by Charlotte Murray
My mother, Molly Davidson (now 95 and living in Calgary), has many happy memories of working in the dry goods department at Cobb’s.
I made some notes as she reminisced:
Worked at Cobb’s Dry goods 1963-76 for the three generations of Fishers — Norman, Jerry and Allan. Marg Gibson, the other clerk, worked there for 17 years.
Dry goods included:
• Men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and shoes, boots;
• Specialized in bathing suits especially better brands such as Catalina. Calgary shoppers would come at Easter to make their bathing suit purchases for the coming summer;
• Table linens, bedding — The ladies could refold sheets — even fitted sheets, so that a package looked like it had never been opened. (Mom still insists that sheets be folded “properly”.);
• Fabric, patterns, thread, sewing notions; It took constant effort to keep up with new styles, while maintaining the customer base of older shoppers.
Finnish ladies used to sit outside on the window ledge visiting and enjoying the spring sunshine after a long winter of isolation on the farm.
People could have charge accounts with approval from Jerry. Sometimes kids would say that their Mom had said that they could buy something, when in fact, they couldn’t and would have to return it the next day.
Found a muddy pair of boots left in the box. The new pair had disappeared on the feet of a customer who slipped out without paying. The dry goods section was beside the grocery department, so it was easy for customers to move between the two areas.
The work week was Monday and Tuesday 9 – 6; Wednesday 9 -noon, closed in the afternoon; Thursday and Friday 9 – 6 and Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with one hour lunch breaks and two 15 minute coffee breaks, which were usually taken in the basement staff room with the grocery staff. A lot of laughter and good times were shared in that basement coffee room. Most staff went home for lunch.
One Christmas eve, they shared a Christmas drink after closing and I recall my mom coming home and “straightening” the Christmas tree.
She enjoyed the travelling salesmen, who usually had a joke to share and information about what was going on in other towns. One salesman was sent from one staff member to the other all around the store to tell his joke as it was such a “good one” … it was about an octopus and a fisherman … only he kept saying that the octopus reached a “testicle” out of the water and wrapped it around the fisherman, rather than an “tentacle”. He laughed as much as the staff did when he was told about it on his next visit.
Some salesmen said that they kept certain products aside to sell at Cobb’s due to the type of clientele that came from the city to shop.
Molly and Marg would accompany Jerry to Calgary to buy stock for the coming year as well. It was always stressful to determine what would and would not sell.
She got to know most people in town, as something for all ages was available in the store.
It was a GREAT place to work.