Sunday 31 January 2016

Timothy Eaton Statue

In 1919, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Eaton's, advertising employee Ivor Lewis was commissioned to design a statue in honour of owner Timothy Eaton.  He sculpted two statues in bronze, one for the Toronto Store on Queen Street,the other for the Winnipeg Store on Portage Avenue.  On December 8, widow Margaret Eaton and son Sir John Craig, were there for the unveiling of the bronze statue.  Three days later, a similar ceremony took place in Winnipeg.

The Toronto statue sat near the store's front doors, where customers used to rub Timothy's left shoe for good luck.  Over the years, the left shoe became a bit tarnished while the right shoe remained a shiny bronze.  When the store was demolished to make room for the Eaton's Centre, Timothy Eaton's statue was moved to the ROM where it remains today.  The Winnipeg statue is now on display in the MTS Centre.

Saturday 30 January 2016

Georgian Room Chicken Pot Pie

Lady Eaton selected the best recipes for the Georgian Room at the Toronto Eaton's.  Here is her recipe for Chicken Pot Pie:


Pastry for double crust pie
1 litre chicken stock
30 ml soft butter
30 ml chicken fat
120 ml all purpose flour
250 ml sliced mushrooms
125 ml jar red pimentos (drained & chopped)
12 potato balls (steamed until just tender)
375 ml cooked white chicken meat in large pieces
375 ml cooked dark chicken meat in large pieces

Prepare pastry for double crust pie.  Set aside.  Fricasse sauce.  In a sauce pan blend butter, chicken fat and flour until smooth.  Over medium heat whisk in chicken sauce.  Simmer for 20 minutes until thickened.  This sauce must be made fresh the day the pies are to be eaten.  Do not freeze.  In a two litre casserole dish, cut into six five inch circles and place on top of filling.  Brush crust with egg and milk glaze (1 egg plus 15 ml milk).  Bake at 450 F for 12 to 15 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and sauce bubbling.  Serves six.  This can also be made into six individual 10 ounce pies (

Friday 29 January 2016

Eaton's Catalogue in Canadian Literature

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the debut of the Eaton's almost coincided with the birth of our nation.  Eaton's and Canada literally grew up together.  As one author claims, Eaton's became a part of our social fabric.  It also became a part of our literature.

As it mentions in the Eaton's archives, "The Eaton's catalogue and its women readers were in a relationship that went beyond just business."  In the classic Canadian series, Anne of Green Gables, Eaton's is mentioned in this context.  In Anne's House of Dreams (1917) busy body Mrs. Lynde complains that the Eaton's catalogues are "the Avonlea girls' Bible now...They pore over them on Sundays instead of studying the Holy Scriptures."

In Le Chandail de Hockey (The Hockey Sweater), little Roch Carrier wants a Montreal Canadiens sweater.  His mother writes a letter to Monsieur Eaton requesting a red white and blue jersey from his catalogue.  However, Monsieur Eaton mistakenly sends a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey.  Roch refuses to wear the sweater, but his mother insists.  At the ice rink, Roch thinks he is forbidden to play "a cause de mon chandail bleu".  He retreats to the church where he prays to God that his Maple Leafs jersey with be eaten by a million moths.

The short story Illianna Comes Home, part of the book Dance Me Outside by W.P. Kinsella, also mentions the Eaton's Catalogue:

Then [Illianna's husband got out of the car] and he look like one of them pictures out of the Eaton's catalogue.  He got a hat with a little brim, an overcoat and a suit and tie.  He got shiny black shoes with toe rubbers too.

W. P. Kinsella, author of Dance Me Outside, also wrote Shoeless Joe, adapted for the big screen as Field of Dreams courtesy

Thursday 28 January 2016

Eaton Hall

After Sir John Craig passed away in 1922, Lady Eaton, set her sights on building a retirement home on land they had purchased outside Toronto.  She secured the services of Canadian architects Peter Allward and George Gouinlock to design a country estate in 1932. 

Her new home, Eaton Hall, completed in 1938, sat on a hill in King City, 44 kilometres north of Toronto.  Patterned in the style of a French chateau, the 33,000 square foot mansion sat on a 700 acre parcel of land.  Stones from the nearby Humber River graced its walls.  The total price tag for the 72 room mansion was $380, 581. 

