Legend of George Stewart-The Legend Continues

One of the earliest and most popular things that I wrote dealt with Windsor businessman George Stewart. Stewart was known for a number of unique things: his legendary frugality, his cars, his fleet of the same truck, his tracked cash handling system, and unknown publicly his generosity. It’s been almost five years since I wrote the first piece and in those years since I wrote it I have found out a few more things about Mr. Stewart.

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Early picture of Stewart’s Store. This early incarnation had a sign !(http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/community-stories_histoires-de-chez-nous/main-street-merchants-windsor_marchands-a-windsor/story/everything-was-done-by-hand-stewarts-general-store/)

George wasn’t an only child. He had a sister named Emma and an older brother Arthur. Arthur was born in 1898 and was about 15 years older than George. He served in the First World War with the Newfoundland regiment. He was wounded and shell-shocked when buried by an artillery barrage.  He returned to take up his former job as electrician at the mill but moved to Corner Brook to work in the mill there and stayed there. (Service Record for Arthur Stewart). On George’s obituary there is a sister Emma Thompson listed. One Emma Thompson could be found who may be a candidate, she was married to Stephen Thompson of Botwood, who happened to be brother of Joe Thompson, President of the Newfoundland Lumberman’s Association.

Colin Stewart had worked in the grocery business in St. John’s and possibly elsewhere in Newfoundland, and in the early twenties he was buying his product from the large St. John’s firms just like many outport merchants. There is a chattel mortgage in the registry of deeds between the elder Stewart and one of the big firms like Bowrings.

George stewarts store
Stewart’s Grocery store after it was closed. The only real difference was that the front door was boarded up. It was likely that during the last years, George kept the store going to take care of his long time employees.

George went to Grand Falls Academy on High Street, there wasn’t a school in Windsor back in the very early days.

George’s Brother in law was a woods contractor foreman, Jack Milley. He was still alive after I wrote the first piece and knew a lot about George, regretfully I never contacted him before he passed away.

I did note this earlier, but now I have more detail. George generally drove around in one of his old delivery trucks, later he had a station wagon and then a small but newer pickup. In one of his buildings he had a number of largely unused classic cars. One was a 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special l (which apparently had air conditioning and power windows). According to Wally Mews, who dealt with George though business, George owned a piece of land that a business owner wanted (George owned a lot of land in Windsor and some on the Highway). George said he wouldn’t sell but if the person could get him this particular car he would lease it to him. The man found the car and George leased him the land. To be fair, if the car was new I would have cost around $6,233 (over $50,000 in today’s dollars), which would have bought you a lot of land back then. When my grandfather built his first building for an auto-body shop on Duggan Street (not far from some property Stewart owned on the highway) back in about 1960 the A.N.D Company sold him the land for a dollar, I wonder if George Stewart got a Cadillac for a dollar piece of land!

One of the other cars he owned was a Oldsmobile Toronado from about 1967. I have had a number of dates thrown at me, but I recall “car people” in my family saying it was a Canadian Centennial edition, I may be wrong, as there was an incredibly rare customized car based on the Toronado built in Canada that year. According to a man who worked at the Exploits Valley Garage at the time, George paid cash in a white envelope for the car. I doubt he drove it, my father worked pumping gas for Pop at the original Marsh Motors on 2nd Avenue back in the 1960’s and distinctly remembers George’s gas cap being fashioned from an old tin can! There are also reports of him having an older model Ford Mustang and possibly a Thunderbird.

George’s parents had one of the first motor vehicles in Grand Falls Station back in the early 1920’s. I think it was either a Buick or an Oldsmobile. It is registered at the Registry of Deeds and the mortgage on it (yes) was in his mother’s name. They way George held on the vehicles I am surprised it never turned up in the back of the store after he died.

George also built at least one boat. I recall seeing pictures.  This thing was fancy, it was a speed boat, not an open skiff with an outboard motor, but one of these old school 1920’s style speed boats with a forward cabin and trimmed out with expensive wood.

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Inside of Stewart’s Store (Facebook-Windsor Historical Society)

There were a number of early land grants to the Stewart family in the former town of Windsor. Truth be know there are a number of houses built on land once Granted to either Colin, Bertha, Arthur or George Stewart. George’s mother, Bertha had been granted the land George used to house his plane on Little Rushy back in 1920. They also owned part of Coronation Street and a substantial block where Irving Street is now located as well of part of present day Smallwood Drive. George himself was granted the block where Wuthering Drive and Empire Drive are located. Combined, the Stewarts owned many acres of Windsor.

Though he had a bit of a reputation for “extreme frugality” there were a number of stories about his generosity that came out after he died. Stories of how he helped families with clothes and books for school, and other things such as giving away bags of groceries to families in need during hard times. I do believe that when he passed away the SPCA received a considerable donation from his estate. George was said to love cats, as he kept them around his store as pest control! I am curious to know how and if he sold all of the land he owned in Windsor and if the people who built on it paid full price.

Stewarts Cash system Trudi Marie.jpg
The cash railway from Stewart’s. These contraptions were popular when George Stewart started out in the grocery business. I often wonder if he got this when they closed the Royal Stores. (Facebook-Windsor Historical Society)

By far the funniest thing I found out was how he would take some of his workers up in his plane. Apparently before going he would tell them “go get a bag, you’re going up in the plane!” To make the best of it George wasn’t the youngest when he got his pilots licence.

Here’s the link to the original story.

The Legend of George Stewart

Side Note: One of George’s competitors was the “Economy Store” I can remember it still being active in the 1980’s, but the history goes back much further. I am not sure of when the “Economy” first opened, but I have a newspaper advertisement for it from 1939!

 

 

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