Mrs. A.E. Greer was a storekeeper for many years in Glamis. She describes the store’s early days, including memories provided by Mrs. Lila MacLean, a Cunningham daughter.
In 1878, Joseph Cunningham and his wife Nancy (Hemstreet) moved to Glamis and opened a store. Quoting from the “Maple Leaf,” printed in Glamis (June 11, 1900), she notes: “As all customers are treated fairly, Mr. Cunningham’s popularity as a businessman should always last.” This statement proved quite true as he was still in business until his death in 1918. The couple had nine children. Father and sons worked their farmland during the week while Mrs. Cunningham and older daughters ran the store.
Mrs. MacLean recalled butter, sugar and tea arriving in bulk, not packages. Farmers brought in surplus eggs and butter to be sold. Salesmen stayed in hotels in Paisley or other larger towns and would bring their products to the Cunningham store to be promoted. Around 1910, the Public Library occupied a little room at the back of the store. The storekeeper acted as librarian. For a time, the store also served as the village post office and telephone office where Glamis’ first telephone was installed.
Many customers charged their groceries until they could sell something on their farms to pay for them. A large sized box stove kept the store reasonably warm. The storekeeper arose early to light the fire. The store was lit by an acetylene system in the basement with gas piped through the store to the lamps. The Cunninghams had their own cows for dairy supplies. Mrs. Cunningham also made her own soap, collecting fat and ashes from which the lye was extracted. The mixture was boiled in her backyard.
In 1922, Bert Greer married Laura, another Cunningham daughter, and bought the store. Lila continued to work there for several more years. Greer added a seed cleaning plant next door so farmers could clean their seeds before spring planting. Seeds were also bought and sold. Coal oil for lamps and lanterns was usually stocked by the barrel in the fall for winter supply. Turpentine, molasses and cod liver oil also stocked by the barrel. More memories are shared next month.
The original article from the 1979 Bruce County Historical Society’s Yearbook was abridged by Bob Johnston.