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We Made Baldur

Merchant

General Merchant Percival Curtis

 

 
 



Percy and Alice Curtis both came from England. Percy Faulkner, son of C.W. Curtis of Dersley, was born in 1860. He came to Canada in 1883, and farmed in the Pembina Valley, where he met Alice Lea.

Alice, the fifth child in R.N. Lea's family of 12, was born in Staffordshire in 1875. She came to Canada with the Lea family in 1878, and settled with them on a farm 10 miles south of Manitou and one mile from Pembina Crossing.

Percy and Alice were married in 1893, in St. Luke's Anglican Church at Pembina Crossing. Before coming to Baldur, they lived in the Bahamas, on a farm where they raised sisal. When they came to Baldur, they bought Mr. Griffith's general store.

From the time of their arrival about 1895, Percy and Alice became active and highly respected citizens. By their participation in the life of the community, their deep interest in the youth, and their never failing generosity, they well deserved the respect and affection which they soon received from all who knew them.

Percy spared neither time nor money in his desire to help promote good sport for the youth of the community. In 1900, he gave cricket sets to boys of several school districts, and in the news of that time there is an account of the first cricket match. Excelsior vs. Baldur, which was followed by races, jumping and other contests; and finally a dinner served in the store. No wonder they sang, "He's a Jolly Good Fellow'.

In the same year, a boy's hockey club and a lacrosse club were organized. A tennis club followed in 1901, and in 1902, a rifle club was added. No doubt other men were involved in these projects, but always mention was made of Mr. Curtis.

Percy and Alice were also vitally interested in the serious side of life. They were staunch Anglicans, and gave their whole-hearted support to the building of St. Mark's, Baldur. If illness came to a family, they gave their support, and showed their sympathy in whatever way would be of greatest benefit. Briefly stated, they were citizens who endeared themselves to young and old alike. When they left in 1908, to make their retirement
home in Victoria, B.C., the best wishes of the whole community went with them.

Adapted from Come into our Heritage, page 376.


 

Baldur’s  first store

Some excerpts from the Baldur Gazette, Special Edition, March 14, 1899 on Percy’s business endeavours:

 - “Mr. P. H. Curtis, General Merchant …bought out the business and proČperty of Mr. Geo. Griffith about four years ago. This store was the first one opened in the town. The residence is built in connection with the store and has a beautiful lawn bordered with very handsome maple trees. “

-  “Mr. P. F. Curtis, (in 1907) purchased the Gazette. … Mr. Curtis, remained in that capacity …  until February 1909 the ownership passed from Mr. Curtis to Miss Annie Playfair, …”

- “We also find a privČate line constructed by Curtis between his stores in Baldur and Greenway, using the Canadian Northern Telegraph poles for this purpose.”

Curtis Block / Victoria Hall

In 1901 Mr. Curtis completed a new brick two-storey building with a distinctive corner entrance and a second level balcony. Proprietors included the Playfair Brothers, Neil McDonald, Frederickson’s Cash Store, W.G. Kilgour and the Co-op. The upper level was called the Victoria Hall after Queen Victoria. It was home to various public gatherings and entertainments, including movies in its later years.

Mr. Curtis rented his store to the Playfair Bros. for a general store in 1905; Allison and Macdonald succeeded the Playfair Bros. in 1908, until 1918 when Mr. Macdonald removed his stock to Elgin and the store was vacant until Frederickson and Son took it in hand for general merchandise purposes, which they conducted until 1925 when Mr. G. Kilgour bought it for a general store
 
 

The Curtis Block / Victoria Hall
This fine Romanesque Revival building, with rich brick details, stood on the corner of Elizabeth Avenue and Second Street.



A Day in the Life of a General Store

The small-town general store, also known as mercantiles and emporiums, were essential aspect of commercial activity in small-town life, and saw their heyday in the period between 1880 and 1930.

These establishments served the rural populations of small towns and villages and the farmers in the surrounding area. Besides selling dry goods, farming equipment and other supplies, they sometimes also served as the local post office, drugstore and undertaker. They were also a popular meeting place for socializing and news gathering.

The storekeepers stocked their establishments with merchandise procured from salesmen who represented wholesale houses and manufacturers found in larger cities. Merchandise selections were often large and varied, though most of the items available for sale were those of necessity. As people and businesses prospered in the economy during the 1890s more luxury items were introduced into the store inventories. The expansion of the railroads, the advent of mass production and technological advances such as the refrigerated railcar to transport perishable foods all combined to escalate the national distribution and variety of goods that were available in the stores.

Most of the wall space in a general store was taken up with shelving to store and display for the merchandise; likewise the floors were crowded with barrels, wooden boxes and crates. Store counters were good for holding display cases for the smaller items, a coffee grinder, scales and a cash register. Many stores had a display window or two in the front of the building. Cellars, basements and second floors were used for storage of merchandise and displays.

Food and consumables included coffee beans, spices, baking powder, oatmeal, flour, sugar, tropical fruit, hard candy, eggs, milk, butter, fruit and vegetables, honey and molasses, crackers, cheese, syrup and dried beans, cigars and tobacco.

Dry goods included bolts of cloth, pins and needles, thread, ribbon, silk, buttons, collars, undergarments, suspenders, dungarees, hats and shoes.

Essential items such as rifles, pistols, ammunition, lanterns, lamps, rope, crockery, pots and pans, cooking utensils and dishes, farm and milking equipment and even coffins could be found.

The apothecary sections of the stores were well represented with a surprisingly large number of patent medicines, remedies, soaps and toiletries and elixirs.

 

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