by Bob Porteous
Let’s take a look around our community and do a little reminiscing. Back in the forties and the fifties, Saturday nights were the big nights for Winchester. Most of the families who lived within commuting distance visited the Village on Saturday nights. Not everyone had motor vehicles, so often there were horses hitched to wagons and buggies tied along the streets. On nice nights, the sidewalks would be jammed with folks talking, visiting, and catching up on the societal news and other happenings. Overhead, one could hear the nighthawk calling as darkness dropped down on the Village. People shopped at the different shops along Main and St. Lawrence streets. They often stopped at Flora’s Restaurant for a hamburger, an ice cream cone, a milkshake, or maybe just a Coke or Pepsi.
In the late forties, the Winchester Theatre opened, and many people would go to the movies every Saturday night. The Golden Pheasant Restaurant, next door to the theatre, became a busy and popular spot. It was also popular with the High School students during school days.
Around the mid fifties, things began to change, and shopping time moved to Friday nights. The movies were one reason; but television was also becoming a big thing, and Saturday nights were “hockey night in Canada”. Many local folks gathered around their black and white TV’s to watch and rabidly cheer for either Montreal Canadiens or the Toronto Maple Leaf’s. If your family didn’t have a television, it was nice to have friends who did, and you could visit on Saturday nights to watch Turk Broda, Tim Horton, Allen Stanley, or maybe, Maurice Richard, Jean Belliveau, or Doug Harvey. Foster Hewitt and Danny Gallivan became well-known names, and so did the names of many players. As youngsters, we would collect photos of those players just by saving and submitting labels of Bee Hive Corn Syrup (so many labels per picture).
Some of the names of stores and businesses in Winchester that come to mind (and many will recall names omitted here); Davidson’s Jewellers, Fawcett’s Jewellers George Elliot’s Dry Goods, T. O. Keyes 5 & 10 cent store, Larose Pharmacy, Steck’s I.G.A., Summer’s Bus Stop Confectionary, Summer’s Restaurant, Summer’s Bakery, McIntosh Grocery, Red & White Grocery Store, McPherson & Summers Grocery Store, Clara Anderson’s Hat Shoppe, Art Leason’s Repair Shop, Heidi’s Restaurant, Reynolds Meat Market, Arnold Duncan’s Store (great popcorn and cheap cigarettes), Shad bolts Stedman’s Store, Muriel’s Flowers, Joanne Shoppe, McKercher’s Pool Room, Hugh McMaster’s and Fennell’s feeds, Hutcheson’s Fuels, Boyd’s Fuels & Bus lines, Geggie’s Hardware , Melvin Motors, McDonald’s Motors, Holmes Plumbing, Don’s Payless Gas, Hylo’s Egg Grading Station, Belways Blacksmith Shop and 4 or 5 beauty and barbershops.
Things kept on changing and, in the Sixties and into the Seventies, more and more people began driving cars and commuting to their places of work. Folks in or near Ottawa began moving to Winchester and other area towns. New homes were built, and towns grew and often became referred to as “bedroom communities”.
Today, local businesses have a tough job competing with the big box and specialty stores, but we, who live in the area, are hopeful that things are beginning to change once more. It seems to have dawned on people that it is to their advantage to be loyal and support local business in order to help ourselves. Big box and specialty outlets and stores in the City do not invest in our local initiatives, our sports teams, or our service organizations. They do not pay taxes to our municipality. Similarly, Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. are not interested in paying for the work they post from reporters and newspaper articles. Witness the loss of local newspapers. It cannot and should not go on.
During the sixties and seventies, the Winchester Lions Club would have 30 or 40 members, some of whom were local business people, while others were folks who knew that, if you want a prosperous, active, and caring community, you have to get in there and do something about it. Our Club today is in dire need of younger, community concerned folks, who want to better their community and/or help those less fortunate. If you are one of these residents speak to a Lion’s Club member. We need YOU!
Next meeting: 7 pm, Legion Meeting Room, Winchester, Ontario March 3, 2021.