw the paper hanging in the windows of “THE HARDWARE STORE”.

I immediately started to think about how important that store had been to many generations in our town. And then it donned on me the role that it had on my own formative years.

It all started on Xmas of 1950 when I found my Red Flyer metal wagon under the tree. Our neighbour Dan Trafelet, lived on the south east corner of Breadalbaine and Morpeth, and he had told me that if I had a wagon, he would let me sell his vegetables and honey, door to door to the tourists in the summer. I had spent time in his garden and in his honey barn working with the bees and helping him to serve the customers that came by. So, in 1951, I was going door-to-door to the cottages along the shore using my new Red Flyer wagon from then-Matheson’s Hardware to sell his honey and vegetables.

In 1953, we moved to High Street and I quickly found out that Leland Matheson paid one cent per bottle for empty wine and liquor bottles to use for turpentine and paint thinners. And there also was an opportunity in picking up old newspapers and selling them to Hepworth Furniture to use in the packing room to protect furniture being shipped. This was another wagon job. This one for one cent a pound. That was when I learned fast that the way you make a dollar, is by making 10 cents 10 times.

It was May 1954 that my legs had grown long enough for a man’s bicycle. Back to Matheson’s for a new CCM bike and an Owen Sound Sun Times paper route.

By saving my pennies, nickels and dimes, that fall I bought an electric train from Mr. Matheson. There were many nights and weekends spent with this train, set up in the basement of the Post Office.

In the spring of probably 1955, I went to the hardware store to pick out my bamboo fishing pole.  Mr. Matheson brought in a bundle of them every spring and we all wanted to get there first in order to get the “longest” one.  When the perch run started you could find some of us kids on the dock at the river with our bamboo poles “immediately” after school.  We all had our favourite spot to sit. Our moms welcomed the fresh perch that we would arrive home with …  precious memories.

The BIG deal came in the early fall of 1958 when I arrived at ‘The Hardware Store” to trade in my electric train and barter for a single shot, 12 gauge shotgun, so that I could hunt ducks that fall. It was a tough deal to do but I wanted to sell my train and he wanted to sell me the shotgun, so a deal was done. The greatest spot to go duck hunting was on the west side of Arran Lake, so that is where you could find two or three of us very early on Saturday mornings in November and early December.

I went off to work “away from home” in 1960 but I used to drop by and see Mr. Matheson on occasion when I was home on weekends or here on vacation.

I then remember Doug Kruetzwizer taking over and the same hometown hardware store atmosphere continued. What ever you needed could be found as they both always seemed to have whatever anyone needed.

For what seems like endless decades, and it is actually for 35 years, we have been served by Mike and Jean Downs in a way that we will never see again. We are always astounded by how much product was in the store and how easy it could be located. And yes, we have to mention Nolan who developed the same wonderful helpful customer service attitude that had always been available at “The Hardware Store”.

It truly is the end of an era.

by G. William Streeter