Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Christie Biscuits, Part 1

During World War II, my maternal grandparents sold the family farm, bought an old country hotel in a small Saskatchewan town and went into the hospitality business. I spent a lot of time at this hotel when I was a kid. I have some good stories and fond memories of those days.

Here's a great photo of the hotel that I found on the internet, looking exactly as I remember it:


[photo by Lawrence Hutchinson, taken in 1981, found here on Flickr ] 

But the topic of my posts today and on Thursday is not actually the Queen's Hotel per se but instead, the brick building in the photo which you can see to the right of the hotel, on the other side of my grandma's flower garden and hedge. This large commercial building was built in 1907 for J.P. Beauchamp & Co. as a store. In later years, it served many other functions, including as a telephone operators building and a community hall. But no matter its purpose, the building's most notable feature was always a huge painted advertisement on one side for Christie Biscuits, Purest of All Pure Foods.

One of the small prairie towns in which I found myself this summer was precisely my old Saskatchewan stomping grounds. The Queen's Hotel is gone now, an empty lot all that remains. The hotel burnt down in a 2003 fire that occurred about 15 years after my grandparents ceased owning the business. And of course, my grandma's flower garden is long gone now too. But look what's still standing!


[photo © Debra She Who Seeks, August 2017]

And on the side of the building, the antique painted ad still proudly proclaims its Christie Biscuits slogan. Okay, so maybe it's faded now and has seen better days but then again, haven't we all?

I assume that ad was painted in 1907 when J.P. Beauchamp had the building constructed. Given that his corporate name was painted right above it, this theory seems plausible. So now in 2017, the building and the ad are both 110 years old.

In Thursday's post, I'm going to share some old family photos of the Christie Biscuits ad that were taken over the years.

50 comments:

anne marie in philly said...

can't wait to read that story; I assume these biscuits are cookies.

mistress maddie said...

That is very cool! A mixed bag of thoughts about the hotel. A shame it's gone. While I have yet be in the situation of going back to ancestral places now gone, not sure how I would react. But I realise nothing last forever. The hotel was beautiful.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ anne marie in philly -- Yes, I believe so -- probably arrowroot biscuits. Christie stills makes them, along with a whole line of regular cookies.

Bob Slatten said...

What a cool old hotel ... I've always wondered about opening a hotel or B&B.
And I just love old ads painted on the sides of brick buildings. It's so cool you saw it again and that it's still there.

LL Cool Joe said...

How sad that the hotel was burnt down but that makes the signage even more amazing. To survive so long. It would be cool if someone renovated it back to it's original glory.

NanaDiana said...

I love old buildings -especially those with old ads painted on them. I am glad that someone got a good picture of your grandparent's business before the building burned. I will look forward to reading more about this on Thursday.

Hope you have a wonderful day, Debra. xo Diana

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

It's pretty amazing - and very cool - that it's still standing. I love old buildings, which is one of the reasons I enjoy touring small towns that have been around forever.

Jeanne said...

So much history! To think of everything that building has seen....And to think that the biscuits are still being made. :o)
What a cool building for a hotel! We had looked at a house built in that same style. Looking forward to those memories!

lady M said...

Great bit of historical advertising!

Adam said...

The purest of all foods? Clever I suppose

Linda deV said...

Very cool! Some things remain the same even when everything around them changes. I love that. I need some things to remain the same.

Can't wait to hear more.

Harry Hamid said...

That's cool that they never painted over it or anything. I wish my town would leave something as is, so it would be like a little time machine or time capsule.

Theresa Young said...

Wow, that's neat. It seems that things from earlier times last a heck of a lot longer than the things we have today. Back them they were made to last.

e said...

Such a funny feeling to go back and find nothing left. I'm sure you already knew that it was gone, but seeing is believing, and an empty lot is very definite.

Christie sure had a high opinion of his biscuits!

Miss Val's Creations said...

I love the old history like this! Hopefully this ad is preserved for many more years to come. Our city still has some of its old signage and ads painted like this. It adds so much character and memories for locals.

MrsDuncanMahogany said...

That is so cool!!! What great photos!! I passed by the Christie's Biscuits building here in the Peg over the weekend. I believe it also used to be PromoWear/MWG. I think the building is still clothing related.

JACKIESUE said...

hope I look as good as that building when I'm 110

Sarah said...

It sounds awesome bit of family history.

Rain said...

I love seeing old buildings like that with the old writing on them, especially in Montreal where all things English are hated!

DEZMOND said...

how come you did not inherit it? We could've been in hotel business now :)

Bob Johns said...

I love when the past is still out there to remind us of our past.

Jenn said...

Love this! Ghost signs are another of my favourite things to find. Quite a few around if you know where to look! Can't wait to see more of this awesome one.

Marie Smith said...

Wow! They don't paint them like that any more, Debra. That's a treasure!

Janie Junebug said...