In the 1930's and 1940's, members of the Toronto Hunt Club, later the North York Hunt Club, would meet at Eaton Hall, go riding on the adjacent Pellatt estate, and then reconvene at Eaton Hall for tea.  During the Second World War, from 1944 to 1946, the estate was used by the Canadian Navy as a convalescent home.  After Lady Eaton's death in 1970, the mansion was purchased by Seneca College.  In 1991, the estate became a public hotel and conference centre.

Note:  For more information, read Eaton Hall:  Pride of King Township (

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Sir John Craig Eaton's Relief Train

"What can we do to help?"
(The response of Canadians and Americans to the Halifax Explosion, 1917)

When Sir John Craig arrived in Halifax on a train from Toronto in mid December of 1917, he was greeted by a scene from a battlefield.  The shattered city, still smoking from the explosion which wracked it only a few days before, was now coated in fresh snow.  Two ships had collided in Halifax Harbour, the Imo and the Mont Blanc, resulting in an explosion which would not be surpassed until Hiroshima.  Two thousand people were killed, nine thousand were wounded and six thousand were homeless (see "Ashpan Annie" at

"What can we do to help?" was the question posed by ordinary Canadians (and Americans).  Wealthy Canadians also stepped up to the plate.  Lord Shaughessy sent a relief train from Montreal.  The following day, Sir John Craig also felt compelled to help the Haligonians dig themselves out from the rubble and rebuild.  His train arrived loaded down with building supplies, furniture, clothing, food, nurses and medical supplies (  It would take Haligonians years to rebuild their city, but it was the contributions from individuals like Sir John Craig Eaton, which helped them get back on their feet.

Note:  More will follow on the role of the Americans' role in the Halifax Explosion Relief Effort later this year. 

The Shattered City in December of 1917 courtesy

Monday 25 January 2016

Eaton's Red Velvet Cake

Lady Eaton selected nothing but the best recipes to be made and served in Eaton's restaurants across Canada.  ONe of her recipes became synonymous with the Eaton's restaurants; some customers even thought that Lady Eaton herself invented the dessert.  Here is the recipe.


Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease 3 9 inch pans or 1 9 x 13 inch pan.

Sift 2 1/2 cups cake flour.

Make a paste of
2 oz. red food colouring
2 tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp salt

In a bowl cream
1/2 cup shortening
Add gradually
1 1/2 cups white sugar
Beat until light and fluffy.

Add one at a time
2 large eggs.
Beat after each addition.
Add cocoa/food colouring mixture.

1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp. vinegar
Add to the buttermilk

While the cake is baking, prepare:


In a saucepan place 5 tbsp. flour.
Add gradually one cup milk.
Mix until smooth.
Cook at medium heat until thickened.
Remove from heat.

While the sauce is cooling, in a medium bowl cream together:
1 cup butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Beat until light and fluffy.
Add cooled flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture a spoonful at a time,
beating well after each addition.
Spread frosting over the cooled cake.

Enjoy with Earl Grey tea in your best china cup.

Sunday 24 January 2016

Lady Eaton: A Woman of Many Talents

Flora McCrae was born in Omemee, part of the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario.  Trained as a nurse, she secured a job at a Toronto hospital.  One of her patients was a young man named John Craig Eaton.  The two fell in love and got married.  They raised four sons and two daughters in a large mansion, one of Toronto's most lavish homes. 

The Eaton's also owned a summer home, Eaton Hall, located north of Toronto in King City.  During the First World War, Flora offered her summer house as a convalescence home for Canadian soldiers.  It was during this time that John Craig was knighted by the queen, making Flora, Lady Eaton.  In the early years of her marriage, Lady Eaton focussed on raising her brood.

In 1922, Sir John Craig passed away from a severe case of pneumonia.  Lady Eaton became the new director of Eaton's.  During her tenure, the new director focussed on company-employee relations and the improvement of employee welfare and benefits.  Lady Eaton was also in charge of opening new restaurants in the Eaton's stores.  One example was Montreal Eaton's art deco restaurant patterned after the trans-Atlantic liner Ile de France. 

