“Come quick, Morley! - MORLEY COME QUICK!! They are talking about your popcorn man.”
I started up. I had been leisurely reading the morning paper and enjoying a cup of coffee. Fay was calling urgently from the kitchen where she was listening to CBC’s “Morningside.” I hastily made my way to the kitchen, and sure enough they WERE TALKING ABOUT MY POPCORN MAN. The grandson of the original Regina Popcorn Man was relating the story of his grandfather and how he had come to Regina and established his ‘Popcorn Wagon’ on the corner of Broad Street and 11th Avenue.
I was immediately transported back in time to my very early years - five years of age I believe. I was with my mom grocery shopping in downtown Regina. Without thinking, I wandered away. Suddenly I could not see my mom; I stepped outside the store looking for her. Soon I was all alone on a busy downtown Regina street, and scared out of my mind. Tears streamed down my face, and wails of panic poured out of my mouth.
A policeman came to help, but I was babbling so much he could not understand me. To calm me down he escorted me to the nearby ‘Popcorn’ wagon, where a most kind man gave me a bag of popcorn and talked gently to me. What a treat. I calmed down enough to tell the policeman where my dad worked.
Soon I was in my dad’s arms - safe - munching delicious free popcorn - and off to find mom.
I never forgot that wonderful Popcorn Man.
What does all this have to do with Prince Albert and its history? Well, recently I was at a gathering of Prince Albert seniors, and the convener asked people to share stories. I shared the one about the “Morningside” incident. The reaction was amazing.
One of my table mates promptly asked “Morley, did you know Prince Albert had its own historic ‘Popcorn Man’?”
What followed was an eruption of tales from the seniors at my table. Each one had a story to relate of trips to our downtown and a stop at the popcorn man’s wagon. It seems his popcorn wagon was the centerpiece of life on Central Avenue for many years.
The seniors gathered at my table were soon joined by others – the story telling became infectious. Each person recalled the Popcorn Man and how he was connected to downtown Prince Albert.
“We, my newly wedded husband and I, lived on Central, and we would stroll ‘hand in hand’ down to his cart, buy a bag to share, a brown paper bag soiled by delicious butter, sit down and ‘people watch,’ giggle, and later make our way home after a delightful afternoon.”
The smile on that lady’s face and the wistful look in her eye, said everything. That was all it took for others to quickly join in with their stories. Stories that brought up memories of what a beehive of activity Central was back in ‘those good old days.’
I will compile a few of those recollections to paint the picture that emerged as those seniors reminisced:
“I so remember that popcorn and then ‘fries’ at Tillie’s.”
“I remember him- Popcorn Pete. Right at the the four bank’s corner. Remember it like it was yesterday.”
“The little brown bag was a treasure – soaked through with butter. Those were the days! Smelt SO GOOD!”
“ If we were good, mom bought the best popcorn ever!”
“I remember that wonderful treat. Central Avenue was lit with neon lights. There were two theatres on the street.
It was like a small Granville Street in Vancouver.”
“ Spent my last dime there often. Mouth watering!”
“Bought a bag and went window shopping at The Blue
Chain, Barskey’s, Howard’s Shoes, Bradbury’s, Eagles’ S t a t i o n a r y , Carment’s Jewellers, Aaron’s Lady’s Wear.”
. Obviously, Central Avenue was a bustling, busy center of life in Prince Albert back a few years ago. And at the vortex of all those memories was the Popcorn Man.
He wasn’t a great politician, a renowned athlete, a wartime hero, or citizen of the year. But, he was someone who played a most intricate role in what Prince Albert was. He was someone who added to our city’s great past in a unique way – and all of it through a 10 cent paper bag, showing grease stains, of what one, who recalled those days, called ‘real butter!’
My Popcorn Man in Regina played a similar role.
What a great connection to my present home today – and all because of that wonderful story shared on CBC’s “Morningside.”
“THOSE WERE THE DAYS – MY FRIEND!”