Planned display aims to highlight village’s business history
Are you downsizing or just cleaning out old stuff from your house? Keep an eye out for old artifacts and mementos of Fenwick’s business history, because Rosemary Chambers will want to talk to you. Chambers is organizing a permanent display at the Maple Acre branch of the Pelham Library that aims to highlight more than a century of the village’s commercial shops and services.
“It came to mind when my husband’s mom passed away, we found trinkets,” Chambers said. “Businesses used to give out promotional things like calendars … the one I found in particular was a snow scraper.”
Think along the lines of how old Esso stations used to give out promotional items like toy cars or even table hockey sets. That could be apropos, because Chambers said that Fenwick once had four gas stations in or near the centre of town.
Mostly however, she’s looking for items from Fenwick businesses between the years of 1853 and 1953.
“That’s kind of the genre, but we can even go up to the 1970s,” Chambers said. “Just since the ‘70s, so many businesses have closed and they’ve been repurposed, some multiple times.”
Chambers is focused on Fenwick only, given that it was a thriving standalone community before the Town of Pelham was incorporated in 1970.
“It may surprise you that at one time, just to name a few businesses, Fenwick boasted two feed mills, two barber shops, a hardware store, two grocery stores, a bank, a butcher shop, two funeral parlours, a bakery, two hotels, a pharmacy, an apple-drying factory, blacksmith shops, a wheel right shop, a concrete burial vault company, a confectionary, radio and TV sales and repair shop, plus a furniture store,” Chambers said. “Plus, plus, plus!”
Any items from those businesses and beyond are welcome, and if you can donate, Chambers encourages including personal anecdotes about the businesses. She recalls how when she was five years old, her brother took her to the original Fenwick Royal Bank branch — located where the Avondale is now — to open an account.
“I heaved that bag [of coins] over the counter, and I opened my first bank account with 65 cents,” she said.
She recalled a man recounted to her shoplifting a pack of gum from the confectionary as a wayward youth, saying, “That’s where my criminal career began,” greatly exaggerating any such lifetime of unsavoury behaviour.
Chambers has already gathered a diverse array of items, including a sausage press from a butcher, straight razors from barbershops, and a calendar from the former Yager’s Green Lantern.
While she’s on the lookout for more donations, she stresses that if the items become part of the permanent display, they cannot be returned.
Her vision is to build the display around the 1950s aerial photo of Fenwick that the Voice ran in the October 23 issue. “I’m hoping to put numbers on it, and I would have a legend on it and could say that was there, that was there,” she said.
Chambers’ goal is to have the display ready in the library for next spring. Prospective donators are asked to call her at 905-892-2549 or email [email protected]