My sister and I got lost in Towers one day, and in my child's mind, that was it...it was all over. I guessed we would get adopted and get new parents because ours were gone forever.
Mum and Dad were very serious about their warnings to not to get separated from them, but we blew it. Our brief time as orphans came to an end, of course, with an announcement over the P.A. system and all was well again. But now, I can’t think of Towers without thinking about that visit.
Towers was situated on Bayfield St., where the north end Walmart locations stands today. It had some neat departments in it that you never see anymore today in a similar store – fabrics and notions, wigs, millinery. Towers, you might recall, shared the building with a grocery store called Food City.
I first remember going to the Bayfield St. strip in the early 1970s. It is known as the Golden Mile today, but back then it was barely silver or bronze, just a stretch of road with a patchwork of businesses here and there, most of them fast food places or gas stations.
We were a farming family from just north of Bradford and, exactly like Barrie the market town of old, the shops of this city drew us in from an outlying area to buy the goods that could not be found near our home.
A knit dress with a plaid skirt and an apple appliqued on the top. Furry mukluk boots that I just had to have. A one-piece pink metallic snow suit. These are a few of the things that I begged my parents for, and surprisingly got, at the Sayvette store. This short-lived two storey department store anchored the far south end of the Bayfield Mall. I was fascinated with the ultra modern escalator, which may have been the first one in Barrie? Miracle Food Mart, another forgotten grocery chain, anchored the opposite end of the mall, where Winners is located today.
The Kozlov Centre was not even a dream yet and did not arrive on the scene until 1986. In the 1970s, it was still the Brown farm. The rather upscale Georgian Mall of today was nothing special forty years ago. It was no different than the Bayfield Mall really, similar in size and also had an anchor store at each end – Sears and Dominion. The Dominion grocery store was on the far south end, more or less directly across from the Bulk Barn store on Bayfield today. As you can tell, the Georgian Mall has seen quite a bit of change and expansion over the years. Nearby to the south, a separate plaza originally containing K-Mart and No Frills, was rolled into the Georgian Mall eventually. Many stores have come and gone, but Sears still carries on.
Take a drive up Bayfield St and you will find a mind-boggling assortment of eateries to choose from. Even four decades ago, hungry shoppers could find a variety of places to eat, and I’m sure everyone still has great memories of their favourites. My family usually opted for something quick, perhaps a Big Mac from the McDonald’s that was reportedly one of the busiest in North America due its situation on the route to Wasaga Beach. Lots of local folks worked their first job in that Bayfield St. McDonald’s. KFC was another favourite. Do you remember when the barrel on top of the pole used to rotate to show that the restaurant was open? Oh the tantalizing smell of the fried chicken in the station wagon as we drove home with our dinner!
How about that tiny box that CK Chinese Food occupied from 1969 until 2009? It stood all alone for many years, surrounded by nothing. Now it has moved to a new location on Glenwood Dr. and a Royal Bank sits where CK used to be.
When the south end of Barrie was only farmers’ fields, and that is not so long ago, Bayfield St. was the place to go for shopping. I’m sure the Downtown business merchants were not terribly happy about the ever-expanding carnival of modern shopping options just up the hill from them – supermarket grocery stores, shopping malls, drive-through restaurants and self-serve gas stations. But they survived, as has Bayfield St. despite the explosion of commerce surrounding Mapleview Dr. It never ceases to amaze how many retail outlets and restaurants can open up in Barrie and still attract business.
Barrie is still that market town on the shores of Kempenfelt Bay, just a whole lot grander than it was when we had 3 taverns, several dry goods shops and a lumber mill.
Each week, the Barrie Historical Archive provides BarrieToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past. This unique column features photos and stories from years gone by and is sure to appeal to the historian in each of us.