Nancy Tait could not wait to get back to her work in the archives. There were things that needed doing that she left when we had to close the doors in March 2020. All those obituaries have piled ups since!

Nancy, like many of our multi taskers at the museum and archives, has had other jobs to catch up on too. She had a taste of transcribing projects, working from home during the closure. Now, with her double vaccination card and mask in hand, she is one of the few who are working in the archives again. We are being careful and will not be up to capacity for a long time.

One of the collections Nancy has recently processed is the Front Street Grocery and Confectionery records. The collection was in our backlog and looked like a great introduction to the world of archival fonds. It wasn’t huge. It spanned almost a decade of record keeping. It was a prominent business that had more than one local connection.

Nancy checked out the format for writing up a fonds and set to work. She organized the books in date order, removed staples, and found some personal legal papers that were connected to one of the store’s owners, Frank Farmer. She typed up her list and tried to decipher the events the papers represented.

When I returned from my holiday, Nancy was eager for us to review her work. She had the format down, but the writing of the history came next.

The two of us started with the newspaper, figuring out when the store opened in the Merchants’ Block, and when Frank Farmer took over from Ed Porte. Front Street Grocery opened in 1939, if the advertisements in the paper are a complete story. Porte had worked at the Overwaitea store and must have had a career change, opening his own operation and hiring Zephy Ball, Archie Brayden, and Stan Chambers to help him. Frank Farmer took over the grocery store in 1943. He had seven years experience selling fruits and vegetables house to house and also led a local dance orchestra. Frank hired Irene Chambers to manage the store, then in 1948 he expanded the store into the premises formerly occupied by Preston’s Radio Sales.

We searched the provincial archives for vital stats to fill in some of the blanks. Who was Porte married to? His death certificate showed he had had heart and mind issues when he died in 1948. Farmer was just as interesting. He married Florence Gertrude Pauling in 1936 and the couple had one child, Dick, but the marriage didn’t last.

I showed Nancy the framed photo we have of Florence, Frank and Dick. It came in a few years ago as a donation from grand daughter Niki Rohde. It was a professional shot, by Blundell, framed and hanging in the archives vault. I had always been impressed with Florrie’s smoky eyes. She was a looker! Frank was too, with his pencil-thin moustache.

In a way I was showing Nancy how other collections and resources connect to this one to flush out a story. We searched the phone books, finding that the store stopped having a listing in 1956. This didn’t fit with the memory of our next source, Linda Painchaud, nee Honey. Linda remembered going in to the store on Sundays in the 1960s. She promised to check with her brother to see if her memory was accurate.

In the end we created a short history of the store to be uploaded to MemoryBC, the AABC site for archival fonds. We created a folder of the copies of the birth, death, and marriage records, reports to events related to the store and its owners to help future researchers. It was a tidy little project, a nice way to get back to working on the collection and it made this archivist smile. We are making progress!