do you remember

July 30, 2011

The Toytman’s of Gander: Bill Toytman’s Travelling Suitcase

Note: This photo of an ad  was in the Dec 1957 issue of the Atlantic Guardian. (research contributed by Robert Pelley)

This topic for discussion was suggested by Patricia Dempsey Hiscock with the following comments:

When Bill Toytman arrived in Newfoundland, he made a living by travelling throughout Gander and other parts of Newfoundland selling his wares from a suitcase (more than one probably).
As he had "rooms" at Joey Smallwood's Piggery that was his home and more than likely, his warehouse as well.
When the new town of Gander was built and the shopping centre opened Bill and Rosie Toytman operated Toytman's Store. Between the Royal Bank of Canada and the Gander Co-Op”.
         Patricia Dempsey Hiscock, HMA Class of 1956

I remember Bill visiting our apartment on the Army Side quite a few times, selling socks, and other small items he carried in his oversized suitcase. He also operated a store on the airport for a while. I remember shopping there. I bought my first ever water pistol from him!
         Jim Butler, GA Class of 1959

When he got off the train in Gander with nothing, he knocked on my dad and mom's door which was right across from the railway station.
         Patricia DeeDee Lannon, SP Class of 1967

Always remember Bill and Rose Toytman - Before the Toytman's new store in the Gander mall, their first store was in the Eastbound Inn where our family also lived.  It later became Milley's Style Shop run by Beulah Milley - in fact I believe Beulah worked with the Toytman's before they moved(?).  
I used to love going to Toytman's with my mother.  I remember Rose Toytman as being a pretty petite woman with dark hair.  She had quite an accent, was a little outrageous and funny but she was liked by everybody.  This delightful couple being Jewish was something of a novelty in Gander at the time.  If Rose did not have what you wanted in the store, she would always say she could order it in from St. John's or somewhere and she always did. 
My mother and I were in the store one day when a lady wanted to buy a bra but couldn't find exactly what she wanted.  Not wanting her to leave empty-handed, and with customers in the store, Rose laughingly (but seriously) pulled her sweater up around her neck and demonstrated the various features of the one she was wearing to see if it was the type the lady was interested in.  
“That was Rose Toytman!”
         Geraldine Fitzgerald Nimmo, SJ Class of 1959

He was a "Fuller Brush" salesman going door to door with a suitcase of combs and brushes. Then there was the Bowling Alley "Rose Bowl Lanes".
         Keith Lacey, GC Class of 1964

Bill & Rose Toytman were husband & wife...Not brother & sister...he did come here with a suitcase selling his wares  and they both lived with my in laws for years.”
         Eileen (Kieley)Stack.,SJ 1956/57 

When Bill Toytman was selling from his brown suitcase, my father bought my sister 2 dresses each for the new school year. We thought they were just beautiful. Then he would make his way to our home every time he did his rounds. I can remember when he got inside the door he would spread all his items all over the living room, and then my mother would have her friends and neighbours come and shop.
         Agnes Geange, SJ Class of  ????


The Toytman's Store used to import goods via Canadian Express. The lads at the Express used to have 'accidents' with the crates of watermelons, especially on hot summer afternoons. Such 'accidents' could be claimed as broken in transit.
         Clarence Dewling, GA Teacher 1957 era

One of my main memories other than clothes for the Toytman’s was our daily walk with classmates to their snack bar each noon after our morning public exam for coke, fries, sundaes and other things I’m sure. And then back for the afternoon exam on some days. We did that each day and I recall it always being hot days.
         Thomas Philpott, SP Class of 1967

Toytman’s store caught fire at one time. There were two strings of lights around both front windows, one of which had short circuited. The flames ran around the whole store, causing an implosion, finally blowing out the front windows. The racks de of clothing closest to the flames had only one sleeve burnt off. The coffee bar section wiped out.
When the fire alarm signaling the fire went off, Mrs. Toytman (Rosie) was having her hair done at the hairdressers next to Henry’s Chinese restaurant. Mr. Toytman soon restocked the store and was back in business.
         Robert Pelley, GA Class of 1962


Research by Geraldine Fitzgerald Nimmo and Robert Pelley yielded the following information:

TOYTMAN, William - Passed peacefully away on August 7, 2001, in Toronto after a valiant fight with cancer. Bill was a long time resident of both Gander and St. John's where his business endeavours were widely known. He was a true Newfoundland entrepreneur whose spirit and easygoing nature made him friends island wide. Left to mourn are his wife, Rose Toytman (Ottawa); daughter, Paula (Ottawa); and son, Sam (Gander). Bill was buried in Hollywood, Florida, on August 10, 2001.
August 15, 2001

See how just a small item suggested by a classmate can stimulate a host of memories about Gander people and their part in the community…there must be a hundred more stores like this that we should be sharing here. Thanks to everyone for pitching in with their memories and information.
Got a topic, suggestion, photos, whatever,…email me at
Thanks everyone,

         Faye Lewis Raynard, GA Class of 1959



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