Not surprisingly another passion of Lady Eaton's was travel.  She and her husband travelled to France where they adopted their daughter, Evelyn.  After Sir John's death, Lady Eaton continued her travels abroad where she stayed at castles, villas and luxury hotels and met diplomats, royalty and presidents.

Lady Eaton donated her time and energy to the Red Cross, a cause near and dear to her heart.  She oversaw war bond rallies at Eaton's, including one that raised $3,100 for the Red Cross.  Other institutions or causes that she endorsed were:  Timothy Eaton Memorial Church, The Art Gallery of
Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Royal Winter Fair and the Eaton's Girl's War Auxiliary. 

Lady Eaton retired to her summer estate in King City in 1936.  She would spend the winter months in Cannes, France.  The department store director lived a long, full life, passing away in 1970 at the age of 90.


Lady Eaton and Aemilius Jarvis at Eaton Hall circa 1933-35 courtesy


Saturday 23 January 2016

Mrs. Timothy Eaton

Timothy Eaton met and married Margaret Beattie when he operated his dry goods business in St. Mary's, Ontario.  While Margaret Eaton's biggest role was raising their children, she also gave her husband suggestions from time to time regarding the store.  For instance, when the clerks working in the hat department couldn't get Mr. Eaton to install a mirror for customers, they approached Mrs. Eaton.  Soon enough, they had not one but two mirrors.

Timothy passed away from pneumonia in 1906.  However, his widow tried to keep his memory alive.  In 1914, she commissioned a church to be built in her husband's honour, Timothy Eaton Memorial United Church.  In 1919, to celebrate Eaton's 50th birthday, Mrs. Eaton opened the doors with a gold key, something her husband used to do every morning in the early years of the business.


Mrs. Timothy Eaton opens the Eaton's Store with a golden key circa 1919 courtesy

Friday 22 January 2016

The $14,000 Letter from the Titanic

RMS Titanic 3.jpg

The Titanic photo snapped on April 10, 1912, the same day that George Graham wrote his letter courtesy

Canadian Eaton's department store buyer Nathan Mills paid 86 pounds for a ticket to the Titanic and yet he never boarded the ship. 

Timothy Eaton had taken 50 years to build up his business and now Canadians were quite familiar with the name, thanks in large part to its catalogue.  The Eaton's Catalogue was referred to as the "Homesteader's Bible" since it was used for anything from reading material for new immigrants to hockey pads for young boys to paper dolls for little girls to toilet paper for outhouse occupants.  Capitalizing on the success of the catalogue, Timothy's son Sir John, who carried on the business after his father's death, was looking for more goods to fill its pages.  Canada's population was relatively small at the time, sitting at a mere 8 million.

Back in April of 1912, Mr. Mills, from the hamlet of Woodham, Ontario, was sent to England to buy merchandise for the T. Eaton Company.  Mr. Mills, an employee of the Toronto Eaton's, along with his co-worker Mr. George Graham, a Winnipeg store employee originally from St. Mary's (near Woodham) were hoping to purchase goods in the metropolis of London (population 1 million) and other British cities, that they would not find at home:  tweed suits from Scotland and fine bone china from England.

After a week of buying, the Eaton's colleagues were ready to return to Canada, both eager to be a part of the Titanic's maiden voyage.  However, at the last minute, Sir John Eaton sent Nathan Mills a telegram detaining him for another week, saying he had more business for him to attend to.  Mr. Graham headed to Southampton without his business partner. 

The ship sailed, collided with an iceberg in the Atlantic and sank, many of its passengers perishing in the icy waters.  Mr. Mills read the death list and was shocked to learn that his colleague went down with the ship.  Mr. Mills returned to Canada later on another vessel, his life spared all because of some unfinished business. 

Note:  George Graham wrote a letter to a business associate in Berlin while on board the Titanic which was auctioned off in New York City in 2009 for $14,000 US.  To read the letter, visit

I dedicate this post to my Great Aunt Florence, a niece of Nathan Mills.

