HUNTSVILLE - The downstairs of Orla Carr’s home is a collector’s dream.
Collector Orla Carr admires a 1962 calendar from JR Boyd and Sons a grocery/feed store that was located in the downtown area. Carr has numerous items that capture the essence of the Huntsville business community from 50-plus years ago.
The Huntsville man had a plethora of collectables, from cars, jewelry, spoons, knick-knacks, souvenirs and dolls – those belong to his wife Phyllis – all placed neatly in display cases or arranged in various spots in the downstairs area.
However, a small top drawer in one of the cabinets has an assortment of items that best captures the history of former Huntsville businesses.
From pictures with thermometers, to ashtrays, old bills and even coat hangers, Carr has a unique collection of objects that captures the essence of the town’s business sector between the 1940s to the early 1960s.
The 78-year-old said he spent most of his life in town, with the exception of a two-year period when he lived in Windsor. An auto mechanic by trade, Carr worked at Union Garage for some time in the 1950s and stayed with the business when it moved in 1960 to a new location, which is now the home of Muskoka Auto Parts.
He has a small ashtray promoting the old Huntsville garage, which was originally located near the bridge where the Dollar Store parking lot now sits, adding that its gas pumps, “were almost flush with the main road.”
One unique item in Carr’s collection is a picture/thermometer from W.E. Tremblay Shoe Repair. Items like this were popular as a business gift/promotional tool in the 1960s, either with the thermometer accompanying a picture or a calendar.
Carr said that the business was located where the Coldwell Banker/Thompson Real Estate stands now.
“If you wanted soles done or anything else on your shoes, you went there and he was the one to do that,” he said.
Carr produced a calendar dating back to 1962 from JR Boyd and Sons, a grocery/feed store that once was home to where the Pizza Pizza restaurant now stands.
He had a ruler that was from the Olan Brothers appliance store, with the motto “Huntsville’s leading appliance dealers,” etched on the one side.
“I would be in my mid-teens when they were opened. I think I would be 17 or 18 when they were open, so that would be around 60 years ago,” Carr said. “Craig Olan, who was one of the owners, went into the logging business after they closed the appliance dealership. I think that store was in where the post office is now.”
The ruler also featured the distinctive phone number of only three digits, 870, a far cry from the 10 digits we routinely dial today.
But if that figure intrigues you, a bill for an oil change from Union Garage dated July 1946 is definitely an attention grabber. The bill, paid by a Mr. Silverwood for his Dodge car, came to the pricy sum of one dollar. No tax.
“Art Silverwood drove this great, big heavy Chrysler,” Carr remembered. “He had the whole side of Hunter’s Bay property, where all the homes you see are now.”
One of the more interesting collectibles Carr had was a trio of wooden hangers from stores that no longer exist today. The hangers came from Wardell and Co. Cleaners and Pressers, Alf Harpers Store and EH Flaxman The People’s Tailor. Carr said that he can’t recall how he came by the hangers, although he admitted that he did shop at Wardells and Harpers during his youth.
“Wardells is where the bicycle store, Algonquin Outfitters is now down by the bridge. Now on the main floor they had all clothing, and upstairs they also had a lot of clothing but downstairs in the basement they had a toy store. We always used to hang around down there … it was something similar to what Eatons used to be. I don’t recall when it was closed but it was going very strong when I was in my twenties.”
As for EH Flaxman, many may recall that was the name from the remnants of a sign that was on the wall of the downtown building that could be seen once the Empire Building burned down in 2009.
“Now, about Alf Harper’s store was where the old Capitol Theatre was, down on the same side as town hall, about two doors down. He had a clothing store with all kinds of really good suits and men’s wear. He was a very short guy, a really nice guy.”
Carr said he is at a loss to explain why he collects the trinkets like the ashtrays, hangers and calendars from the old Huntsville businesses. But you only have to look at the pride in his face when he talks about his collectables to tell that the man enjoys his hobby.
“I don’t know. Why do I collect anything?” he said with a smile.