Situated at 794 Canboro Road, in what is now the Grill on Canboro, Yager’s Green Lantern was a go-to destination in Fenwick for almost 70 years. Why “Green Lantern”?
Lelia Balfour Raines, daughter of Walter K. and Jennie Balfour, for whom Balfour Road was named, ran a confectionery store on the ground floor of the Odd Fellows’ building. It was she who chose the name, inspired by a small green lantern which she found and hung in the store.
Her parents operated the business much of the time. Tables and chairs provided a place for patrons to enjoy their ice cream —a special treat on Saturday evenings, when stores in most towns remained open for country people to do their shopping. On such evenings in summer, the Ridgeville Band was sometimes hired to play, and lawn bowlers made use of the lighted greens next door (site of the former Fenwick Post Office).
An assortment of penny candy, chocolates, and gum made the store a popular spot with young villagers. Students of Pelham Continuation School, and later Pelham High School, recall The Green Lantern as the place where they purchased new textbooks and supplies, since this was the only store in Pelham Township selling secondary school books.
Ralph and Bernice Yager purchased the business in 1942, enlarging the floor space and changing the name to Yager’s Green Lantern. They added a lunch counter and eating area and expanded the stock to include magazines, cigarettes, bread, milk, newspapers, cards, giftware, trinkets, school supplies, pop, perfume, shaving cream, bubble gum, toothpaste, black ball candies, hand soap, chocolate bars, bandaids, potato chips, nylons, shoe polish, hot water bottles, aspirins, matches, sewing supplies, batteries, toys, shampoo, wrapping paper and bows, and just about anything else you might need or think of.
When their son Bob and his wife Linda took over the business in 1985, they added a Sears Catalogue outlet. Bob and Linda were great supporters of minor sports, and, win or lose, teams regularly stopped in after their games for a thick milkshake or ice-cold bottle of pop.
Yager’s Green Lantern was a huge part of the Fenwick community. At a time when everyone supported local businesses, people came to Fenwick to do their banking, get their car fixed, pick up groceries, or get a haircut. Yager’s was a favourite stop for a cup of coffee, a burger, a sandwich or piece of pie, to meet friends and neighbours and to catch up on the latest news.
They were renowned for their Christmas window displays and children looked forward to visiting with Santa in the weeks before Christmas, when he came to town sitting on a farm wagon, pulled by a tractor. Town staff and Ontario Hydro employees worked together with the Fenwick Lions, putting up the beautiful decorations that were strung across the street and on the downtown flagpole. Afterwards, the men looked forward to a hot dinner courtesy of the restaurant. Christmas carols were piped inside and outside the store for all to enjoy, making downtown Fenwick a truly magical place.
Of all the jobs that I had over the years, working at Yager’s Green Lantern after school was my absolute favourite. Dishing up “scutterbotch” ice cream, flipping burgers, concocting swamp water, listening to the latest tunes on the jukebox— especially BTO’s “Taking Care of Business,” which meant my friend Terry was in for his supper.
It was a Yager’s where I got to meet some wonderful and interesting people —who could forget Edie Rhora, Miles Stickles, Hoppy Hopkins, whistling Harry Gilbert, George Alsop, Ken Bardon, Miss Delamater, Mrs. Elliott, and Arnold Page? Or Ernie George, who drove his door-less pickup truck, and Mrs. Ned, who drove her green Cockshut tractor to town? Working with Aunty Ei Fletcher, Alice Martin, and Sue McMenemy, it was the best job in the world. Everyone is gone now, and although the building remains, any traces of The Green Lantern have vanished and I’m left with only my memories. I was truly blessed to have grown up in Fenwick.
Special thanks to the Pelham Historical Society calendar, 1993, and to Bob and Linda Yager. Find the Yager’s Green Lantern display at the Maple Acre Branch of the Pelham Public Library, in Fenwick, through February. ♦