A museum is like a pirate’s chest, overflowing with treasure. Gems, large and small.
Annandale National Historic Site is the pirate chest, but one made of gold, for Annandale House, the Tillsons’ Victorian mansion is the greatest treasure. Inside you will find many gems and jewels displayed for you to see. But like that treasure chest, you have to dig to the bottom, in this case the basement storage area to find hundreds if not thousands of artifacts, large and teeny.
Jen Gibson, the museum’s artifact expert, has been busy for a few years now getting everything organized, catalogued, scanned and into the computer and every now and then she finds another gem. Jen was in the basement recently and discovered a box from Rachel’s Bridal Boutique in Tillsonburg (c. 1960s). What makes it special is they have no other information and, in fact, didn’t know there had been a Rachel Bridal Boutique in town.
Did you? My husband Peter, who grew up here, remembered the name and trust me, him remembering a bridal shop name is very weird. I expect the ladies reading this who have lived here for decades might be able to do better than Peter. You do? Excellent because you need to call or drop into the museum and tell Jen all you know about the shop. Did you buy your gown there? Or did your Mom or your daughter? Do you have a picture or better yet do you still have the dress you bought there? Maybe a receipt? That would be fantastic. Did your whole wedding party buy their gowns there? How many did you have in your wedding party? What colours? Any interesting stories about the shop or your experience purchasing your gown there? This will bring back a lot of memories of the big day!
So, who was Rachel? Do you remember her? Was she the owner or was she a previous owner when you shopped there? What was her last name? Where did she live? Do you have a photo of Rachel?
Now, we do have one wee bit of information about the shop and that is it was located at 114 Broadway, where today’s Listen Up Canada is located. (Pet Peeve: Broadway is a Broad Way, not a street or a road just Broadway - most maps and letterheads are incorrect!)
Why do they want all this information? Finding the wedding gown box inspired Jen to plan an August exhibit which will feature a wall, like the inside of Rachel’s wedding shop. She can’t do that unless she knows a lot more, so we are appealing to the ladies that shopped at Rachel’s to dig through the closet, attic or cedar chest and find their gowns.
Because our fingers have natural oils on them, in a museum you have to wear gloves to touch the artifacts. For one so young, Jen is actually a wise woman! She knows that women viewing wedding dresses are really going to want to touch the dresses to feel the fabric. (My mother and many of my friends are downright embarrassing in a fabric store doing that!) So, Jen would also like to have ‘prop’ dresses that people can touch. Theatre Tillsonburg will be lending some for exactly that purpose. Do you have one they can use?
Please, if you have memories or artifacts from Rachel’s Bridal Boutique call Jen at 519-842-2294.
Doing this article has me thinking of Tillsonburg’s past when there were several stores you could buy your wedding gown at. You didn’t have to go to the city to get your stylish clothes. What a change when you consider there is no place in town to buy your wedding gowns. I expect a lot of younger brides are buying online.
The world is changing very quickly and when we are gone, who will be able to tell our great, great, grandchildren what life was like today? Can you tell your children today how your great grandparents lived and worked? Will they laugh when they understand that brides in the 1800s didn’t wear white and sewed their own bridal finery? Will they laugh to know you bought your bridal gown in Tillsonburg? At Rachel’s? Or maybe Lady Anne’s or Esther’s Dress Shop? Maybe Heath’s? What is a department store?
It is time for everyone to capture your past and write it down. Put names on the people in your albums so your grandchildren don’t throw out the photos of their great-greats because they don’t know their names. Write down how you did your job whether you were a store clerk doing everything by hand and mind or how tobacco was farmed with boats and horses. If you don’t the future will not understand the past.