A moment in history: May 29, 1934

A moment in history: May 29, 1934

· The Pulse

On this day in 1934, some concerned citizens were calling for Edmonton to have fewer candy stores.

The call came from W.A. Gunn, a representative for a group of wholesalers in the city. Gunn wasn't a dentist. Instead, he expressed concerned that the swelling number of confectioners might result in too few customers to keep them all afloat, as well as push down wages (he argued the same was likely to happen for cafes.)

The idea of the city straining under too many candy shops sounds odd — especially when one considers this happened during the Great Depression, when luxuries like candy would seem like an obvious thing to cut to save money. But in reality, candy sales boomed in many places during the 1930s. Confectionaries were relatively cheap businesses to start and ingredients were often cheap to buy. And candy was even marketed as a cheap alternative to actual meals.

It's hard to pin down exactly how many confectioners were in business in Edmonton in 1934. But it wouldn't be surprising if Edmontonians turned to candy to help them through the tough decade. The city has always had a bit of a sweet tooth.

In Edmonton's early years, general stores commonly made candy and sold it along with other goods. As the city grew in the early 1910s, though, dedicated candy kitchens opened, many of them along Jasper Avenue, to create homemade chocolates and confections. Edmonton's biggest sweet success story got its start around then when the Pavey Candy Company opened in 1914.

Pavey quickly made a name for itself. Within a year, the company had gained a reputation for its high-quality candies, including its lemonade powder, buttercups, and "sherbitt powder," as the Edmonton Bulletin reported.

But over the 1910s, Edmonton's candy makers weathered hard times, including the need to find alternative ingredients due to rationing and restrictions during the First World War. But the 1920s saw success return, particularly for the Pavey Candy Company. It expanded not only the variety of confections it offered but also where they were sold. Before too long, Pavey was exporting its candy and chocolates all over Western Canada from a small brick building on Jasper Avenue. The demand was so great that the company built a larger facility east of downtown.

Pavey wasn't the only candy company to strike it big with sweets, though. By 1945, Edmonton had at least five sizeable companies dedicated exclusively to treats. Most made chocolate, with one cookie company among them. So strong was the city's sweet tooth that in 1940, Edmonton children joined a national strike when chocolate bar prices rose by a few cents.

Dedicated confectioners and candy shops continued to be a common sight in Edmonton into the later part of the century. But, eventually, they began to shut down, crowded out by changing retail habits and national and international brands that could take advantage of mass production.

Still, Edmonton's love of local sweets has never fully disappeared. The city still hosts several specialty candy shops, which often deal in higher-quality or difficult-to-find confections. Local chocolatiers also continue to form a small but successful industry in the city, though they are now dealing with record-high prices for cacao following shortages this spring.

This clipping was found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse of @VintageEdmonton.