Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shopping local

Shopping then and now, part ten. THE END

BMW bubble car

Today, you take your car –your private bubble -- and drive to the Mall, a privately owned space that has replaced public space. Rather than being a public activity occurring by walking on sidewalks and visiting different independently and locally owned shops and a few national chains, shopping today is reduced to entering corporate brand name spaces. The Mall and box stores do not create community; they are global corporations masquerading as local industry.

Red Indian Motor Oil

My talk about shopping is not to be confused with a romantic idea of "let’s go back to how it used to be” because there were problems back then, too. For example, Steve on Bay told me that in the 1930s the intercity area, which is not full of stores, box stores, parking lots and busy streets, was a farmer’s field. He knows because he used to tend his neighbour’s cows where Sears and the Mall are now. Back then, this section of Memorial Ave. was basically empty. At the bend where Pennington’s is now, there were three gas stations in a row: The North Star (Pohjan tähti), The White Rose (Valkoinen Ruusu), and a third gas station, Texaco, (which bought out the Canadian company McColl-Frontenac Oil Co. Ltd) that had large signs advertising Red Indian (Punainen Inti) motor oil for sale.

Steve also told me that there used to be a bakery on Bay Street across from the Hoito, a few storefronts down from Secord St., that was owned by Jewish people. However, they left town because they were unhappy here. They had a daughter but she had only one friend, Steve’s sister; no one else would play with her. According to Steve, the Jewish couple couldn’t stand it here and just before the war when anti-Jewish sentiment was strong, they sold their bakery and left town. The new owners re-christened the bakery Aunt Martha’s Bakery.

Making choices in shopping can be confusing. So how can we contribute to shopping that is ethical? Shopping "back in the day"and shopping today are both activities that are part of our social and economic worlds. Surely we can’t escape shopping as we all need to buy things to survive, and goodness knows small local businesses need our support. One step in the right direction is to think about the kind of shopping we do and what is its impact beyond our own personal beautification, savings, or need.

Now, why didn't I think of this before I threw out my turntable? recycled turntable

Reduce, reuse, recycle – hey, Finns did this before it was popular. But today is a different world, a Walmart world, and we as women and as Finnish-Canadians need to think about what it really means to shop in places where every dollar of profit leaves Thunder Bay, where women and girls in other countries are sewing our clothes for less wages than our mothers and other Finnish-Canadian women made as cleaning ladies or waitresses in Port Arthur and Fort William.

at the bottom of the Finnish Labour Temple stairs, outside the Hoito. photo, Thunder Bay Finnish Canadian Historical Society


Merche Pallarés said...

Are there any CANADIAN businesses left? They all seem to be American... Very unfair to have everything sewn in Third-world countries, exploiting their workers and then exploiting consumers in the West with atrocious prices. Hugs, M.

northshorewoman said...

we do have some great local places. One day if I have the time I will go for a walkabout and snap some photos and post them.