If there’s one ritual happily embraced by Winnipeggers it’s the rubbing of Timothy Eaton’s toe.
That being the toe of his left shoe on the statue located in the entrance to Bell MTS Place.
Long rumoured to bring you good luck and fortune, you’ll know which toe to rub when you see it, it’s the shiny one.
This statue sat for 80 years in the downtown store on Portage Ave. where countless generations of shoppers would rub this on a daily basis until the bronze shone far brighter than the rest of the statue.
It is actually one of two identical statues, the other used to be at the Eaton’s store in Toronto and now resides in the Royal Ontario Museum.
These statues were a gift to the Eaton family from his employees just after the First World War. Hard to imagine these days that a group of company employees would pay for such a thing to honour their employer.
Even the sculptor was an Eaton employee. Ivor Lewis a Welsh immigrant and department manager created each of the 3,500 lbs statues.
To many of his employees Timothy Eaton was more than just an employer though, he was a visionary. Introducing catalogue shopping to Canada, which was just as revolutionary in its day as on-line shopping is today.
Although he was in town for our store’s opening in 1905, unfortunately the founder had passed away before the statues were commissioned so it was left to his son Sir John C. Eaton to be on hand for the unveiling.
Rather apt as it was Sir John’s decision to locate Eaton’s first branch store in Winnipeg. It was the second largest store in the country at the time, just behind the Toronto one.
According to news reports of the day thousands of employees were on hand for the unveiling, where “O Canada” was sung, long before it became our official national anthem.
Those must have been heady days for our city, with this grand new store and a new streetcar system, electric street lighting and a phenomenal rate of growth, no wonder we were hailed as the Chicago of the north.
Upon the store’s closure in 1999 and demolition shortly after, our statue was moved briefly to the Polo Park store until the move to Bell MTS Place which sits on the site of the former Eaton store.
Rubbing Timmy’s toe is a Winnipeg tradition and if you want the Jets to get to the Stanley Cup this year then remember the next time you’re at Bell MTS Place for a hockey game and you walk past Timothy Eaton’s statue, give that toe a rub. It just might bring them the luck they need.