Thursday 21 January 2016

The Department Store Candy Counter

When I entered Grade 7, my mom let me take the bus downtown with a friend.  It was a rite of passage.  We visited the department stores, including Kresge's, Woolworth's, The Right House, and Eaton's.  A highlight for me was a stop at the candy counter.  Just the aroma would put me in a good mood.  Customers could purchase anything from rosebuds to malt balls to broken O'Henry's to hard candy.  I would always choose chocolate squares which the clerk would place in a white paper bag for me to savour on the bus ride home.

While Hamilton had its fair share of chocolate, Toronto had a rich history in the candy business. The Kerr Brothers, who made hard candies and toffee, originated in St. Thomas but moved to Toronto in 1904.  Rockets were produced at the Ce De Factory on Queen Street, the same street where Eaton's was located.  Laura Secord Chocolates, owned by Toronto's Frank O'Connor opened its doors on Yonge Street in 1913.  (My Dad recently told me that Americans liked Laura Secord Chocolates so much that they sold them in the U.S. as well.  However, with bad memories of Laura Secord warning the British that The Americans were coming during the War of 1812, they sold the chocolates under a different name.)  Finally, the British Company, Cadbury, operated on Gladstone Avenue.  It was there that the Crispy Crunch was born in 1930 as a result of an employee competition.

Wednesday 20 January 2016

The Konkle's Christmas Windows

"To peek in one of their windows, you'd think that here was a home where fairy tales come true." (Toronto Telegram, December 9, 1961)

Eaton's hired Ted and Eleanor Konkle as freelancers to design the Christmas window displays in their Toronto store from 1953 to 1963.  Ted, a graduate of the Toronto School of Art, worked on sculptures for the displays.  Eleanor, a graduate of the Toronto School of Architecture, worked on costumes for the displays. 

Much of the work for the displays was performed at their home, where their two young children could be see the process.  Each Christmas display took about four months to plan and prepare.  Ted and Eleanor would do the research, make the items for the displays, and assemble them in the window. 

Each December, Torontonians would make the pilgrimage to see the fruits of their labour:  the results were nothing short of magical.  Here are some of the exhibits that the Konkle's created:

  • Santa's Toyland (1953)
  • Post Office (1955)
  • Town Square (1958)
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas (1959)
  • Renaissance Creche (1961)
  • Fantasia Animal Ballet (1962)
  • Home for the Holidays (1963)

Home for the Holidays (1961) courtesy

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Timothy Eaton Converts to Methodism

When Timothy Eaton first immigrated to Canada, he was a Presbyterian.  However, within a couple of years, in 1858, he converted to Methodism, part of the tent revivals in rural Ontario at the time.  Circuit riders would travel the area on horseback and preach in each town.  As a new convert, Timothy Eaton taught Sunday School at Kirkton Methodist Church along side my great-great grandfather, Thomas Tufts, also a convert.

What Timothy Eaton learned from Methodism was servant leadership, a trait that he took with him to the big city of Toronto.  Just as Christ served his disciples, Timothy Eaton served his customers.  From the moment he opened his store with his skeleton key, to the moment he locked it in the evening, he was busy working.  Like any good business owner, he was not afraid to get his hands dirty.  And his employees appreciated this trait.  The Eaton's motto of "Faith, hope and human service reflected the Christian motto of "Faith, hope and charity".  

Nine years after Timothy Eaton passed away, his widow had a majestic Methodist church constructed in his memory, a fitting tribute to a passionate Methodist.

Methodist Church, Kirkton, Ont.

Kirkton Methodist Church circa 1910 courtesy 

Monday 18 January 2016

Dear Santa Letters

During its century and a quarter existence the Eaton's Santa received hundreds of thousands of letters from thousands of Canadian children.  By 1915, Santa was receiving 15,000 letters.  Every letter was given a response.  Here are a few samples:

1.  Janet wrote:  "I sure enjoyed your parade last Saturday.  I was lucky and had a very good seat in the City Hall.  So I got a very good view of yourself and your reindeer."

2.  David wrote:  "How are you feeling today.  I saw the Santa Claus Parade on TV because I wasn't feeling too well...I would like a Johnny Astro or a motorrific car and something for Budi bird."

