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Throwback Thursday: Stores

Throwback Thursday: Early Stores

When the first settlers arrived in the Valley, they didn’t begin building stores right away. Most of their daily foods were grown on farms, or they hunted and fished. What couldn't be hunted or gathered was packed in, typically by First Nation's men who were the first packers and mail runners for the new settlers.  For things like butter, women would hand skim cream from pans of milk that had been sitting out. However, the pioneers relied on more than what could be obtained from nature or their own intiative. To supplement the food and materials they had access to around the Valley, they made annual trips to Vancouver. They started their shopping lists months before the trip. The lists often included coal oil, flour, kegs of molasses, cases of soap, dried fruit, salt, tea, coffee and sugar. Only one shopping trip a year meant the pioneers had to very frugal with their supplies. If they ran out, they would have to borrow from neighbours or wait until the next shopping trip. 

Soon some pioneers began running their own stores in the town. Otis Parsons may have been the first storekeeper during the Port Pemberton days. Another early store was located on John Currie's ranch, which may have shared a building with a store owned by a man named Butler. This building also served as a Post Office, as was usual during the times. After Butler had "given up or died," John McKenzie opened up his own store in a cabin at the Barbour's. He sold coffee, coal oil, and snoose (powdered dipping tobacco). The stores weren't always their only form of income, so it was entirely possible that you could walk to the store only to find a 'Gone Prospecting' sign hanging up. The stores sold a few local items, but much of the supplies had to be packed in over the trails. As the Tea and Tale presentation on Legendary Packers showed, this could be an incredibly difficult job. Sometimes the supplies would have to be rowed across Lillooet Lake, often against the prevailing wind. One man would pass overland with the horses. After they met up again, it was another 30 miles just to get to Port Douglas, where more provisions would arrive from Harrison Lake.

Another shopkeeper, Samuel Spetch, would have large orders freighted in through Lillooet during good weather, to keep his stock replenished throughout the year. For this reason, customers would travel long distances just to get to his store.

J.F. Brokaw ran McKenzie's store for the Pemberton Trading Company after McKenzie sold it. He also ran the new Post
Office for the Lower Valley. Mail carriers and pack trains were the only consistent connection Pemberton had with the
outside world. Currie was the Pemberton Meadows Post Master, and two years after he retired a man named Hartzell took up the position. With Hartzell, the Post Office moved about 8 miles up the trail. For the two years without a Post Master, it seems the carriers continued with their duty, delivering each individual mail sack to each settler. According to Willie Currie, the first mail carrier was Andrew Joseph. The people would wait for the mail delivery at the Post Offices on the days they arrived. And so it continued until 1914 when the Pacific Great Eastern Railway began a weekly mail service.

There was a lot of growth in businesses during the 1940s. The first hotel in the area appeared years before, in the Barbour's house, run by Bob McLauchlan. This hotel had a shake roof that allowed guests to see the night sky. It also allowed mosquitoes to easily enter the rooms. Rain, however, never got through. 

McLauchlan built a proper hotel across from the first PGE station in 1914. While remodelled, there it stands today. However, for decades, little about it had changed. Just a lean-to had been added to the side, for the men-only section of the beer parlour. In 1948 a large storage shed had been built as well. The owners family lived in the building as well. They slept in the rooms on the upper level, ate in the kitchen, and relaxed in the lobby. They also hosted a Christmas dinner for the bachelors in the area. One year it was so cold that none of the men wanted to head back to their cabins, so they slept in the dining room chairs instead. To kick them out in the morning, all the cook had to do was open the windows to let the freezing air in. The hotel was also one of the only buildings with a bath. This made it very popular just before dances, and the tub was rented out for 50 cents a person. 

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Pemberton Village in the 1940s. The Hotel, Taillefer's Store, Pemberton Express (PX) Buildings

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Pemberton Hotel Group 

Along with the hotel, every other business store was located along Main Street during these years. These included the Community Hall, Taylor's garage, Taillefer's store, and Jack Taillefer's Garage. 

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Main Street in Pemberton in the 1930s.

Bob Taylor ran and lived in the Pemberton Express garage with his family. The PX, as it was known, was a business with many responsibilities. It delivered: express parcels and general freight from the station and, twice a week, private mail and groceries for families up the valley. On the return trip, the drivers would pick up the grocery lists and outgoing mail. This route allowed them to collect and pass along information, and according to the History of Pemberton, "news then travelled up and down the Valley faster than it does now with all the convenience of the telephone." The PX also sold gas from the pump, and in bulk out of a warehouse by the railroad track. It hauled farm goods, including cattle, to the train station to be shipped to Vancouver; operated a taxi service and a car rental service for visiting officials and salesmen; was the agent for farm machinery; and sold real estate.

The Taillefer's ran a general store on Main Street, which they too lived above. Joe and May ran the store with their oldest son, Warren. May was also in charge of the Post Office in the store. After she sorted the mail, the PX would deliver it to the families. By 1949 Warren was running the store on his own, and his parents moved into a new house across from the community centre. 

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                                     May Taillefer at home

The store sold groceries, with a vegetable storage and cooler out back. It also sold basic work clothes, hardware, tools, and feed. Most supplies arrived every Wednesday by freight, except meat and vegetables. These goods were express shipped every couple of weeks, packed in dry ice. They were all sold out within days of arriving at the store. 

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 Taillefer's General Merchandise Store

Warren Taillefer lived at the south end of Main Street with his wife, Mary. The front portion of their house was used as storage for supplies for the store. Jack, Warren's brother, operated a garage and Ford agency on the same street. He sold his business to Brotherston and McNally when his electrical and plumbing business grew.

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Sonny Taylor. The building being built in the back is Jack Taillefer's garage, now the Pharmacy

In the 1950s more businesses arrived to the area, as the town itself expanded. Rolf Fougberg sold machinery with Pemberton Valley Distributors, and ran a small construction business. Dan Antonelli had a store called Top Spot Appliances, and Wendell and Grethyll Watson ran a cafe. In 1956 Robbie Miller started the first commercial meat business, with the slaughterhouse on his farm. The business next door to his shop was used as a telephone switching system, a private house, a bank, and a real estate office. The Pemberton General Store was being constructed in 1956 as well, by Harold Pipe. The Grocery Store, similar to Taillefer's store, opened in 1957.

Running a store or business in Pemberton was always challenging and took alot of dedication and hard work.  Pemberton's earliest settlers were dependent on early stores and packers for survival.  Without the tenacity of these early business men and women, permanent settlement would not have been possible.

This year Pemberton is turning 160 years old as a place name on European Maps so to honor this the museum is putting out a series of Throwback Thursday blogs.