Excerpts from “Walk J” in “St. Catharines A-Z” by Junius, originally published in the St. Catharines Journal on July 10th, 1856.
Last week we went shopping for household goods and groceries and this week we will continue on our shopping spree! The first stop on our walk today is for a pair of shoes. There were many cobblers in St. Catharines but the most interesting is George Adams Esquire, who according to Junius “uses his funds principally in grog and drink”. Apparently it is Adams who the phrase “You lie like a shoemaker” was first said in honour of…if you could take that to be an honour! Junius also stated that every person used up two pairs of boots our shoes per year, which according to him meant that in 1856 “the inhabitants of Canada require six millions of pairs”. (I probably shouldn’t tell you how many pairs of shoes are currently in my closet but I think it is very safe to say that that number has grown significantly).
Next we can fill our homes with beautiful, comfortable, ornate and hand crafted chairs, tables, settees, sofas and book cases. Junius suggests purchasing furniture from Thomas McIntyre who was an especially skilled carpenter. I happen to know that some of his pieces still grace homes in the Niagara area to this day. Junius’ writing appears to be reminiscent of a town crier advertising for “Mr. Mack”: “Ye loungers! Who love your ease, call on Mr. Mac and he will sell you a sofa cheap, which will assuredly please! Ye house-keepers, who want a furniture fitting and, just call on him, and he will do it for you brown, (not George Brown) but varnish sining, brown. Ye farmers who always go in for the substantial’s of life, and who are always sensible to the last, take a drive into Town, and up to Mr. McIntyre’s Cabinet shop, leave your orders, or buy his ready made goods, of which he keeps a large assortment on hand, take them home to Ma and Sis, and if they don’t please, call us no judge of nice things and serviceable furniture.”
Junius takes readers through the city, helping them spend every last cent they have! There are blinds and sash’s to buy from William Parnall; “wine, brandy, gin, whiskey, rot-gut, champagne, or lager bier” to buy from Taylor’s or White’s Ale. There must be over a dozen dress makers, and don’t be afraid to tip when you buy your next frock because: “One thing has always puzzled, perplexed and perturbed us very much; and that is the insufficient, unjust, unequal and un-enough compensation for the tiresome toil, sedentary sewing, sixteen hours a-day stitching and wearisome work of our milliners, dress-makers, habit-makers, shirt-makers, clothes-makers and female seamstresses.”
Junius had lots to share with us on this walk. Lists of brick masons, tinsmiths, coopers, pot asheries, vets who can heal even the lamest of horses, mechanics, harness makers and tailors. St. Catharines was a city that had so much to offer its citizens in the way of access to various products and trades, even back in the mid-1800’s. A lot of what Junius shared with his readers is accurate even today, including this little piece of advice: “While you are laboring with your body, strive to improve your minds. Read good works, think much, and reflect more. Make everything bend to your noble purposes and high resolves….Your future success depends upon your own individual exertions. Double your diligence, both in your work and in your study. Do nothing superficially. ‘Be diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord’ and then, you will most assuredly be successful and prosperous.”
On another note, Junius stated in the middle of this walk that: “These little reminiscences of our Town, and of our once fellow-townsmen, are not only interesting, but pleasing indeed; and many of them will long be treasured up in the hearts of surviving relatives and friends, be handed down from father to son, mother to daughter, and will be rehearsed by them, long after we have done with the things of time and sense.” You were right Junius. The citizens of St. Catharines are still enjoying all of your treasured little tidbits about our city of yesteryear and so, we thank you!