3.  Mary wrote:  "Please would you give me some doll house funcheur (furniture)...I have some Coke and food for your reindeer.  I will right (sic) the names of them if I could but I can't.  There is a pichure (sic) for you."

Letters to Santa Claus, [195?]

Sunday 17 January 2016

Recycling the Eaton's Catalogue

While the Eaton's Catalogue was used by thousands of Canadians as a mail order service, they found alternative uses for it past its "due date".  Here are a few purposes that the "Homesteader's Bible" served:

1.  Gordie Howe talked about how he used to strap a catalogue to each of his shins and use it as goalie pads during hockey games with his young friends.

2.  New Canadian immigrants pored over the Eaton's Catalogue to learn English.  The words, accompanied by drawings, and later photographs, helped them to learn the language.

3.  Young girls cut out silhouettes and used them as dolls; they cut out clothing to dress their dolls.

4.  Children used the catalogue drawings or photographs for school projects or scrapbooks.

5.  Pages could be torn from the catalogue, bunched up and put between the walls as insulation.  Newspapers served the same purpose, something my husband discovered in my in-law's cottage walls.

6.  One room schoolhouses used the catalogues as reading material.  Teachers cut out the letters to make alphabet books.

7.  Homesteaders pasted the pages on their walls as decorations.

8.  Rural residents used the catalogue as a cultural link to the outside world.

9.  Teenage boys used the swimsuit section as an early Sports Illustrated.

10.  The catalogue served as reading material while sitting on the toilet in the outhouse.

11.  Pages served as toilet paper as well.

12.  Homemakers made patterns and sewed articles of clothing from the fashions in the catalogue.

Saturday 16 January 2016

The Life of a Catalogue Fashion Illustrator

Pauline LeGoff Boutal was a French immigrant who settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba in the early 1900's.  The daughter and granddaughter of stained glass window artists, she had a flair for the arts.  She studied at both the Winnipeg Art Club and the Winnipeg School of Art.  While many artists are not able to make a living at it, such was not the case with Pauline who was hired by Bridgens of Manitoba, which had a contract with Eaton's Catalogue.  Illustrated magazines were the multimedia of the day; in fact, Bridgens employed 60 to 100 Canadian artists as well specialized artists from Chicago and New York City. 

Whereas other fashion illustrators had to work their way up at Bridgens, because of Pauline's background, she only had to apprentice for six weeks.  Pauline secured a $10 a week position with the company which would last for 23 years.  Known as Madame Boutal by her co-workers, perhaps because Paris was the fashion capital and she was French, she carved out a good living at the company.  Days lasted eight hours, although Pauline put in overtime when a catalogue was about to be launched.  While the artists at Bridgen's put in long hours, there was still time for fun.  The artists enjoyed a strong camaraderie, playing football in the hallways, playing hockey between the drafting tables and pulling practical jokes on each other. 

The work that Pauline and the other artists completed was meticulous and precise.  Pauline demonstrated an expert knowledge of ink drawings.  She created an impression of depth with her drawings of elegant silhouettes.  Rather than copying drawings, Pauline relied on her vivid imagination.  The street served as an inspiration for the young artist. 

Pauline had to be aware of current hairstyles, make up and fashion.  Her silhouettes changed over time:  in the 1920's, they were small and sculpted; in the 1930's, they had straight profiles, no wasitlines and short, wavy hair; by the 1930's, they were active and outdoors.  Each page of the catalogue was like a poster.  Pauline had to be aware of the black and white space, titles, calligraphy, prices and drawings.  Her attention to detail served her well. 

Pauline stopped working for Bridgen's in 1941.  By the 1950's, photographs seemed to replace drawings.  Pauline continued her work as a fashion illustrator. 

Pauline Boutal at work, 1947.

Friday 15 January 2016

How Eaton's Influenced Canadian Culture

"Eaton's Department Store, Simpson's and the Hudson's Bay Company were the three major stores that represented Canadian pride, nationalism and modernity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries," 
(Donica Belisle, Retail Nation:  Department Stores and the Making of Modern Canada )

Eaton's helped bring Canada into the modern age with its catalogue which reached rural places that would otherwise not have access to its products.  Selling everything from farm implements to prefabricated houses to the latest appliances, the catalogue represented modern culture at its best.  As an Eaton's advertisement from 1892 announced:  "This is emphatically an age of PROGRESS.  The golden age is before us, not behind, and those who're unwilling to keep up with the procession will have the decency to STAND ASIDE." 

