Give my regards to Broadway

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Dear Editor: If you are a long-time resident of Corner Brook and are about my age (which, I undauntedly confess, is 68) or older, you can probably remember when the most spectacular and compelling images of Broadway here in the city were major fires that seemed to destroy numerous businesses on that street with disquieting regularity in the 1950s.

Once word spread that a fire was in progress on Broadway, hundreds of persons, young and old, would gather to watch the captivating scene in an excited if semi-sadistic way. (Much to the credit of the merchants who owned the razed stores, they would usually rebuild in a year or less, unfrightened by the possibility of the repeated erasure of their source of  livelihood within a relatively short time.)

 However, my favourite memories of Broadway are much more natural and civil than raging flames. They begin with the year 1950, when I started school and did the first of five grades at the venerable building called simply “Broadway School.” I quickly made friends with many other children at that time, and one of our favourite activities during our spare time at school was buying items at what now would seem utterly ridiculous prices. I recall buying coke at Herritt’s Store on Broadway for five cents, bananas at the Green Lantern for one cent and chocolate bars for a maximum of 10 cents. Once 1956 came, I was old enough to take an active interest in baseball and hockey, and I began intense literary exploration by buying The Hockey News for about 25 cents. This practice, of course, also reminds me of collecting hockey cards, which started with bubble gum purchases on Broadway and which many of us 11-year-olds did with deep devotion and ongoing excitement.

Other venues that were the center of attention and regular endeavours were the theatres on Broadway, called the Palace and the Regent. I remember that  my ultra-conservative parents would permit me to attend a movie only once a week, and that day was usually the prime focus of my expectations for any given seven-day period. I was most rivetingly interested in western movies and in the Tarzan films, and it was considered in our social circles to be extremely hip if one would absorb a western or a “jungle” movie that was even minimally popular elsewhere.

About 1960, there was a barber shop on Broadway owned by a man by the name of Conn Hall who charged only 50 cents for a minor’s haircut but who used to throw pure dread into my mind by his oft-repeated direction to himself that “I think I’ll thin out your hair a nice bit.”

I sometimes had visions of eliminating Mr. Hall from the face of the earth after looking in the mirror following the imposition of such a devitalized hairstyle.

A lot of readers who shopped on Broadway in the 1950s and 1960s should remember Steadman’s Store, also located  on upper Broadway.

This business used to attract a lot of youths because of the variety of goods sold there at low prices. The store, however, was vulnerable to shoplifting kids who recklessly and lawlessly picked up the habit of taking whatever object struck their fancy without undergoing the highly desirable step of paying for the items, which  were rather easily hidden in their clothes.

A couple of other stores that flourished in the 1970s and 1980s. Kearsey’s store featured what for me was probably the most appealing men’s clothing in Corner Brook, because of its low prices and distinctive — sometimes pioneering — styles.

 Another of my favourite shopping stops on Broadway in later years was the Family Shoe Store, which actually sold mainly boots. For some partially obscure reason, I became enamored of the idea of wearing exclusively boots  in the 1980s, and I must have contributed appreciably to the store’s positive bottom line as I used to purchase enough boots in one year to last for a decade or more. This business, like so many of its predecessors of the 1950s, was struck by fire about 1990 and it never reopened.

Perhaps no remembrance of the commercial and social life of Broadway would be complete without a mention of the Knobb chipstand, located at the corner of Broadway and Caribou Road.

The  chips served there were unanimously acclaimed by patrons as unsurpassably, and even ineffably, delicious. As late as the mid-1960s, their prices were an astounding 25 cents for a large plate of french fries, and business was still remarkably healthy there.

Broadway at present is a mere skeleton of its robust and dynamic former self, and I would judge that its past vitality has waned in nearly every way for people of all ages and stripes. But I will always remember how it helped shape my earlier life in particular, and provided a springboard for so much diverse and adventurous socialization before the large shopping malls came to dominate our  economic and social affairs.

Lloyd Bonnell, Corner Brook

Organizations: Dear Editor, Broadway School, Store on Broadway The Hockey News Family Shoe Store

Geographic location: Broadway, Corner Brook, Herritt Steadman Caribou Road

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  • Brian Locke
    December 09, 2013 - 15:43

    Hi Lloyd. You brought back many a fine memmory especially the Knobb and Kearseys and Colemans I left Corner Brook in 1971 but still call it home and our hockey games on Mt. Batten Rd. Merry Christmas Brian Locke

  • Dixie Hayes Smith
    December 09, 2013 - 14:40

    What a delightful trip down memory lane, reading this letter brought me to a more peaceful happier time. Many thanks Mr. Bonnell.

  • george p b
    December 09, 2013 - 13:23

    Lloyd--thanks for the memories. Ah the palace on Saturday afternoon--my favorite serials were superman & rocket-man. Heaven for a kid--a comedy, then a western & finally the serial I never forget how when inquiring about a seat was taken, being told "it's soved" yes soved was how many pronounced save.... never did question how come rocket-man never burned his butt on take off w/o the benefit of an asbestos suit...

  • Hazel Oldford
    December 09, 2013 - 12:14

    While I enjoyed very much your story of the past. Broadway indeed was the place to be, I rem all those places mentioned & the prices it was wonderful, however you did not not mention Western variety & Berts Grill(everyones favourite) Mrs Grant was a wonderful lady& kinda watched out for all the young people who were regulars at the hangout. she was strict& everyone had such respect for her. orange crush was 10 cents you could sit for hrs sip on you pop & chat with ur friends . oh the memories of Broadway in those days.