I am going to miss Ted Moffat so much.
The highlight of going to the Northern when his dad, Harold, was alive was to drop by that back counter and listen in on some of the most fascinating conversations you could come upon in downtown Prince George.
After that, my fun was in going upstairs - using any excuse - to find Ted and rag on him. Nobody was better at that than I. Even if I went in to pay my account, I always said I was doing so Because, you know Im so afraid of Ted!
Often, wed go and sit on a comfortable couch in the furniture section and start in on how to fix almost any problem ailing society and country.
One of my fondest memories came about when I got asked to help with a political fundraiser. My friend, Alice Ross, had moved to Victoria to work with Carole James, then provincial leader of the NDP. Alice called to tell me that Carole was having a meeting in Prince George which was to be followed by a dinner and silent auction fundraiser at the Civic Centre. Alice asked me to help with finding some interesting items for the silent auction.
I first went to see Paul Williams, owner of McInnis Lighting. Paul is about as apolitical as it gets - but I went in there and informed Paul that since his father (John McInnis, MLA for Fort George) was one of the founders of the CCF, he had a genetic legacy and responsibility to uphold the NDP. Paul laughed at my audacity but went along with it. He offered one of the nicest donations of all - a Tiffany-style table lamp - beautiful stained glass concoction supported by a dark brass stand, worth more than $400.
Next, I went into the Northern trolling for Ted. I told him that I wanted a really good donation to the NDP fundraiser. Ted got a wild-eyed look on his face and raised his voice at me. He made some remarks questioning my sanity, reminded me that only Conservative politics was ever allowed to be discussed in that store, and finished by saying My grandfather would be spinning in his grave if I ever gave any money to the socialists!
I was ready for that and had anticipated his reaction. I stood my ground and informed him: NDPers are loyal, and they shop in your store. I want you to donate something big and splashy and I intend to put a huge sign on it saying that it came from The Northern. This is going to be the best bang for your advertising buck that youve spent in a long time!
I think he was enjoying my spirited response. He relented and said that hed give me something and asked what I wanted. I said I already had it picked out and he was to come downstairs with me to see it. We walked down the staircase and I pointed out a very nice wrought-iron garden arbour with a metal seat built in.
What!" he yelled. "Do you have any idea what that costs?
I said that I did because the price tag was right on it. I pointed to the arbour canopy and said that was where I would put the sign Donated by Northern Hardware across the top.
I also pointed out that it was September, the garden season over, and that I knew he wouldnt want to store it over the winter. He then wanted to know how I was going to get it over to the event. I said I would put it in my Jeep. I thought he was going to collapse laughing at that. He told me Id never get it in and that hed have it delivered.
And so, the next week on the afternoon of the NDP fundraising dinner, Ted sent the Northerns truck over with two employees. They carried the big arbour into the room and set it up where I indicated it was to go. To my delight, Ted had also thrown in the cushions, which I had not dared ask for.
As it turned out, I was right about the reaction. Everybody there that evening took note of that donation. People were substantially impressed. Ted really did get the advertising value I had promised. In addition to that, I gave him a story which he told and re-told over the years. It was fun - and we both laughed about it.
Conversations with Ted were always involved, which is why we usually sat down. I could see the influence his dad had on him - very imbued with a strong work ethic and a sense of community service. He liked to play the part of a grumpy lion with a thorn in his paw. But, behind that gruffness was a big heart and a genuine interest in this community and life in general.
During the time I wrote a business column for The Citizen, I dropped by the store one day and Ted was showing me his huge selection of Stressless chairs from Norway. He wanted me to sit in them and see all the features. I did that and included a few paragraphs about how comfortable they were - coming in three sizes to fit anybodys form - and even inferred that they gave the blessing of sleep even to insomniacs. I ended up the Goldilocks references by stating Youll sleep like a bear!
Teds call came at 2:30 p.m. on the day that column ran. He said hed wanted to call me all day, but that was the first chance hed had to sit down. He said when he came to work there were five people waiting at the front door wanting to get in and check out those chairs. He had one customer after another all day without a break. He told me No matter what advertising I do, and you know I do a lot of it, nothing ever works like when you write about my store! Ted was not frivolous with compliments, so I truly cherished that he bothered to call and tell me that.
The line of descent from Alex to Harold to Ted formed a direct transfer of solid values and character formation. I feel overwhelming respect for people who stand up for what they believe and have the courage of conviction to do that. Each man could be accurately described as his fathers son.
Local historian Valerie Giles is the author of Harold Moffat and the Northern Hardware: Prince George Icons. The book won the Prince George Public Library's Jeanne Clarke Local History Award in 2008.