© Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
Ruby Lederhouse, 86, is seen hawking goods at the Victoria Hospital canteen last week, which after about 60 years was one of her last days at the business, set to close by New Year‚Äôs Day.
The mechanical hum of vending machines will soon replace the upbeat jokes and insights of Ruby Lederhouse and her family at the Victoria Hospital canteen.
After 60 years of operation, the Lederhouse family business will close as of New Year‚Äôs Day -- today‚Äôs edition of the Daily Herald the final one they‚Äôll sell.
Although Ruby was quick with the jokes during a visit to the canteen earlier this week, she admitted that it‚Äôll be ‚Äúquite sad‚ÄĚ to say goodbye to the job.
‚ÄúShe‚Äôs kind of broken up about the whole thing,‚ÄĚ her son Grant Lederhouse said last week. ‚ÄúShe knows it has to close, but it‚Äôs been 60 years.‚ÄĚ
Family patriarch Phil Lederhouse ran the family‚Äôs first canteen in the old government building on 12th Street in the early ‚Äô50s -- a building Grant notes is currently used by SaskTel.
At the behest of local hospital administrator Herb Bassett, Phil, newly married to Ruby, opened up a new canteen in the old Victoria Hospital on 19th Street in 1953.
‚ÄúAt the time, my mom says that the night watchman had a couple boxes of chocolate bars he kept in his locker for selling, and that was it,‚ÄĚ Grant relayed.
The family ran this canteen and one at the Holy Family Hospital until both buildings closed, and opened a new canteen at the current Victoria Hospital once that building opened.
As they were born, Grant and siblings Bryan and Lynda (Lutkin) helped their parents with the canteens.
‚ÄúAs kids, my brother and my sister and I grew up at the canteens at the hospitals and we‚Äôd start working there in the evenings, as well,‚ÄĚ Grant said.
‚ÄúWe were probably five or six years old and we were serving the counter because we could make change -- it was just something you did, you know?‚ÄĚ
The family worked long hours over the years, Grant said, noting that his mother surprised people on one occasion by working one day, giving birth the next, and then working the day after.
The family was also helped out for a period of time by local high school students, who ran mobile canteen carts throughout the hospital.
It‚Äôs not always been easy for the family, whose visual impairments have made things challenging, at times.
Although people have taken advantage of their visual impairments from time to time by either swiping items or short-changing them, people have been overall supportive and honest over the years, Grant said.
There are still a lot of great people -- doctors and nurses -- but the overall atmosphere has become a lot colder, more of a business than it used to be. Grant Lederhouse
Phil, the family patriarch, died in 1991, since which time Ruby and Bryan have been running the canteen with occasional help from the rest of the family.
Since Phil‚Äôs death and until his own death earlier this year, well-known local businessman Herschel Davidner served as an extended member of the Lederhouse family. As a friend of Phil‚Äôs, Davidner took it upon himself to help Bryan wherever he could.
‚ÄúIf my brother needed advice or anything, Herschel was always a friend of my dad and he‚Äôd help my brother if needed anything,‚ÄĚ Grant said.
‚ÄúI think the city lost a really tremendous person when they lost Herschel Davidner, and hopefully the city realizes that.‚ÄĚ
Bryan was injured in a vehicle-pedestrian incident a couple months ago and remains in hospital. Ruby, at 86 years of age, has been taking care of the canteen since the incident.
Due to the increasing difficulty in running their canteen, the time has come to close shop, Grant said -- a moment that comes with mixed feelings.
‚ÄúMy sister, my brother and I were born in the hospital and basically raised in the canteen, and so it‚Äôs kind of sad,‚ÄĚ he said, adding that those who use the hospital will also lose something special.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôll be the little things that I think people will miss. People buying shampoo and toothpaste and razors, and maybe some odd little things that mom had stashed away, like birthday candles and cribbage boards or sewing kits -- things like that.‚ÄĚ
The cold mechanics of vending machines will also bring about a different vibe than that of Lederhouse family members, Grant said.
‚ÄúThere are still a lot of great people -- doctors and nurses -- but the overall atmosphere has become a lot colder, more of a business than it used to be.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs progress, I guess -- vending machines.‚ÄĚ
Some time early in the new year the canteen area will be torn out in order to make room for other hospital operations.