Stories of shopping in old St. John's wanted at Merchants and Memories Mug Up event

Stories of shopping in old St. John's wanted at Merchants and Memories Mug Up event

If you get nostalgic about the old days of shopping in downtown St. John's, there's an event at the Marjorie Mews Public Library just for you.

The third and final Merchants and Memories Mug Up event is taking place Wednesday at the library, and is a chance for seniors to share stories of their favourite places to shop in the city when they were young.

Folklorist and event organizer Dale Jarvis said the project was started as a way to collect people's memories about shops and shopkeepers — but also a chance to get seniors out of their homes for a fun afternoon.

"It's a way to get people thinking about our link to the past and memories about where they used to go and the places they used to love shopping," he told the St. John's Morning Show.

Different shopping culture

Part of the motivation behind the Mug Up project is to show the difference in how people approached shopping decades ago in St. John's, in the years before malls and big box stores lured people away from mom and pop shops in the downtown area.

Jarvis said during the first two sessions they heard stories about people's memories of shopping at businesses like Bowring Brothers, Woolworth's and Arcade.

"It was a real social activity, going downtown and shopping, and lots of people have great memories of that," he said.

One of Jarvis's own personal memories is of the wide variety of goods that those stores would have available, such as at W.J. Murphy's at Rawlins Cross.

"You could buy everything," he said. "You could buy groceries, you could get your moose cut up and you could buy coal. It was one of those real neighbourhood shops."

The third and final Merchants and Memories Mug Up takes place Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. at the Marjorie Mews Public Library in St. John's.

Tea, sweets and storytelling

Jarvis said everyone is welcome to come out for the event, which he describes as a heritage project that's also meant to be a fun afternoon for seniors and their families.

"We'll have the kettle on and some sweets and people can come by and share their stories," he said,.

"It's a way for us to capture some of these stories that are intangible and fragile. So we're hoping that while the event is public, people will sit down with us after and do oral histories interviews about the history of St. John's."