Eaton's represented Canadian nationalism and pride, particularly during the First and Second World Wars.  The Eaton's Catalogue displayed patriotic covers during the war years.  Gift baskets were sent to Canadian soldiers overseas to boost their morale.  Eaton's employees who served overseas had their jobs held for them until they returned.  Sometimes their medical expenses due to war injuries were paid by Eaton's.

Eaton's also affected popular culture.  The Santa Claus Parade, which debuted in 1905, set the tone for other major parades in North America (see  Many Canadian children grew up watching the parade either from Toronto's Yonge Street or on their television screen.  Those children often grew up to be Eaton's customers.

Eaton's is even mentioned in Canadian literature, specifically the French Canadian folktale Le Chandail de Hockey (The Hockey Sweater) in which a young Roch Carrier asks his mother to buy him a new hockey sweater.  He is so disappointed when his mother, who writes to Monsieur Eaton, receives a Toronto Maples Leafs jersey rather than a Montreal Canadiens one.  For fear of offending Monsieur Eaton, Roch's mother insists that he wear "le chandail".  Being a Torontonian, I guess it only made sense that Monsieur Eaton would have been a Leafs fan.

Timothy Eaton has also left his mark on the world of religion.  A former Presbyterian who converted to Methodism during the tent revivals in Southern Ontario, Timothy was a devout Christian.  After his death, his widow had a church built in his memory, Timothy Eaton Memorial Methodist Church, later United, which is still in use today.

Flora Eaton, an active fundraiser for the Red Cross, allowed Eaton Hall to be used as a military hospital during the Second World War courtesy

Thursday 14 January 2016

Eaton's Garment Factories: Early Sweat Shops

"We control the manufacture of garments in our own factories.  Every step until the garments are finished and delivered to you is directed toward saving you money." (Eaton's)

By 1931, the year my grandparents got married, Eaton's had 19 acres of factories in which it employed 6411 employees working on 5000 electric machines.  These high quality garments would then be sold in the Eaton's stores.  In the pre-World War I days, customers would mail in their measurements and a clerk would match them with the correct size.  These custom made garments were made by professional dressmakers.  In 1911, Eaton's employed 10,000 such dressmakers.
However, within a decade, the number of dressmakers dropped from 10,000 to 5,000 as ready made clothing replaced the custom made garments. 

Whereas in the Eaton's stores, the employees tended to be well treated by the management, this was not the case in the factories, which were "ill lighted, unheated and unventilated".  Workers were forbidden from speaking while they worked as time was of the essence.  During the Great Depression, people could only afford basic clothing and the demand for garments plummeted.  Layoffs hit the garment industry and the workers' pay decreased by 30 to 50 %.    A woman who would make 12 voile dresses for $3.60 now received only $1.75 for the same product. 

The Industrial Union of Needle Trade Workers, a Communist organization, was formed to combat the poor treatment of garment workers.  A Royal Commission was established to investigate the problem further.  Garment worker Annie Wells testified that a dress that was sold for $1.59 she would receive only 9 1/2 cents.  The commission conclude that "labour and wage conditions in [the needle trades] are such as to merit the most emphatic condemnation."  The commission made the public aware of the plight of garment workers.

Finally, in 1931, the Eaton's factory workers wetn on strike.  Women carrying placards on the picket line were harassed by a private eye hired by the company.  Replacement workers were imported from England.  Some striekrs were arrested by the city police.  It would not be until the Second World War that the unions gained a stronger foothold and the garment makers' wages increased.

Meanwhile, garments which were originally made in Canada started to be manufactured in other countries, such as China, for a cheaper wage.


