Friday, July 29, 2016

No time off for day of rest, Sunday shoppers

Opinion | Columns

13 hours ago | By Jim Thomas


Is Sunday shopping taboo with you?

Do Sabbath treks to No Frills, Metro or Walmart prick your conscience? Or has the practice become a regular routine?

To find out, I recently visited each of these locations on a Sunday afternoon and was amazed at what I observed. All three stores were extremely busy with shoppers entering and exiting like any Friday or Saturday.

“What’s happening here?” I asked myself. “Does no one adhere to the biblical demand to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” or “on the seventh day thou shalt rest?” Many don’t.

Despite the trend, I can’t bring myself to join the crowd although, at the same time admitting that, on occasions, I’ve visited Mac’s or Shoppers on a Sunday to pick up a bag of milk for wife Jean’s Monday morning Cheerios. But that’s the limit. There are six other days (and nights) in the week to accomplish these duties.

However, there’s no denying the fact I’m out of step with the rest of Stouffville’s populace. The Sabbath has seemingly become just another day in the week for most people. I think it’s sad.

Looking back – at age 87 
I’m continually looking back – Sunday traditions were different. Would you believe we kids weren’t even allowed to shine our shoes? No way. This task was completed Saturday night.

So were all other forms of so-called unnecessary work. Certainly, cows had to be milked and eggs had to be gathered but these duties were considered essential. Common sense prevailed.

However, many times my dad threatened to haul in an extra load of hay because rain was in the weather forecast. But never did.

“You’ll bring the wrath of God down on this house,” my mother would say. The warning was sufficient to change his mind.

Much the same rigid ruling applied to sports. Pond hockey and back yard baseball were OK but anything of a competitive nature was frowned upon. These restrictions were eased somewhat as we grew older. While my parents enjoyed card games, particularly euchre, these also were forbidden. Attending church and Sunday school were priorities not subject to debate.

This was the way of Ontario’s world back then including our big cities. In Toronto, baseball games at the old Fleet St. flats couldn’t begin until 2 p.m. There were no hockey nights on Sundays and all theatres were closed. Open restaurants and coffee shops were few and far between. One could shoot a cannon up and down Yonge Street without striking a single car or pedestrian.

Toronto’s ‘Blue Sunday’ law came under harsh criticism by the daily media, so much so, in 1990, the Retail Business Holiday Act was ruled unconstitutional by the Ontario Supreme Court. A year later, this decision was reversed, then changed again in 1992.

With Markham’s Markville Shopping Centre in full swing, considerable pressure was exerted on Stouffville businesses to follow suit. This resulted in a war of words between a local clothier and shoe retailer. Eventually, both closed up shop.

We’re not even talking about the growing number of malls and businesses that are open on holidays, including next Monday’s Simcoe/Civic holiday.

As an example of how far we’ve come in this regard in the last century, a Sunday Laws pronouncement dated 1911 spelled out the following prohibited commands:

• No work by labourers including mechanics and manufacturers.

• No farm work including seeding, harvesting, fencing and ditching.

• No railway work.

• No building.

• No baking or barbering.

• No sports for financial gain.

• No excursions for hire by train or by steamer.

• No advertising.

• No actions that diminish the public quiet including gambling, tippling or use of profane language.

• No public meetings except in churches.

• No hunting, fishing or shooting in any public places or locations within sight of places of public worship or private residences.

Penalties were posted ranging from $5 to $25.

While downtown Stouffville has little changed, surrounding areas have fallen in line with service demands. That once respected ‘day of rest’ has been set aside, never to return.

The almighty dollar’s in control.

Jim Thomas is a Stouffville resident who has written for area newspapers for more than 65 years.

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