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Eaton’s Junior Executive – That’s Me

eaton's junior executive

I was proud to serve as an Eaton’s Junior Executive in high school at Winnipeg’s landmark store. Good looking guy back then, eh?

For more than a century, Eaton’s was Canada’s premier department store. If you grew up in Winnipeg, Eaton’s main downtown store at Portage and Donald was always top of mind. You shopped there. You met your fiends there, typically by Timothy’s statue on the main floor. You caught your bus there.

Recognizing the growth of Western Canada, Eaton’s built its Winnipeg store in 1905. Before then, folks in the west relied mainly on mail order catalogs. At some point, Winnipeg people did 50% of their non-grocery shopping in this famous landmark. Demolished in 2003, you will now find this site contains a hockey arena for the Winnipeg Jets.

Starting in 1940, Eaton’s Junior Executive (boys) and Junior Councilor (girls) programs helped the retail giant focus on young people across Canada. I was selected as the Eaton’s Junior Executive from Elmwood High School in 1968, see above right. My mom hung on to that portrait for many years. You will now find it hidden in my radio room closet.

In the days before suburban shopping malls, let alone online buying, downtown department stores ruled the roost. These were also major employers, especially for young men and women, like me. I learned a lot about customer service while working part-time at Eaton’s. Do you remember their motto? “Goods satisfactory or money refunded.”

I think I just got in under the wire, as this youth-oriented program was discontinued by 1970.

Eaton’s Junior Executive Program Activities

If you were part of this, you may recall Eaton’s Junior Executive program had two benefits. First, it was a national focus group for the chain. We met for an hour before the store opened on Saturday morning. We were asked our opinions on all sorts of things, as well as educated on how the retail business worked. The store took this program seriously.

Second, Eaton’s Junior Executive and Junior Councilor members received preference for part time employment, especially in grade 12. Yes, it was minimum wage, but I was happy to receive $1.50 an hour! Not surprisingly, I worked in the radio and television department, as well as a long stint at the radio repair counter.

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