Hospital canteen closing after 60 years

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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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’s 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’s Day -- today’s edition of the Daily Herald the final one they’ll sell.  

Although Ruby was quick with the jokes during a visit to the canteen earlier this week, she admitted that it’ll be “quite sad” to say goodbye to the job.

“She’s kind of broken up about the whole thing,” her son Grant Lederhouse said last week. “She knows it has to close, but it’s been 60 years.”

Family patriarch Phil Lederhouse ran the family’s first canteen in the old government building on 12th Street in the early ’50s -- 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.

“At 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,” 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.

“As kids, my brother and my sister and I grew up at the canteens at the hospitals and we’d start working there in the evenings, as well,” Grant said.

“We 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?”

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’s 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’s 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’s, Davidner took it upon himself to help Bryan wherever he could.

“If my brother needed advice or anything, Herschel was always a friend of my dad and he’d help my brother if needed anything,” Grant said.

“I think the city lost a really tremendous person when they lost Herschel Davidner, and hopefully the city realizes that.”

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.

“My sister, my brother and I were born in the hospital and basically raised in the canteen, and so it’s kind of sad,” he said, adding that those who use the hospital will also lose something special.

“It’ll 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.”

The cold mechanics of vending machines will also bring about a different vibe than that of Lederhouse family members, 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.

“That’s progress, I guess -- vending machines.”

Some time early in the new year the canteen area will be torn out in order to make room for other hospital operations. 

Organizations: Victoria Hospital, Daily Herald, SaskTel Holy Family Hospital

Geographic location: 12th Street, 19th Street

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  • Dorothy Powell
    January 03, 2014 - 00:17

    Dear Ruby and Bryan, I am sorry to read in the P.A. Herald that you are closing the Victoria Hospital Canteen and that Bryan was seriously injured in November. I want to personally thank the both of you for years of faithful service to both patients and visitors alike. I am eternally grateful for the friendship and care that you both offered my parents; Don and Marie while they were clients in the Herb Bassett. Your care and Bryan’s humour kept them both company when they had few visitors on very long, lonely days. I frequently observed that a trip to the canteen was often the highlight of the day for many patients and long term clients of the Victoria Hospital. On behalf of multitudes through the years; THANK YOU!!

  • Maureen Hueser
    December 31, 2013 - 11:41

    This will be a great loss for Prince Albert and the north. This service is as much a part of the hospital as are the nurses and doctors through their dedication to patients who can not get out to buy a book or chocolate bar because their families are far away

  • John
    December 30, 2013 - 23:14

    So sorry to see yet another thing go that conects us to other people. Over the years I have had the pleasure of using this service. No machine will ever replace the kindness I was showen. It's sad the hospital administration does not realize it's not only the objects peaple need but also the interaction with a fellow human.

  • John
    December 30, 2013 - 23:13

    So sorry to see yet another thing go that conects us to other people. Over the years I have had the pleasure of using this service. No machine will ever replace the kindness I was showen. It's sad the hospital administration does not realize it's not only the objects peaple need but also the interaction with a fellow human.

  • sara
    December 30, 2013 - 13:52

    it could have helped a bit if they smiled at the people and said Merry Xmas .I was at the hospital over the xmas holidays for a few days and i remember going here several times never got a smile or a hello or nothing especially fr the man i have never met the women but yes i can believe its closing you can get whatever they are selling from vending machines and plus theres a new coffee shop that is very much up to date and more like what people need.

    • Clark
      December 30, 2013 - 21:21

      Sara why so negative?

    • Tyler
      December 30, 2013 - 21:27

      It's people like you that make this world a more negative place, Sara. Thanks for the progress. :)

    • Mighty Metis
      December 31, 2013 - 02:57

      Sara they're not completely blind but damn near to it!!what do you want out of people that made they best of their disabilities and did what they could for themselves!!The people that you want to hear Thank you and your welcome from are the people on social assistance they are the ones dependant on your money more so then the Lederhouse Family!!Brian always had a joke to tell and can make a good arguement for his hckey which he was very upto date on!!I spent my money there happily before giving it to 7-11!Get well soon Brian your mom and your family will be missed.Peace

  • Brian Sklar
    December 30, 2013 - 01:03

    Sad news. My mom ran the TV rentals at the hospital for several years, my son, Aaron was a candy striper, and the Lederhouses were great friends.