Ambrose Pilon's Reminiscences
about Pilon's Bakery
The Store Front

Stela Séguin worked at the bakery as the store clerk for many years. I believe she retired in the early 1980s not long before the bakery shut its doors for good. Those who know for certain when she began working at the bakery are no longer with us. One older cousin believes she started working for Pilon's Bakery in the 1950s, enticed with the promise of more pay from her former employer!

L.V. is holding a loaf of plain white bread while Lena has a scone in her hand that she took from the pan of scones in front of her. Fresh products rarely stayed on the counter for long!

Behind them to the right are paper-wrapped loaves of plain bread, probably orders waiting to be picked up.

Stela was a loyal and constant employee, the public face of Pilon's Bakery.

In the top photograph (late 1950's/early 1960's?) a young Stela is standing with a smiling L.V. and Lena Pilon. The wood panelling, the old cash register, even the sticky-paper dispenser, would remain unchanged for the entire duration of Pilon's Bakery.

In the bottom picture Ambrose and his daughter Rosemarie and his second son, Luc, in a picture taken in the early 1980's, are standing in the same place.

But all good things come to an end.

Louis Victor Pilon, who started baking bread in his kitchen soon after being laid off as a farm equipment salesman at the beginning of the Depression, passsed away on December 13, 1971 at the age of 86. By then, the bakery torch had been passed along to Ambrose and Bill who carried on as business partners.

Bill Pilon passed away on October 31, 1983 at the age of 65. Ambrose carried on for a few more months following the loss of his brother but closed the store door for the last time on May 15,1985. Ambrose himself would leave this world exactly 19 years later on May 15, 2004.

Pilon's Bakery had served up fresh, wholesome products to the population of Vankleek Hill and the surrounding area for more than 53 years.

This horribly out-of-focus photograph (it was on the cooler which was running...need I say more?) of Ambrose's family, was taken moments before the bolt locking the store door slid into place for the very last time under Pilon ownership. Left to right : Luc and Abbie, Rosemarie, Ray (Cheryl and Caitlin are absent), Ambrose and Gisèle, Carmelle and André.

Stela was the daugher of George Séguin, the shoemaker on Bertha Street. Stela never had a harsh word to say about anyone and was always accommodating of people's requests.

Stela purchased blocs of new postage stamps whenever a new issue came out. Not for herself, but for a niece (I believe). That way, I always knew when a new stamp was out!

In this late 1970's/early 1980's photograph, Stela is bringing an armfull of packaged buns to front from the front processing room.

You could buy all kinds of baked goods at Pilon's Bakery. They made several specialty breads in addition to the staple white bread which could be plain or sliced (called Sony Boy in later years). White bread also came in different shapes: dutchoven (2 humps), homemade (a single squat hump), Chinese (a long 'braid' going across the top, French stick (long and narrow with diagonal slits). They also made whole wheat bread, rye bread, 6-grain bread, raisin bread, chesse bread, milk bread, italian bread. Pies and cakes were complemented with a wide range of cookies: chocolate chip, sugar cookies, nutbars, honey-oatmeal, rock cookies, fruit cookies, date and nut cookies, ginger cookies, butter cookies, fruit hermits. They also made bran muffins, honey muffins, fruit stolens, date squares and chocolate brownies. Baked beans made in huge cast iron kettles were a week-end treat.

When I was very young, the oven was a coke-fired oven but was soon replaced (I am guessing the mid to late 1970's when natural gas came to Vankleek Hill) with a natural gas fired oven which was only taken out when the shop's vocation as a bakery ended in the late 1980's.

In the summer of 2006, archaeological excavations took place inside the old Higginson Tower and I lent a hand. One meal was hosted by the restaurant which now occupied the former shop and processing room (Mary's Country Kitchen, I believe). They had set up a table for the archaeology crew exactly where the oven used to be. I can assure you that was one very strange lunch, knowing I was sitting inside of the ghost of the oven!

My father, Ambrose Pilon, told me an interesting story about the origin of the nutbar recipe. Apprently, when L.V. was apprenticing as a baker somewhere in the Windsor/Detroit area, the baker he was learning from would not share the nutbar recipe. So L.V. patiently and discreetly noted the nature and amount of a single ingredient at a time until eventually he had the full recipe. While I have many of the Pilon's Bakery recipes, I was specifically cautioned against sharing the nutbar recipe with anyone outside of the family!

Same store in 1972. In fairness though, sometime after this photograph was taken, the long display case was changed for a newer model made of metal, painted white.

If you ever made it around the display case and headed toward the shop at the back, you might have noticed the beautiful roll-top desk that was tucked into a corner on the left as you exited the front store. This is where Dad worked on the books at the end of every day, logging the day's production, expenses, takings, ordering supplies to ensure that work was never interrupted.

And during all those years, he kept the picture of his older sister Olly at the top edge of the rolltop. This old photograph was of a young Lt Olive Pilon who had given her ever-present little brother a souvenir as she left for overseas during the Second World War.

Nursing Sister Lt Olive Pilon Flight Instructor Francis Pilon (RCAF) Lt Olive Pilon was a registered nurse who served with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps as a Nursing Sister.

Flight Lieutenant Francis Pilon was a flying instructor with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War 2.

Bill Pilon served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in Canada during World War 2.

Vincent Pilon was a merchant mariner during World War 2 and went to Europe and back at least once that I am aware.

Ambrose Pilon was called up to enlist but was rejected more than likely because of the damage to two fingers on his left hand and one on his right.

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