On a recent tour of Toronto the guide took us the Eaton Center and told us how founder Timothy Eaton had made a fortune by pioneering the idea of selling things through a catalogue in Canada. That way even people who couldn’t come to his stores in person could still shop and spend their money on his goods.
My husband Dave told the other Toronto visitors in our tour group who were from India, Finland and Austria that here in Canada the Eatons catalogue had three important uses in the past besides being a shopping resource.
They served as hockey shin pads for young players who couldn’t afford to buy expensive equipment. In a 1963 article in the Montreal Gazette famed NHL player Gordie Howe talks about using catalogues for shin pads when he was a kid.
The catalogues were also used as toilet paper in outhouses, since many rural homes did not have indoor plumbing and toilet paper was expensive and not readily available for sale everywhere. At the Art Gallery of Ontario you can see a painting by prairie artist William Kurelek in which has depicted a person in the outhouse on a winter day. Hanging on the wall is the Eatons catalogue they are using for toilet paper.
And before the advent of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition or Playboy magazine the swim suit and lingerie section of the Eatons catalogue was a popular alternative for teenage Canadian boys.
Our guide was impressed with Dave’s humorous addition to the tour narrative. He asked permission to use Dave’s story with future groups.
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