According to Ottawa’s Britannia “A grocery store, Elroy’s Canteen, at the corner of Scrivens and Walter, began to operate by 1948 and was managed by Thomas Merrifield.“
Below is the only reference I could find anywhere on google or the newspaper archives for “Elroy’s Canteen“; other than that, nothing. So all trace of “Elroy’s Canteen” at 110 Scrivens seems to have completely disappeared.
However, the store at 110 Scrivens was already known as Merrifield’s Grocery by 1954, and was run by Thomas George Merrifield and his wife Josephine (nee Brunet). The store is in the news in 1954 due to a break in by one Donald Brunet, presumably no relation to Josephine, and he was caught in the act by patroling police.
Thomas Merrifield died on May 3rd, 1957, but his wife Josephine would continue to operate the store. In the 1957 voters list they are listed as living in “Britannia Heights”, but the obituary for Thomas says Josephine lives at 123 Scrivens, more or less across the street from the store.
A 1958 voters list has Mrs Josephine Merrifield, widow, living at 123 Scrivens, Britannia Heights PO. The name Belltown did not even start to come into use until the 1950s, and what is now Belltown would be called Britannia Heights or Britannia Bay, depending on which post office was serving the area at the time.
In 1952, 123 Scrivens was occupied by Mrs Arthur Barlow, but it is also listed for sale that same year. Presumably this is when the Merrifields bought it, some 4 or 5 years after they started running “Elroy’s Canteen.”
The late 50s are not an easy time as less than a year after Thomas’ death, at about 8:15 on Mar 20th, 1958, Josephine is alone in the store when she is held up at gunpoint. The three men steal some cigarettes, drinks, and about $30 in cash.
Apparently they make their escape on the street car from Britannia Park, an image that conjures up a Keystone Kops type of scenario. Despite this foolproof escape plan they are captured, tried, and sentenced.
See Lynda Kinnear’s comment below for more on this robbery and Merrifields generally.
As far as we know the 1960s passed uneventfully. Then on Jan 20 1971 the store is robbed again, again at gun point, except this time the clerk, Gay Merrifield, is nearly shot in the head.
A lone male in his mid-twenties robbed the store with a single shot 22 cal rifle. Apparently upon entering the store he fired and narrowly missed Gay Merrifield’s head.
He then had to reload, but luckily for him the three people present were so stunned and intimidated that no one did anything, and possibly wisely so as the three were the 49 yr old Gay, a 19 yr old girl, and a 13 yr old boy.
The robber took about $35 cash and fled. There are no reports of him ever being caught, so perhaps he got away with it. In the article Gay mentions that her now 77 yr old mother Josephine still works in the store 13 hours every day. Presumably the robbery was in the evening after Josephine had already gone home for the day.
Almost another two years pass and then Josephine Merrifield, now aged 78, passes away on Dec 30th, 1972. I do not know if Merrifield’s closed at this time, or whether Gay kept it going. Six years later, the now 55 year old Gabrielle (Gay) of 123 Scrivens passes away as well. Presumably that would definitely have been the end of Merrifield’s if it had not already closed when Josephine died.
Except the woman who passed away in 1978 was Gabrielle Neault, not Merrrifield. Say what? Did she get married or something?
The 1971 robbery story repeatedly identifies the clerk as Miss Gay Merrifield, who several times refers to her “mother”, Josephine Merrifield. Gabrielle Neault lives at 123 Scrivens, the home of Josephine Merrifield. She shares the same first name and is the same age as woman identified as Gay Merrifield.
But her obituary clearly names her parents as Gilbert and Victoria Neault. In fact none of the named relations are anything resembling a Merrifield, a Brunet, or a Josephine.
I am guessing it was one of those “informal adoption” type things, where the two women became close friends and settled into a sort of mother/daughter relationship and even referred to one another as such. Perhaps Jospehine had hired her to help with the store after Thomas died?
The 1957 voters list mentions a real estate saleslady, Miss G Neault, as living in Britannia Heights, but she does not appear in any subsequent voters list. Her obituary is her one and only mention under that name in the newspaper archive.
As for the store, the 1976 aerial photo should tell us if the building is at least still there, but the resolution is so unbelievably terrible that it’s impossible to be sure. By 1991 is it clearly gone and replaced with the residence below. After the 1971 robbery the address is not mentioned again until it is advertised as a rental in the summer of 2004, so no clues there either.
The residence at 123 Scrivens is not advertised for sale until 1996, so presumably Gabriel willed it to someone, or it was sold without advertising in the papers. It is advertised as for sale in 2001, when presumably the current occupants acquired it.
According to Facebook user Nancy Cheff, Gay was also referred to as a niece, but it’s not clear if that relationship was any more biological fact than the the mother/daughter one.
Cathy Maxsom (comments below) confirms that Gay was a niece, as well as informing us that apparently the store was still standing when Gay died (1978), but boarded up and scheduled for demolition.
Nancy also says Gay tried running the store for “a while”, and then leased it for “a while”, so it sounds like it went on for 2 or 3 more years following Mrs Merrifield’s death before closing.
- Who was Gabrielle Neault and how did she become Josephine Merrifield’s daughter?
- Who the heck was Elroy?