Dec 072015
 
George's Grocery Lethbridge

The old building we’ll be chronicling this day is located in Lethbridge Alberta. While now a residence, it was for much of its history a grocery store, with many, many different owners over the years. We’ve come armed with an old photo showing it way back in 1980, with the goal to shoot something similar, for inclusion in a BIGDoer.com then and now post. This post!

The corner grocery store (forgive us, but this one is actually mid-block): every neighbourhood in every city or town, big or small, had at least one. It was just down the street, convenient, local, personal and typically staffed by the family who owned it and who usually lived upstairs. It’s where you went when you needed a quick loaf of bread, some milk, butter, a slab of Bologna, or some small this and that. It seems there was a little of everything for sale, food, housewares, hardware, etc. And for the kid’s it was pure heaven. Candy, candy and more candy!

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The local store was not just a place of commerce, but also a social centre of sorts. Want to keep up with the latest news or juicy gossip? Go there. They were the heart of any community.

Most of these once iconic businesses are now gone. For the small stuff the local brightly-lit 24hr gas bar gets patronized (and for the big things, the city block-sized mega-stores – MUST CONSUME!). They’re sterile, cold and unfriendly, yet the seem to have no shortage of customers.

This particular building dates back to 1918. Some records seen list, variously, 1910, 1911 and 1917 – the city says 1918. The location is the north end of Lethbridge just east of the Oldman River Valley. This is the former village of Stafford, now the present day Staffordville community. This was originally a working class neighbourhood, with a heavy Italian population, with most able bodied men finding employment in nearby “Galt” coal mines.

If the store was indeed built pre-1918 we can’t find much to back that up. Brief mention is made of an “early” owner, one Gia Everists, but that’s about it. Is it an error or some a mixed-up reference? We don’t know. We’ll keep our eye’s open however, should more info come to light.

From 1918-1942 it was Berte Grocery (sometimes listed as J. Berte Grocery), named after its owner John Berte. From 1942-1949 it was Natalini Grocery (owner Natale Natalini). From 1950-1954 it was General Grocery and Meat (owners Michael and Mary Swidinsky). From 1954-1969 it was George’s Groceries and Meats (owner George Cong). Note: some records differ slightly from what’s listed here.

From 1970-1975 it was Yien’s Grocery (CW Chan) and from 1976-1997 it was William’s Grocery, sometimes called William’s Grocery and Meat (William Lam and his wife Yee Wah). Vacant for a time, just after the turn of the century it was the Tumbleweed Cafe for a spell. Since 2004 it has been a residence. Stucco that was clearly present on the building when the “then” photo was captured has been removed exposing the George’s Grocery sign; and on the side of the building a faded one advertising Stag Tobacco. The latter is from at least 1920, an old photo from then clearly shows it.

This brick building is constructed in the “Boomtown” style of architecture characterized by simple form and lines with a prominent false front. Most corner stores had living quarters on the upper floor and this one was no exception.

The “then” photo captures the William’s Grocery period. Just love the neon sign and the “Canada Dry” sandwich board. The shed seen beside the car is gone today, recall, the stucco has been removed and some old ghost signs exposed, but overall the building has changed little since 1980. The picket fence is still there.

The old car to the right is hard to see but appears to be a 1968-1978 era Ford Country Squire Wagon. The green paint and fake wood side panels would be considered stylish at the time. I guess. Yikes! These giants of the road, huge gas guzzling land yachts, typically came with three row seating (the last one facing backwards) and a unique tailgate which could drop down flat or swing out like a huge barn door. Older folks might recognize the bright yellow Alberta License Plate. These were in use from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s.

The then photo was sourced by this author and comes from the Lethbridge Historical Society collection (thanks guys). Our readers are also invited to donate or send in old images (scans are fine) to be used in a BIGDoer.com them and now. Have an old family photo showing a building way back when, or as street scene? Send it our way (go to the contact link). We’ll visit the location seen, shoot a photo composed much like the original, and do a little write up on it all.

How do we line things up in our photos? All the heavy lifting, as they say, the dirty work, composing, that sort of stuff, is done in camera. That’s how we do it. And while not perfect, we came close to cutting off the building on the left side for example, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Photoshop would be too easy.

More then and now posts…
Calgary then and now – Crescent Heights High School.
Calgary Transit then and now – #7 South Calgary run.
Shaunavon Saskatchewan then and now.
Fort MacLeod then and now – Fort Museum.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: November, 2015.
Location: Lethbridge, AB.
Article references: Lethbridge Historical Society, Alberta Register of Historic Places, Lethbridge city records, Henderson Directory, Lethbridge 1918.
The building can be viewed from public property.

Grocery Store Lethbridge

For much of its history this building was a grocery store (pics: 1980 and 2015.)

George's Grocery Lethbridge

It was called George’s Groceries and Meat from 1954-1969.

Stag Tobacco Sign

Remains of an old Stag Tobacco sign.

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20 Comments on "Lethbridge then and now – Berte, George’s, William’s Grocery"

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Amanda WF
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Amanda WF

My sister and brother in law live here now.

Nancy Churchill
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Nancy Churchill

William’s grocery…went there all the time as a kid:)

Cindy Lee Finley
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Cindy Lee Finley

That is just by my house. Went to that store lots while I was growing up.

Loralie Berte
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Loralie Berte

My great grandfathers store!

Wally Zimmer
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Wally Zimmer

When I was a kid we used to walk up to “George’s” store to buy firecrackers. With 3 pop bottles we could get a pack of small ones and a firecracker lighter. Early 60’s. As kids we called it “the way far store”

Rose Bogdanowska Piattelli
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Rose Bogdanowska Piattelli

The store of my childhood. Am now 65.

Chris Varga Donaway
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Chris Varga Donaway

Always, always went there to buy cigarettes for my parents! I was no more than 10!! “Mrs. Williams” was the sweetest lady.

Kelly Ann Pagnotta
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Kelly Ann Pagnotta

(via Facebook)
Used to walk here whenever i was visiting my aunt and uncle who just lived up the block!

Katie
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Katie

How can I add a picture of the store when it was the berte store that shows the white stag logo?

Pete
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Pete

In the 1960’s we kids would go into that store on our way home after dragged ourself up from hiking the coulees. With little pocket change between us we’d drive the chinese owner nuts because we usually never had quite enough to actually buy anything, so we just wasting his time. I clearly recall on one occasion when he’d had enough of us, wagging his cigarette in the air, long ash somehow not falling off the tip, and yelling…”you kids get out my store.”

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