As kids, we didn't know anything about our family histories. We just took everything for granted. The presence of our parents neither had a beginning nor an end. Growing up, I remember hearing little stories from uncles who served in the war or sometimes snippets from folks we met on our family outings. This story is about a legacy surrounding my mother's ancestors. I squint a little and smile at my vision of them going about their daily business over a century ago.
I dare say that every family must have a story that's interesting and cohesive for its members and even to the public as well (if they only knew). Not only a way to understand ourselves and our connections, but the study of genealogy is also important for families so that medical personnel may understand how diseases pass along the blood line. We had an aunt who used to keep track of all our family ancestors. She would have what seemed uncanny knowledge of everyone. Where she got it from I'll never know. When we'd meet for family picnics, she appeared out of nowhere and started chatting about everybody's business. I'd feel a little nervous thinking she might expose my latest prank. As things panned out, she was just a dear soul who cared enough to take a keen interest in our family life.
At this time it seems my family roots are more exposed than in my early days but does that just mean I've become more aware of them as community events transpire around me? Though I'm not the designated historian for my family, lately these events caused me to stumble upon some history.
My mom (Marjorie) is the last surviving second generation Gay. She shared a few details about the site of the former Gay Brothers Bakery on Queen St. in Niagara Falls, Canada. Somewhat hidden away in a sea of circumstances I finally discovered the bakery's exact location in the downtown area. Presently, Mother lives at a seniors' residence and always welcomes my visits. It was the subject of her rides as a kid in her Dad's Charles (dob 1887) “ puddle-jumper ” while he delivered bread that caught my attention. In 1909, Gay Brothers Bakery was selling pies at ten cents each and a year later sold a double size loaf of Holsum Bread for ten cents. In 1914, Gay's Eatmore Bread was seven cents/loaf. Charles was an employee, and two of his brothers owned the Queen St. establishment. They were: Robert, who was the business manager and David, who managed the day to day operations. The fourth brother, William owned a bakery in Niagara Falls, New York. Charles met his bride, Hazel (dob. 1890), also an employee, at the bakery. In the 40's they sold Carmel squares and had an ice cream parlour on the main floor facing Queen St. The ovens were also on the main floor. At one point for health reasons, they started to wrap the loaves with waxed paper, so Charles got the job of setting up the wrapping machine and performing the bread wrapping duties. Horses were used at first until they started with motorised carriages. Competition from Hares Bakery (What a name for a food company!) nearby and later Moody's Bakery kept everyone busy.
The bakery closed sometime in the 1950's after becoming no longer profitable. Vacant for many years finally in 2012 Phil Ritchie of Keefer Development Ltd. completed restorations adding another floor at the back keeping the building's exterior in its original exposed brick condition. After transforming the three-floor structure into an apartment complex, it was named Queen St. Village Apartments. Ritchie even had the original Gay Brothers Bakery sign painted up above on the brick. A “ good path ” for the Downtown core Ritchie envisions a living, shopping and people place with a rich history.©
Porteus, Andrew. “Images of a Century: The City of Niagara Falls, Canada, 1904-2004”. by City of Niagara Falls Centennial Book Committee, 2004.
Fowler, Karen. “ One couldn't be selective when remembering the past. Ignore the turmoil, chaos and pain – and the truly great memories would shine with such luster.” Memories For Sale - A Novella Quirky Gurl Media, 2011.