Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas...the best days of our lives in the '50's and '60's...

Chapples Limited Home Store.....(sorry no winter shot), which is now in Victoriaville(more about that, click here or scroll down on my blog) downtown Fort William..... which recently housed local government during the current City Hall renovation..... had the most incredible toy department during the 1950's, and here is me, a bit too big to sit on Santa's knee in about 1951 in Chapples Basement toy department(I'm sure everyone has a photo just like this one).
Chapples founded in 1915 as a family dry goods and ladies fashion store soon expanded to becoming Fort William's(now Thunder Bay) premier department store with branches throughout NW Ontario communities. They later built the "home store" shown above. Sadly Chapples closed for business in 1981 after an incredible run of business for almost 70 years.
.....The script of a radio program in 1950 sponsored by Chapples Stores Ltd in Nov and Dec 1950 entitled "The Santa Claus Show" was broadcast over the CKPR Radio airwaves in installments at 6:15 - 6:30 pm nightly except Sundays and had also been put on at the Orpheum Theatre as a stage show. However, on Dec 1, 1951 a much larger show was to be played out at the Fort William Gardens featuring such characters as "George the Porter" and "Suzie Snowflake". A single show at 10:15 am that day attracted about 4000 people as well as hundreds of performers from the Sylvia Horne School of Dancing.
This show continued annually at the Gardens until about 1962, however, the 44th annual Chapples Christmas Santa Claus Show in 1954 had attracted over 12,000 kids over two shows at 9 and 11 am.
....The letter and envelope below(an answer to my letter to Santa) was actually received just before the last Chapples show that was held at the Orpheum Theatre in 1950. My dear mother and I had saved the Chapples Santa picture above plus this wonderful(oh yes...pure advertising) letter from Chapples Limited in 1950 for nearly 60 years especially to share with you!(now that's really pure advertising...LOL)
I love the postmark........SNOW PALACE 1950 NORTH POLE!

Now here are a couple of old fuzzy pictures...the one on the left being Chapples Dept. Store (The Grain Exchange building as it was called as well), on the corner of Victoria Ave and Syndicate Ave(now mostly inside Victoriaville) was there many years before the home store was built.
The one on the right is the Orpheum Theatre(where about 40 some years of the Chapples Santa Claus show was held before being moved to the FW Gardens) which was on the corner of Victoria Ave and Archibald Street(now the parking lot for Centennial Square). The left end of the theatre(two story building) would be about where the doors are located for the west end of the present day Victoriaville Mall.
Please click on all photos to enlarge.


Anonymous said...

Love the blog and the pics! I spent a lot of time here just looking at pics and reading. :) I remember Chapples when I was a very little girl and still miss that store.

You stated that it closed in the 70s. It actually closed in 1981...according to the TBay Museum.

Dave Cano said...

Well...I was close anyway...thanks for the correction and the comment...much appreciated! I have a friend that also proofreads for me but I guess we missed this one.

Anonymous said...

I spent a great deal of my time going to Chapples and we would stand around listening to records in the music dept. This was back about 1963 and onward. It was great!!
I bought my first decent record player at this store and still remember the salesman Mr. Pope.
I grew up in Fort William and moved away many years ago. I never lived in a better or nicer city and have truly great memories of what a truly wonderful place it was.
I also remember buying records at Jerome's record store on Victoria Avenue as well.

Dave Cano said...

Thanks for your comments about Chapples....Do you also remember the record booths in Heintzmans across the street from Chapples? Great memories of a wonderful time.

David Hurdon said...

I worked for Chapples from about 1974 until it closed in 1981. Great to see your content. I recall watching the Santa Claus parade from the roof of the Main Store and of course the display department was overrun with material for the Gardens show every holiday season. For some reason I thought Clem Chapple founded the store in 1908. Do you have attribution for 1915?

Dave Cano said...

Hello David and thanks for your comments. The 1915 statement on the blog comes from the Thunder Bay museum fonds....That is the only source I have regarding this. If you have proof of any other dates, I would like to hear from you. Regards, D.

Anonymous said...

Everyone thinks I'm crazy....well maybe my family is BUT NOT ME!!
As a child George the Porter (one of my relatives in black face) made the rounds with Santa Claus to my house as well as my cousins and handed us oranges out of a sack. I thought this was a common occurance all over the world but NOOOOOOOOoooo seems like just the family out of Current River....As I got older and talked about George the Porter I would get these looks like, "what the hell are you on? and give me some!" . Ah well....I was so happy to see someone else knows who George the Porter is. Thanks E.Frowen