Tag Archives: timothy eaton

Rubbing Mr. Eaton’s Foot

This statue of Timothy Eaton stands in the concourse of the MTS Centre. I remember this statue well from my childhood because it was located on the main floor in the old Eaton’s Store which used to stand where the MTS Centre is now.

The former Eatons Store on Portage Avenue

When my family was shopping at Eaton’s, we would often rendezvous at Mr Eaton’s statue. The Eaton’s store went bankrupt in 1999.  Later the statue was officially designated a part of Manitoba’s history and a decision made to display it in the MTS Centre. Timothy Eaton came to Canada from Ireland and built a retail empire with department stores in Toronto and Winnipeg. Mr Eaton also had a nationwide mail-order business. I remember how excited I was as a little girl when the Eatons’ catalogue came out, especially the Christmas edition. I looked through it many times picking out things I dreamt about getting for Christmas. My mother remembers during her childhood in the 1930s longing for an Eaton’s Beauty Doll for Christmas.

This statue was a gift to the Eaton family from the Eatons’ employees. It was presented in December of 1919 on the store’s 50th anniversary. The employees wanted to express gratitude for the company’s generosity during World War I.  Eatons’ employees who enlisted were promised their jobs back after the war and continued to receive a salary while they served overseas.  Military employees received care packages of store products during the war. 

Although I am sure some Eaton’s workers did appreciate their employer enough to donate money for this massive statue, I am somewhat sceptical if they all did, because during the Winnipeg Labor Strike in June of 1919, just six months before the presentation of the statue, Eatons tried to bribe their workers with a $4.00 a week raise so they wouldn’t go on strike. Despite this five hundred walked off the job. Eatons also supplied horses and baseball bats for the police force dealing with the strikers.

The 3,500-pound statue was made by Ivor Lewis, a Welshman who worked in the Eaton’s advertising department.  A replica was placed in the Eaton’s Store in Toronto. It is now in the Royal Ontario Museum.

I’ve learned recently it is good luck to rub the left foot of the Timothy Eaton statue. I’ll have try that the next time I walk by the statue of Mr Eaton at the MTS Centre. 



Filed under History, Winnipeg

The Eaton’s Catalogue- Toilet Paper and Shin Pads

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. 

Other posts with connections to this one………

Mr. Eaton

The Dark Side of William Kurelek

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Filed under Culture, History, Toronto