Thursday, April 22, 2010


Here’s a picture of my Mum.
There she sits on a piece of concrete. It’s obviously summertime.
Slips-ons and bobby socks. Her hair in tight curls. Usually in pictures of this era she had a bandana wrapped around her hair and tied at the back. I don’t think she’s wearing one in this picture though.
I’m sure she had to wear some type of head covering while working the grill. Mum also made bombs and I have pictures of her wearing her bomb-making overalls too.

However, this Blog is about Supertest and my Mum- Marion Reid (nee Bartley) a “Supertest Girl”.
What’s a ‘Supertest Girl”?
No, it’s not a burlesque Revue. Mum worked at the Supertest Grill at Front Street South and Colborne Street. The building’s still there but it’s a Rent-to-Own furniture store.
I know.
I don’t understand the concept either.

Mum came from Peterborough. One of four daughters born to Bruce and Lottie Bartley. A sister- Wilma, still lives in that Kawartha City. I love it when the “Sisters” get together. Memories and stories of years gone by sometimes come off sounding a bit different. Two versions if you will. For instance, Aunt Wilma says she stole my Mum’s new bike. Mum says Dad stole it, only he just “borrowed” it to get to the Lacrosse Arena where he was playing for the Peterborough Team. Maybe even I don’t have the story exactly as it happened. Not that it matters. It’s funny either way.
That Supertest Gas Station and Supertest Grill was still in operation when I was a child of the 50’s. This picture of Mum was taken when my Dad was away overseas during World War II. You can’t see it but there’s some mushy writing both along the bottom edge and on the back of the little snapshot. I just didn’t feel that needed to be shared with my “global” audience. You know, “missing you” stuff.

I guess Mum liked working at the Grill but she and the other gals hated working the weekend nights- especially after midnight.
Orillia was dry you see. No booze. Liquor and beer was scarce as hen’s teeth. No Bars. No drinks in restaurants. Ahhh, but there were bootleggers. People who illegally sold booze to the infidels. It was that was when I was a kid too. Temperance Ladies and the ever-powerful churches- especially the Baptists, kept a short reign on those who liked a bit of wine with a meal.Well, we have all gone to “Hell in a Handbasket”- haven’t we? The Baptists were right!

So, Mum and the other Supertest Gals hated the weekend nights because the drunks would arrive for burgers after the hotels in Atherley- that little den of purgatory, closed. There was the Atherley Arms- the First. Today you might know it by the name – Girls! Girls! Girls! Strippers. Underage drinking and murder in the parking lot.

The other bar was the “second”. I think it was the Champlain or something like that. I never went in as a teen but I heard it was a bit of a dump and rough! I believe they only served beer, so a “cultured” drinker such as myself didn’t have the palette for brew. Both had women’s and men’s entrances or ladies with escorts. No Gal would be caught going to the bar without a man on her arm back in the day- I dare say.

However, I remember once in Peterborough in the 60’s, my Dad went into a bar for a cold beer on a hot July day as Mum and I shopped in a nearby store. This bar only allowed Men through its doors! Can you imagine? A “men only” bar. God only knows what hi-jinks happened in the dusky, dank darkness! Come to think of it, back in Toronto I was in many “men only” bars.
Only in the 80’s- like today, they were called Gay Bars. Oh, the occasional straight woman would come with a Gay friend and sometimes a Lesbian or two- but that was about it. Mostly Men!

Now, like The Second, I have never been inside the Atherley Arms to this very day.
What an Angel I am!
The second was torn down years ago but the “Arms” still proudly stands on the corner of Highway 12 and Creighton Street. A mighty Atherley landmark!

So, Mum and the Supertest Gals would brace themselves for the onslaught of men, drunks and the “loose women” who accompanied them. I believe they ran a tight ship and had some Male help that ushered the “tight and tanked up” back out the door.

Oh yes, Supertest was “All Canadian” and it’s main function was to sell gasoline to the populace- even the drunks. Supertest was the name of the oil company. The Supertest Grill was just a sideline. Gas and a burger. Or was it the burger- then gas! Depends on how many onions Mum and the Supertest gals piled on top of the cheese I suppose. If you want to see a Supertest pump today, drive out number 12 from Orillia towards Coldwater. Just past the Marchmount turn, look to the right. There’ll you’ll see a couple of old Supertest Pumps sitting in front of a garage.

Don’t look for my Mum though, she’s probably at home calling Aunt Wilma tell “her” version of the same old tale- one more time.

Have a great day!

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