Cake Donuts

Circa 1960, Woodward’s New Westminster had a donut-making machine proudly on display, almost always in full operation. Enclosed in glass for easy viewing, it was always fun to watch the Donuts being made in what seemed to a child as completely automatic process; of course, someone had to make the dough and pour it into the container where the process began.

A ring of dough squirted out all around a one inch solid metal cylinder, dropping into a river of hot oil that cooked the dough into cake donuts as they floated lazily along to their destination.  Not their final destination, of course, which was my stomach.

They were sold as is, without icing, though I assume that some creative mothers would take them home and dust them with icing sugar or cinnamon before serving them to their families.

Ice Cream and Malts

I spent a lot of time at my Grandmother’s house in my early years, when my maternal grandparents still lived a block away from Woodward’s New Westminster. She would often take me to Woodward’s and offer to buy me an ice cream cone. Five cents for a soft vanilla ice cream cone, and 10 cents for hard.

I cannot remember choosing anything but Soft. A few years back, I tried Dairy Queen soft ice cream, but they clearly did not use the same recipe as Woodward’s did circa 1960.

At some point after, I remember soft chocolate ice cream from a machine that allowed the store clerk to choose vanilla, chocolate or half and half swirl. I think that was also Woodward’s but I cannot be sure.

Although I did not have many as a child, when I moved to Edmonton in 1975, I would often have a Malt from the area under the escalator in the Basement of the Edmonton Centre Woodward’s Downtown.

Business Model

When my father was running Peerless Products, he tried to sell the company’s jars of school paste to Woodward’s. He met with Charles “Chunky” Woodward, the President of the department store chain founded by his grandfather. Mr. Woodward explained that they bought their goods directly from manufacturers at half the regular retail price it would be sold for in his stores.

This approach makes more sense in that era (the 1960s) when Retailing was synonymous with Middlemen. There were Manufacturers, Wholesalers and Retailers, with even more layers in between, each with their associated Costs. For example, an item manufactured in Detroit would first be shipped in a caselot to the manufacturer’s Canadian office incurring shipping, duty, brokerage and Federal Sales Tax. It would then be shipped to a Wholesaler where it would be stored until purchased by a Retailer. The Retailer would have it shipped to their Canadian warehouse where it would be stored until an individual store ran low on the product. It would then by shipped to the store where it would be stored in the back of the store until stock on the retail shelf got low, and the case would be opened and a few items put on the shelf. Where each item would sit until a customer purchased it.

The costs involved in this lengthy process would often exceed the manufacturing cost of the item, which explains the Woodward’s approach.

Taking it to the next level, Woodward’s carried a lot of products under their house brand: “Woodward’s”, of course. They did not actually manufacture the product, but were able to get exceptional price reductions from those that did manufacture Woodward’s house brand products. As well as eliminating the Sales and Advertising costs of the manufacturer, Woodward’s often sold Seconds that a manufacturer would otherwise have trouble getting rid of. For example, Clover Leaf Albacore Tuna only included the meat of the fish that had a fine texture. Clover Leaf canned the layered denser meat as Woodward’s Albacore Tuna. I actually preferred the flavour and texture, and I suspect Chunky did, too.


At 92, my mother remembered that, before her parents started shopping at Woodward’s, Spencer’s was The Place to Shop.