History – Simpler shopping times

An early photo of the landmark McDowell store, in Queen Street, Warkworth (undated), and a later photo taken of the building in 1979, below.

If only Christmas shopping was as simple today as it was in Warkworth in the 1930s and 1940s. With no online shopping, no malls and far fewer gift choices – think soap, perfume, slippers, or handkerchiefs – it is little wonder that Percy McDowell was a major force in Warkworth retailing during that period, building two stores and buying most of the Civil Brothers’ businesses in the late 1920s. One of his new shops was a drapery and clothing store, and the other sold groceries and general merchandise.

The original Civil building store sold toys and stationery, so the three together served as a mini-department store – right here in Warkworth.

Often referred to as P.A. McDowell, Percy was wounded in Gallipoli in World War I and was sent home to recover, later returning to serve in France. By 1929, he had bought most of the Civil Bros businesses in Warkworth, apart from their motor garage.

By 1940, Percy employed managers to run his shops and resumed his military career as an officer in charge of the Home Guard. Between 1928 and 1941, he was a member of the Warkworth Town Board, and its chairman from 1938 to 1941. Percy left the area when he was required to take up a senior military role elsewhere in the early 1940s.

The advertisements below for Christmas gift ideas from Percy’s stores are an interesting snapshot of how much some things have changed and how others have stayed the same. Perhaps we could all hear the call to “Please shop early”.

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