CHRONICLES OF THE WHITE HALL STORE AND THE L. H. ALLISON AND COMPANY
By Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
Pincher Creek’s commercial history abounds with stories highlighting its individual businesses and the settlement’s as a regional service centre. Here we take a look back at a thriving enterprise from our history, that of the long time grocery store popularly known first as the White Hall Store, and later as the L. H. Allison and Company.
EARLY STORE CHRONOLOGIES
This independently owned and operated store dated back to 1919, being established only a year after the end of the First World War. Although a world-wide recession hit following the end of hostilities, many businessmen thought this was a prime time to start up new enterprises as eventually during peacetime, there would be more consumer spending. Pincher Creek businessman C. E. Allison took advantage of the post war forecasting and established his grocery store. Locally, he saw a need for another outlet. The T. Lebel and Company and the Fraser-McRoberts Company Limited offered grocery sales as part of their department stores, and groceries were sold by some of the smaller businesses, but Allison saw the need for a full scale store that specialized in groceries alone.
Originally the store was housed in the old IOOF (Oddfellows Lodge) building, located at the corner of Main Street and Christie Avenue. This was on the south side of the street, just opposite the Lebel Store and near the west end of Pincher Creek’s commercial district. This 1 ½-storey structure dated back to 1905 when early businessman James H. Schofield constructed the complex to house his second general store in this community. Six years later the building and its business were sold to longtime employees Wilmer McKerricher and Will Cook who operated it during the First World War era. It was this prime location that Allison bought into after the war. He named his store “The White Hall”.
Chancy Emerson Allison, born in Ontario in 1881, was the third son in a family of eleven children born to Alfred and Sarah Allison. The parents arrived in Pincher Creek in 1901 and son Emerson came two years later. Several of the family members took up homesteads in the Fishburn District. His wife Maude Ellison he married in 1911, and some eight years later he established his grocery store. This business was in partnership with Lewis H. Hunter who formerly had been the Manager of the old Hudson’s Bay Company store, previously located some two blocks further west on Main Street. The partnership lasted for three years, until Hunter’s retirement in 1922. Emerson operated the store on his own until his own passing on Sunday, August 28th, 1932. The store was inherited by his widow Maude and son Louis H. Hunter. The latter took over the active management of the store following one year’s University education. He enthusiastically operated the business until his retirement in 1970. The business was discontinued and the building sold at that point.
Long time Pincher Creek residents will recall the array of pioneer employees which this esteemed grocery store had over the years. Some of these individuals included Herm Taggart, Bob Gunn, Hank Callahan, Bill Mullis, E. Clazie, Walt Upton, Jack Cowan, Doug Fraser, Don Pearson, and Elsie Marcellus. Each was very appreciative of a job in a thriving pioneer grocery store.
STORE SPECIALS AND SUBSEQUENT CHANGES
The store carried a wide line of grocery items and originally included a butcher shop. The enterprise was listed in both the 1924 and 1928/29 Henderson’s Directories as a Grocery, indicating the volume of trade the business conducted. In 1927, store advertizements promoted that it had the best quality fresh and cured meats, and a full line of the best quality groceries. By 1936, the store was being modernized and the butcher shop discontinued. By early July 1949, the advertized in store specials included a one-pound carton of lard for 22 cents, five pound cartons of macaroni selling for 58 cents each, 28 ounce tins of “Prairie Maid” peas which sold for 21 cents a pair and “Red Bird” matches which retailed for 23 cents per package. The following week, store advertizements in The Echo encouraged customers to place their orders for preserving Raspberries and Cherries, which were arriving daily in fresh batches of excellent quality.
Significant changes to the store took place after its initial 27 years of operation. In 1946, Allison had the opportunity to move the store to a new location, this one a block further east on the north side of Main Street. The new premises which Louis Allison knew was a more centralized location, was the former home of “The Bucket of Blood”. The colourful name denoted the tailor shop operated by Charlie Taysum, which also served as an informal social centre for the fellows in the community. The building was extensively renovated to include a new store front facing the street featuring brickwork, chrome molding, a large plate glass window, and a canvas marquee extending out over the sidewalk, thereby providing passersby with some shelter from the sun, wind and moisture. Hardwood flooring was utilized, a feature that was nostalgically recalled as still being in use during the 1960s.
One item that remained the same for much of the store’s history from the mid 1920s through the mid 1950s was its telephone number, which was 43.
Several contractors and day workers assisted with the building’s renovations. J. Auger, Con Martin, Charlie McClain, Jake Smith, J. Roberson and T. Patterson assisted with the rough construction. Bricklaying and stucco work was completed by J. Shaw with Comet Electric doing the wiring. Stanley Pearson and Richard (Dick) Sorge were responsible for the plumbing work. At one point, Sorge also worked as the boiler man for the Prince of Wales Hotel constructed in 1927 down at Waterton Lakes. Joe Tourond worked on the front door and basement connections. The store’s façade was worked on by John S. Buchan (who was a carpenter by trade), Dave Bower, G. R. Getson, B. Brooks, J. Shaw (who oversaw the tile settings) and J. Stevenson who was in charge of painting the store. The refurbishing work was completed in spite of the labour shortages that occurred following the end of the Second World War.
L. H. Allison and Company held a grand opening in mid August 1946, an event that was marketed via large display ads placed in The Pincher Creek Echo. Promotional items included a free pure milk chocolate bar for each household member, boarder and out-of-town visitor who patronized the store during this special event. The store advertized both a wide selection of groceries, promising to feature both plentiful and scarce items. Promises of customer service continued to be made for the new premises, a much sought-after feature of the previous location.
Sources: Adapted from [C. E. Allison & Co. White Hall Advertizement], The Pincher Creek Echo, Vol. XIX, No. 18, Friday, 11th July 1919, p. ; [C. E. Allison & Co. Advertizement re White Hall Grocery And Meat Store], The Pincher Creek Echo, Vol. XX, No. 35, Friday, 09th April 1920, p. ; [The White Hall Meat And Grocery Store Advertizement], The Pincher Creek Echo, Vol. XXIX, No. 35, Friday, 29th March 1929, p. ; [L. H. Allison & Co. Advertizement], The Pincher Creek Echo, Vol. XXXIV, No. 25, Thursday, 18th January 1934, p. ; [L. H. Allison & Co. Advertizement], The Pincher Creek Echo, Vol. XXXIV, No. 32, Thursday, 08th March 1934, p. ; [L. H. Allison & Co. Advertizement], The Pincher Creek Echo, Vol. XXXVI, No. 21, Thursday, 19th December 1935, p. ; [L. H. Allison & Co. Advertizement], The Pincher Creek Echo, Vol. XXXVI, No. 22, Thursday, 26th December 1935, p. ; and [L. H. Allison & Co. Advertizement], The Pincher Creek Echo, Vol. XLV, No. 12, Thursday, 05th October 1944, p. .