Updated: Sep 22, 2021
Went for a walk with my wife in Trail’s Sunningdale neighbourhood and came across this curious building at 632 Isabella Crescent. It was clearly once a commercial building of some sort. (Trail has quite a few such buildings in residential areas that have been turned into homes.)
632 Isabella Crescent, as seen from the Monte Road side, looking southwest.
Intrigued, I checked the BC Assessment site, which indicates it was built in 1951, although I subsequently discovered it was actually no later than 1950.
Next stop was the 1953 West Kootenay civic directory, which contains the only historical street listings for Trail online. It showed the Sunningdale Drive-In Market Grocery at 628 Isabella, which was also the home of E.C. Cretney, listed elsewhere as Edward C. Cretney and wife Hazel A.
That raised two questions:
• 628 Isabella today is a split-level home that BC Assessment says was built in 1968. Was the street numbering changed? As it turns out, yes. The May 1956 telephone book lists Sunningdale Drive-In Market at 632 Isabella. So that is indeed the building in question.
• What the heck is a drive-in market? A sort of proto-supermarket born in the 1920s, according to an account at Paleofuture.
The drive-in market delivered new kinds of efficiencies, like allowing food vendors to set up shop slightly off the beaten path, where real estate prices were cheaper. It also allowed shoppers to find nearly all of their grocery needs under one roof rather than driving from specialized store to specialized store.
Richard Longstreth writes in The Drive-In, The Supermarket, and the Transformation of Commercial Space in Los Angeles, 1914-41:
Many consumers acquired a preference for the drive-in market over chain and other neighborhood food stores because of its convenience. The opportunity to pull off the street, park adjacent to the store, and have purchases placed in the car by an attendant was regarded as an enormous advantage. At some drive-in markets, customers could even remain in the driver's seat and give their order to a clerk, although this practice does not appear to have been widespread owing to the bottlenecks it could generate.
Sunningdale was developed by the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation as a post-World War II veterans housing project. It became part of the City of Trail in 1948.
The Sunningdale Drive-In Market was not listed in the 1948 civic directory, but does show up in the September 1950 phone book.
I found this ad from the Vancouver Province of March 8, 1952 indicating it was already for sale on account of the owners’ “ill health.”
Another ad in the Calgary Herald of May 23, 1953 showed the price had dropped:
We already know Cretney was Edward and Hazel Cretney. But back to the 1953 directory and we learn Banton was Helen Banton, whose husband Frank was the city works superintendent.
A check of BC vital events further reveals she was Edward and Hazel’s daughter. And through marriage and death registrations and other records found at ancestry.com, a family picture emerges.
Edward Caesar (Ted) Cretney is born Nov. 26, 1879 in either Marown or Douglas, Isle of Man, to Robert and Margaret (Andrew) Cretney, both natives of Man. He has ten siblings.
At 24, he departs from Liverpool and arrives at St. John, NB on April 12, 1904. He lists his occupation as farmer and his destination as Ottawa. He soon heads further west.
On April 27, 1912, in Spokane, he marries Hazel Annie Scott Mather of Fort Steele. She is a housekeeper, the daughter of Robert and Mary Jane (Del Gardno) Mather, both Scottish. She was born Sept. 13, 1891 in Port Townsend, Wash. Therefore she is 21 and her new husband is 32.
Daughter Helen Margaret arrives on Oct. 18 of the same year in Spokane.
The family moves to Fort Steele in 1913 and later to Sheep Creek, north of Wasa. Two sons, Edward Jr. and Leonard, are born, around 1915 and 1917. The 1921 census finds the family back in Fort Steele, running a hotel. But we don’t know which one — they are not listed in the civic directory there in 1920, 1921, or 1922.
By 1923, Cretney is cutting and skidding logs for a living. I lose track of the family for a while after 1926. But as of 1938, Ted and Hazel are living in Penticton. Helen, 25, is nursing in Trail, where she meets firefighter Frank Westley Banton, 36. They elope first to Colville on Jan. 8, 1938, then hold a second ceremony on Sept. 1 at Helen’s parents’ home in Penticton. (Both weddings are legally registered.)
The 1949-50 Penticton city directory shows Ted and Hazel as retired. But Helen evidently convinces them to move to Trail and help set up the Sunningdale Drive-In Market. When they try to sell the business in 1953, there are no buyers.
Ted and Hazel move back to Penticton. By 1962, Frank and Helen Banton are listed as residing at 632 Isabella. The drive-in market remains listed in the phone book that year, but it is gone by 1966.
Ted dies in hospital in Vernon on Sept. 11, 1968, age 88. Edward Jr., still living in Fort Steele, fills out the death registration and indicates his father was a miner until 1940, although I haven’t found any sign of him doing that job. Hazel dies in Penticton on Oct. 17, 1977, age 86. She and Ted are both buried in Vernon.
In 1971, the drive-in market reappears in the phone book as the Sunningdale Confectionery on Monte Road — evidently the storefront is now on the east side of the building rather than the north.
Another ad appears in the Calgary Herald and Winnipeg Free Press in July 1972:
But once again it fails to sell. The confectionery is not listed in 1973, but the Bantons continue to live at 632 Isabella for the rest of their lives. Frank dies in Trail on Jan. 27, 1986, age 84 and Helen follows on May 19, 1987, age 74. Both are buried in Mountain View cemetery. They are survived by at least one daughter in New Westminster.
632 Isabella Crescent, as seen from the Monte Road side, looking northwest.