Wednesday 13 January 2016

The Golden Age of the Department Store

"It's all a far cry from the golden age of the big department store, when it was a place you dressed up to visit, just as you did when boarding an airplane or attending an NHL game."
(Jon Wells, "The Way We Shopped:  Hamilton and the Golden Age of the Department Store")

When my dad was growing up in Toronto in the 1930's and 1940's, that was the golden age of the department store.  Eaton's was located downtown on Queen Street.  My grandma would put on her best dress, don her fur coat and hat, and climb on the streetcar to head downtown for some serious shopping.

Department stores were all about what was pleasing to the eye, "designed with Edwardian architectural touches, ornate doorways, huge display windows; and inside, Art Deco flair".  ( When my grandma took a trip to Eaton's, it was like a feast for the senses:  it never disappointed. 

Department stores were all about the ambience.  When my grandma opened the doors to the Eaton's store on Queen Street, she wasn't run over by a sale hungry mob.  She didn't rush down the aisles, her fur hat flying off her head, to find what she was looking for.  She didn't mutter epithets under her breath as she waited at the checkout with her purchases.  No, my grandma took her time when she shopped.  She waited patiently in line until she was served.  She thanked the salesperson properly for her service.

Department stores back then were all about service.  At Eaton's, she would be greeted by a polite elevator operator who would ask her what floor she wanted.  A courteous salesperson in the perfume department would greet her with samples of scents.  Another polite salesperson would help her pick out some children's clothing for my dad, maybe a pair of short pants that he hated so much.  A third courteous salesperson would help her pick out a spring hat for Easter.  In the shoe department, a sales clerk would help her try on a comfortable pair of shoes.  In the housewares department, a sales clerk would show her a selection of casserole dishes to purchase, since casseroles were her specialty.  At the candy counter, a sales clerk would fill a bag with some rosebuds which she would hand to my grandma with a smile.  The same elevator operator who brought my grandma upstairs would bring her back down, still smiling.  Grandma would exit the store, her parcels in hand, feeling quite good about the whole experience.

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Eaton's: From Sea to Sea

Most large Canadian cities boasted an Eaton's store in the centre of their downtown shopping core and if they didn't, there was the ever present Eaton's Catalogue. (Bruce Allen Copytek, Eaton's:  The Trans-Canada Store)

Allan points out in his book Eaton's:  The Trans-Canada Store that the phrase "A Mari Usque Ad Mare", written on Canada's Coat of Arms, refers both to the nation and the department store.  Both the nation, formed in 1867, and the department store, opened in 1869, eventually stretched from sea to sea.  At the time of Confederation, Canada had only four provinces:  Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  Bit by bit, the nation grew to ten provinces and two (now three) territories.  When Eaton's opened, it consisted of just the Queen Street Store.  At its peak, it included almost 100 stores across Canada, hence the term Trans-Canada Store. 

Designed by fine Canadian architects, there was the classic Eaton's store built on Ste Catherine Street in Montreal and the art deco store built on College Street in Toronto.  The downtown Saskatoon store is a landmark used by the Board of Education.  The red brick Portage Avenue store in Winnipeg was a beautiful building.  While the Hamilton store is a simple yellow brick design, it was built to last. 

They say that one in six Canada either worked at Eaton's or knew someone who did.  And of course the number of Canadians who shopped at Eaton's was even higher.  At its peak, Eaton's became "part of the social fabric of Canada," touching every province, from sea to sea.

Monday 11 January 2016

Eaton's Catalogue Covers Reflect the Times

Eaton's Catalogue covers changed dramatically over its almost 100 year history.  Early catalogues seemed to focus on the Eaton's store and the country of Canada.  Later catalogues focussed on the family, and eventually, the individual.  For more information about the catalogue, visit  Here is a small sampling of what Canadians used to call The Homesteader's Bible.

The original Eaton's Catalogue circa 1884 displayed the Toronto storefront courtesy

The Eaton's Catalogue circa 1897 reminds me of my elementary school notebooks courtesy

Eaton's Catalogue circa 1903 boasts mail order service "from sea to sea" courtesy 

The Eaton's Catalogue of 1908 reminds me of the Flintstone's episode where Fred (aka Santa) parachutes over chimneys as he delivers presents.  Photo courtesy

The Eaton's Catalogue circa 1918 features a patriotic image given the First World War has just ended courtesy

Good quality artwork featured on the 1922 Eaton's Catalogue courtesy

Eaton's Catalogue circa 1942 focusses on a mother and daughter courtesy's_Spring_and_Summer_Catalogue_1942.jpg.

