S.M. McGuire General Merchant is open for business! Thanks to the City of Salmon Arm Grants-in-Aid program, Sam McGuire has flipped his sign to open. The generous grant from the City made it possible for Sam to have the shelving, picture rail, trim, and sales counters installed.

The project almost came to a halt in this spring when matching funding couldn’t be raised. A smiling Doug Hlina had been volunteering at R.J. Haney Heritage Village and said he’d look at the plans for the exhibit and see what he could do. Amazingly, 389 volunteer hours later, Doug was still smiling.

Doug reviewed the plans created by Heritage Consultant Cuyler Page and promised to try to get half the shelving done for the grand opening on July 9th. As he was the only guy applying for the job at the wages I was offering, I smiled back, said that was fine, that he could only do what was humanly possible.

I started chewing my nails. An empty general store wouldn’t impress visitors that we expected to come to the opening party. I wondered if Doug was the kind of guy who liked to be a hero? Would he come through even though he didn’t promise to?

Doug’s offer to help freed grant monies to purchase all the wood, stain, and varathane needed for the “store.” He built a prototype and we talked about stains. Then he went into production, building five sets of shelves for the display. Doug installed the shelving. It looked impressive, but something was missing.

Site caretaker and friend to the museum, Ted McTaggart, and several buff seniors helped move in two antique showcases from Haney storage. The artefacts had come from local businesses. One was from Pratt’s Pharmacy. There were going to be local artefacts in Sam’s store!

That’s when volunteer Anne Grant was seconded to the project. Anne is normally in charge of accessioning new artefacts at the museum.

“Anne, could you pull artefacts from the museum’s collection for the General Store?” I asked, “and record what items are being put on display?” We couldn’t just decorate. The location of eachad to be updated in the database.

Anne worked for weeks.

Stuff moved from one building to the next. I’d say, “we need more tins! Multiples of grocery items like a real store!”

Anne would point out that everything we had was on display already.

“But we need more!” I declared.

Other areas of the Village were robbed. Haney House’s coal oil lamps were carried up to the store. The Haneys wouldn’t mind, I rationalized. They had electricity at the house.

Doug Hlina was back on site, installing a matching set of shelves for the gift shop area of McGuire’s and Ted McTaggart went to Dodd’s auction and came back with a cheese cutter and a third display case for that side. Things were speeding up. We were all working hard to get the project finished. Archival staff and volunteers started cleaning. Very small people were needed to clean the insides of the cases.

Sam McGuire’s brother-in-law’s safe was moved into place for the time capsule project. I thought Sam would agree that the store seemed to be the right place for Robert Turner’s safe.

The store needed a cash register. Horace Kuwica had a beauty in his garage, circa 1910, that weighed at least 150 pounds. The crew at Haney made a house call and picked up the machine. Volunteer Lise Ouimet spent a day shining its silver.

Still smiling, Doug Hlina went back to his workshop and consulted Cuyler Page’s design plan again. He wasn’t finished. A few days later he installed Sam’s cash register stand, sales counter, and gate to keep the display safe. 

Off site James Bowlby scripted a conversation for Sam’s mother, Agnes McGuire, and asked Lynda Hooper from the Salmon Arm Actors’ Studio to play the part. It seems that Sam had a previous commitment; he had a baseball game to attend in Enderby and left his mother in charge. With 906 people at the opening, there was no shortage of people for Mrs. McGuire to talk to.

The day ended. Everyone was happy, but the summer had only started.

The store was open regularly through the summer months, six days a week. 15,940 people came through the site. Tired, Sam took Mondays off to settle his accounts.

Fast forward two months.

In September sign painter Joyce Marchand was back to do the store’s business sign.

Although hired to do the job earlier, Joyce had been unable to finish the project in June. Joyce isn’t just a sign painter. She is a teamster and had had a run-in with her horse. By September she was out of hospital and healed. She filled a previous commitment to ploughing matches at the fall fairs and then showed up to scale the building to complete her contract. Fortunately the days were warm and sunny.

Inside McGuire’s Debbie Sturgeon was sanding the wooden sashes in McGuire’s store. She stained them a colour called A43, matching McGuire’s handsome double doors.

Now we’re waiting for Doug Hlina to come back from holidays and finish the trim around the windows and McGuire’s will officially be done….except for those missing tins needed to complete the store.