Whatever happened to …

… eating lunch at the Woolworth’s lunch counter?

Thanks to Ramona Meharg for tagging me with the image below.

Sometimes, when I write these Sunday morning posts, I become very aware of the audience reading it. I’m the first to admit that many of these memories come from small town Ontario. There are a couple of readers that I know of, like Albert and Mike, from one of the biggest cities in the world who must just shake their heads at some of the topics!

Thanks, Ramona Meharg.

While some of my topics might be obscure, this topic has to resonate with anyone whoever had a Woolworth’s experience. And for our big city readers, hats off to the Woolworth Building.

For me, we didn’t have a store in our community but once or twice a year, my mother would take us for a train ride to Goderich where they did indeed have one. And, we’d drop in for a special treat – a lunch out. For the most part, they’re gone but there’s still one.

Now, we did have a couple of restaurants with this sort of dining experience – the Mae Mee Restaurant and the Kum-In Restaurant but they just had the dining experience. You couldn’t shop for stuff in the same store!

It’s interesting how memories come back – in the Goderich case, I remember being impressed that the food was cooked right in front of you so you could see your dinner taking shape. It was always served on a ceramic plate and there was a napkin holder where you chose your own napkins. You ate with real cutlery, none of this plastic stuff we have today. And, the treat of treats, the milkshake came in a glass container with real whipped cream on top.

I moved to Essex County years ago and there wasn’t a Woolworth’s store in Amherstburg. But we do have Maria’s if you’re looking for traditional school. I don’t recall going to one in Windsor – our shopping trips were typically to the west end or to Devonshire Mall. The Hudson Bay Company did have a restaurant in it. I’m sure that David Garlick will give me the local details if he happens to read this post!

Interestingly and coincidentally, I went out for lunch with some friends just this past week to a place that billed itself as a 50’s diner. The design was old school even if the food (and the prices) weren’t. Of course, it wasn’t the same as the original F.W.Woolworth – it just sold food.

For a Sunday, your thoughts…

  • Did you ever have a Woolworth’s store in your community?
  • If you didn’t have a Woolworth’s store, did you have a 5&10 cent store?
  • Have you ever had lunch at a Woolworth’s store? Do you remember anything unique about it?
  • If you could pull something from the menu from days gone by and have it served today, what would it be?
  • While Woolworth went away, they were replaced by similar stores. What was Woolworth replaced by in your community?
  • In actual fact, Woolworth does appear to still be in business today. Do you know where?

As always, I enjoy reading your memories of these things. Please share in the comments below.

This post originated on the blog:


If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

All of the original Sunday “Whatever happened to …” posts appear here.

And, if you have an idea for a topic, tag me like Ramona did or add it to the Padlet available here.

Published by dougpete

The content of this blog is created by me at the keyboard or as a result of an aggregator of my daily reading under the title OTR Links. On Fridays, look for my signature post "This Week in Ontario Edublogs" where I try to share some great writing from Ontario Educators. The other regular post appears Sunday mornings as I try to start a conversation about things that have gone missing from our daily lives.

5 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. I don’t remember Woolworth’s, I think it was replaced by Woolco in London, and then eventually by Wall-Mart. I know Mom would quite often take us for lunch there, or at the Towers or Zellers restaurants. I seem to remember being excited by cubed jello with whipped cream in a fancy parfait glass.


  2. This would always be a good conversation starter in Kenora and Thunder Bay!

    While growing up in Kenora, there was a Woolworth’s store on Main St. I have many memories of going there with my mom and later with friends. There was a lunch counter just like the photo here. I think I remember the milkshakes whipped up in the tall metal cups. I am quite sure there were French fries. I think I recall cubed jello now that Ramona mentioned it. That would be a fun combo to have again. I still remember my favourite aisles to browse as my mom did her shopping. I am not sure when the location became “Bargain Shop” and I think it has a new name now, but it is still a bargain type store on Kenora’s Main St. There was a larger Woolworth’s dept. store later situated in the new mall during my teen years. I worked there for a year or so. It later became a Zellers, but that is gone now too, of course.

    When I moved to Thunder Bay in the early 90s, there was a Woolworth’s store in the “intercity mall” area. I am not sure when that closed. I don’t think there was a lunch counter then. I wonder what the particular history is of the lunch counters. Only certain stores or years of business? Maybe lunch counters are a whole different story/history? One Finnish restaurant in Tbay still has one, but also regular tables.

    When my family made trips into Winnipeg, we would spend time at the malt shop counter in the lower level of “The Bay”. It was probably a bribe so my parents could finish their shopping.

    Interesting video about the US decline of the stores. I didn’t know that Foot Locker was a Woolworth’s company.

    Interesting topic and history!


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