Do you know why your grandparents made the decision to sell the farm and buy the hotel? It seems kind of unusual to go from farmers to hoteliers.

Love,
Janie

Leeanna Henderson said...

I was hoping the hotel was still there. I love it when you have pictures of old places it's like going back in time on a field trip.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ Janie Junebug -- My grandmother emigrated from Switzerland in the 1920s with her first husband (my Mom's father). It was his dream to be a big-time rancher or farmer in Canada. They had not been agricultural people in the old country. As things turned out, they starved on that goddamn Saskatchewan farm during the Great Depression. After my grandfather died, my grandma remarried. My step-grandpa was from Poland and I don't think he was particularly farm-minded, either. So that's when they sold the farm and bought the hotel. It worked out much better for them financially than the farm ever did.

Susan said...

Wow, purest of all pure foods! That's saying something! What a marvelous experience that would have been, having grandparents with a hotel! Looking forward to your next post!!

Riot Kitty said...

That is fantastic! Love this photo essay.

Anne Johnson said...

That looks like one totally cool place to spend a lot of time as a kid! I got real lucky, Debra. My great-grandfather's farm got bought by a one percenter who actually cares about history. He restored the family farmhouse and even made it better. Now he's going to build a glass castle (really) on the property.

Back to Christie's Biscuits: All the old barns where I grew up had advertising on them. I hope your little town either leaves that alone or restores it. Very charming.

Magaly Guerrero said...

I just love this post, Debra. You are probably right, and the ad is that old. How cool is that! Can't wait to see the photos of the inside of the hotel...

Mitchell is Moving said...

Wow! I love discoveries like this. Bittersweet but mostly just sweet. Looking forward to more,pho5os.

Elsie Amata said...

Bear with me, I'm about to sound like a legit old person right now: Paint these days wouldn't last ten years let alone 110 years. Just sayin'. Also, how cool is it that they kept that ad? I'd say very cool indeed!

Enjoy the rest of your week!
Elsie

brewella deville said...

Nice photo. My town used to have a lot of those types of advertisements, unfortunately only a handful were saved.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Such a pity the flower garden's disappeared .
Lovely advertisement ... though I'm not sure purity is the first thing one's looking for in a biscuit .

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

I'd call that an amazing glimpse of 110 years of purity.
Love it, and I'm loving all the nostalgia around here.

Guillaume said...

Monsieur Christie, vous faites de bons biscuits.

Oh and to answer your question on my blog Domino is doing fine.

Mark said...

I don't know what's more impressive; that the old mural is still standing or that no one painted over it. I love little bits of local history like that. There's something that's been there so long everyone just lets it be.

Ol'Buzzard said...

Connections to the past fades farther away with each new generation. Just as we fade away.
the Ol'Buzzard

Jono said...

Were the biscuits tasty and expeditious? I wander if Christie's had a building in Weyburn?

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ Jono -- All of Christie's biscuits and cookies were and still are delicious! Very good quality. I don't think Christie had a manufacturing plant in Weyburn -- only in Toronto (still) and in Winnipeg (for a couple of decades in the mid-20th century). But I'm sure they must have sold lots of Christie products in Weyburn. Let me know what connection you have to Weyburn, Saskatchewan -- I'd be interested in knowing!

Jono said...

Debra, She was my first Canadian friend. We met in college in 1969. Kathy was her name, but we called her "The Saskatchewan Flash". She was cute and smart, but when I ran into her 4 years ago she was a little bitter, but otherwise doing well. She is still cute and smart. There is, of course, more to the story, but not for public discussion. We do stay in touch through social media.

koi seo said...

I love old buildings -especially those with old ads painted on them. I am glad that someone got a good picture of your grandparent's business before the building burned. I will look forward to reading more about this on Thursday.

แคมฟรอก

Fundy Blue said...

How sad that your grandparents' hotel burned down. I often take photos of ads painted on old buildings. They are always so cool.

The Happy Whisk said...

Very sad about the building burning down. Loved the story though. And, that side of the building looks like art work that can be hung on walls today. Love it.

Magic Love Crow said...

Debra, your family history is so interesting! I was reading your comment about your grandparents.
That is so cool about the Christie Biscuits sign!! I am so happy that the town hasn't got rid of it! Too many things are being washed away from our history! Big Hugs!

bj said...

if ever i had the pleasure of owning a hotel, I would name it THE QUEEN HOTEL...XOO

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

That is a bad evil cracker related Stephen King could have wrote back in the day. Evil Cracker factories are as bad as Evil Box factories. Factories with mechanical looms are pretty bad too.

baili said...

Selling family farm must be the painful decision but there must have been some strong reasons behind this.

this is sad that building caught fire in 2003.
i sensed your love for garden which is no more though but still exist in your memories.

Interesting painting and advertisement !

Lynn said...

I love it when old advertising like that one is preserved.

The Captain said...

There's a few still on buildings around here. I love a bit of history, and biscuits.