A young hockey player could be outfitted at Eaton's circa 1948 courtesy

Christmas 1959 courtesy 

This woman reminds me of Jacqueline Kennedy circa 1961 courtesy

Sisters waiting for Santa circa 1967 courtesy

Sunday 10 January 2016

Eaton's Goes to War

They were faithful unto Death.  In proud remembrance of the two hundred and sixty three members of the Eaton staff who made the supreme sacrifice in World War II, having gone forth valiantly to
fight for the survival of freedom.  Their names are here inscribed so that all may read who pass this way. (Eaton's War Memorial Plaque, 1948)

On Remembrance Day, 1948, Eaton's unveiled a plaque honouring the staff who served in the Second World War at their Toronto, Winnipeg and Montreal stores.  The plaque was similar to the one commissioned by Sir John Craig Eaton to honour employees who served in the First World War.  Sir John Craig had paid the salaries of those fighting overseas.  R. Y Eaton reinstituted the practice of subsidizing employees who served during the Second World War.  Married men were given a salary that when added to their military salary was equal to their regular pay.  Bachelors were given two thirds of their salary.  Eaton's employees who received an honourable discharge were given their old jobs back or given an equivalent position.  After the war, John David Eaton had his staff organize a series of banquets to honour the veterans, the first of which was held at Eaton Hall in King City north of Toronto.  Twenty five hundred veterans attended the event.  Attendees were honoured with 18 karat gold signet rings.

Portrait of Sir John Craig Eaton

Eaton's World War victory statue promoting victory bonds courtesy

Saturday 9 January 2016

The Eaton's Santa Claus Parade is Christmas

"The Eaton's Parade is Christmas." (Bruce West)

It all started in 1905 when a man in a red suit and white beard arrived at Union Station in Toronto. Accompanied by the Eaton family, he walked to the Eaton's store on Queen Street as a crowd looked on.  Not to be outdone, two years later, he arrived on horseback to be greeted by excited children and their parents.  From 1910 to 1912, the parade was a two day event, starting in Newmarket and finishing in Toronto at Massey Hall, where Santa Claus was welcomed by 9000 children.  In 1913, Santa arrived by a sleigh pulled by eight live reindeer from Labrador.  

Santa arrives via sleigh pulled by live reindeer courtesy

In 1917, floats were added to the parade for the first time, all built by Eaton's employees.  Volunteers rode on the float, outfitted in costumes sewn by Eaton's seamstresses.  In 1919, Santa Claus made a grand entrance, arriving by airplane.  In 1930, the Mother Goose float premiered at the parade, becoming a thirty year tradition.  The Great Depression did not deter Santa Claus or the parade planners:  the parade continued as planned, although some of the floats would have been made of cheaper materials.  The Second World War did not interfere with the parade either, although the floats were pulled by horses rather than gas guzzling tractors.  In 1941, half a million spectators attended the parade.

A crowd awaits Santa in 1918 courtesy

The 1950's ushered in a new era as the parade was telecast on TV for the first time.  While in 1949, only 3600 Canadian households had a television set, by 1960, three quarters of Canadians owned one.  Many tuned in to the parade which included 2000 participants by 1952.  Children who volunteered for the parade were paid a small fee.  Colouring books were handed out to children in the crowd.  Eaton's took out full page ads in the newspaper to promote the event.  The parade, the largest of its kind in North America at the time, never grew old.  As one Torontonian explained:  The parade promoted "a rare and special thing called wonder".

Once Santa Claus arrived at the Eaton's Store on Queen Street, children would line up in front of the magical Christmas window and push their noses up to the glass to catch a glimpse of the latest toys. The line wound its way around to Toyland, where the tots each took a turn on Santa's knee, sharing with the jolly man their Christmas wishes.  

While Eaton's withdrew their sponsorship in 1982 due to financial difficulties, the parade continues. As Torontonian Bruce West explained:  "The Eaton's parade is Christmas".  The two cannot be separated.