#83 - THE "KLONDIKE"
Yarmouth Vanguard, Tuesday, August 7, 1990
Column #84 ran last week. This column should have. Column 85 next.
It was around 1896, the year after his marriage, that my father, James G. d'Entremont, built a country store, at the foot of the hill where still stands the house in which he was to bring up nine children. It was for the purpose of selling all sorts of merchandise, especially those most necessary for every day living. In this modest building, my father was to pursue many lines of work, as he was a "jack of all trades" and "master of every one."
It was from this store that he directed a group of painters to do odd jobs that, as a contractor, he had been asked to perform. In his spare time, he was a barber, although his trade as a jeweller absorbed about all his time. Jewelry has been around since Adam and Eve, but watches ad clocks were just starting to become a necessity of life.
To promote his trade, my father displayed at the large windows of his store something that Pubnico had never seen before, that is, a series of jewelry, rings, watches, clocks, even alarm clocks which was something rather new at the time. It was a show off of glistening golden articles, that sparkled in the eyes of the passerby.
The year 1896 marked also the discovery of the rich gold-fields of the Klondike, in the Yukon, which attracted thousands of prospectors from all through Canada, the United States, Australia, even from all over the world. It was not long before my father's jewelry store became known by the people as the Klondike. This name stayed stuck to my father's store as long as there have been people who still remembered the Klondike gold rush. In my young days, it was still a household name in Pubnico.
The Klondike did so well during its first ten years, that in 1906 my father added to it an annex, which was to be a billiard-room, better known to us as a pool-room. He put in it all sorts of instruments for the boys to amuse themselves. He bought a "graphophone" through his brother, Uncle Leander H. d'Entremont, who was agent for Thomas Edition. This special graphophone, which plays two minute cylindric records, is unique, by the fact that to set it, one has to deposit a U.S. penny, the "Indian Head." I am told that there are not many of these special "penny" Edison graphophones left, playing two minute records; the one that my father had, which is now in the Musée des Acadiens des Pubnicos et Centre de recherche, has been appraised lately as an antique worth many thousands of dollars.
There was also an "electric shock" machine. You would put a penny in the slot, hold in each hand two metal balls, one of which is attached to an arm that you would lower to increase the shock. This one is now also in the Musée des Acadiens des Pubnicos et Centre de recherche. Also, the boys were able to test their punching ability; it consisted in a soft leather slightly concaved flat disk, somewhat similar to a piano stool. As you punched it, a needle registered in pounds the strength of your blow.
Among other purposes for which my father's store was used, it served as an insurance office, when my father became an insurance agent. Here also, my father's sister, Aunt Estelle, gathered a number of ladies as seamstresses, when a part of the store became a dress shop. These ladies, while doing their needle work, would tend at the same time the adjacent merchandise department.
At the time, everything needed for the house could be bought at the Klondike: crackers, sugar, tea, coffee, oranges, bananas, apples, onions, canned food and powder; all kind of remedies. in bottles or cans, ointments, tobacco, candies, perfume, feeding-bottles for infants, plus all kind of jewelry, as rings, bracelets, ear-rings, watches and clocks, etc., etc., without forgetting home-made ice cream every Saturday evening. Of course, in those days, you would never see in stores bread or butter or eggs or vegetables; all these were made at home or picked up at the farm.
To satisfy the demands of his customers, my father thought it best to do away with the pool table and transform that room into a store room for paint, flour, feed, kerosene oil for the lamps then in use.
After my father was appointed in 1911 fishery officer for all the county of Yarmouth, he was not able to manage effectively the store, although, from a small room that he set apart for his new job, he could still watch somewhat what was going on in the store, with the help of a clerk. I may add here that my father bought at this time the first typewriter ever to enter West Pubnico. It was a Remington typewriter with the keys disposed as a basket, typing on the roller from under. This typrwriter is now in the Musée des Acadiens des Pubnicos et Centre de recherche.
In 1923, the Klondike was transformed into a drug store, and from then on, the name Klondike was substituted for that of "The Drug Store." It was the first drug store in West Pubnico. It was Dr. J. Émile LeBlanc, who had married my oldest sister, who opened it. A partition was built, so that the drug store occupied only half of the building, the south side. This was done to accommodate the newly founded Co-op of West Pubnico, known as the "Coopérative Commerçiale Acadienne," which occupied the other half of the store, the north side. This Co-op was short-lived.
In 1939, Mr. Desire d'Eon took possession of this north side, when he was to print "Le Petit Courrier" for the next 33 years, up to 1972 when "Le Petit Courrier" moved to Yarmouth. I may note here that Mr. d'Eon acquired from my father in 1950 the whole building. In 1962 he built an extension to accomodate a new printing press that he had just bought.
With regard to the drug store, it was in operation for about twenty years, when it closed its door and the room was taken by the West Pubnico Credit Union. And thus, after the name "Klondike" vanished, it was substituted by that of the "Drug Store"; then it was called the "Co- op"; and then, for the rest of its life, "Le Courrier" or the "Credit Union," which kept on occupying the south side for about a year after the Courrier had left.
When the Credit Union moved into its new building, the ancient Klondike was left practically empty. And thus, is 1974, at the age of about 78 the Klondike of yore was demolished, leaving a scar in the ground that it had so long occupied and a nostalgic memory in the mind of those whom it had served so well.
Of the ten clerks on the Klondike, whose names we have, three are still living, viz., Blanche, my sister, now in Melrose, Mass.; Ona Comeau, née Doty, of California; and Erite Boudreau, née d'Entremont, of Wedgeport.