I’m not sure if Kentville was in its heyday in the 1950s – “heyday” here meaning at its most prosperous. – but definitely it was a bustling, busy town then with more retail stores and services than several malls combined.
When John Mosher published his Kentville directory for 1958 – 1959, he listed a grand total of 18 grocery stores in and around the town. Exactly 13 of the grocery stores were in operation inside the town limits with seven of them located roughly around the town square, all within a few minutes walk of each other. The other five were operating just outside town limits, in Aldershot and on Nichols Road, for example.
Looking at Kentville today, it’s difficult to conceive that the town was so prosperous in the late 1950s. But according to Mosher’s Official Directory, it was a busy town then. John Mosher published the directory annually and he did a thorough job of listing every retail store and service oriented business in Kentville, so the directory paints an accurate picture of what the town was like then. In one sense it was a greater Kentville directory since it included retail stores immediately outside town limits along with a few in New Minas.
When the late 50s directory was published, Kentville’s population was about 5,000. Contributing to the prosperity of the town was nearby Camp Aldershot. The Camp’s military population at the time was 2,300; the Second Highland Battalion, which became the Black Watch, was stationed at Camp Aldershot through most of the 1950s. In his history of Camp Aldershot, Brent Fox estimates that the military base put $15 million annually into the local (Kentville) economy.
What I find amazing is that Mosher’s Directory says 175 business establishment were operating in the town and in the immediate area late in the 1950s! Besides all the grocery stores, twelve stores sold clothing; there were 10 taxis in operation, seven in the town and three just outside the town limits. The town had two top-of-the-line restaurants and seven lunch counters inside its limits, along with two lunch counters just outside its perimeter.
You may find it difficult to believe but when Mosher’s Official Directory for 1958-1959 was published there were 15 service stations and almost as many tire dealers operating in Kentville and the immediate area; eight were inside town limits and seven just outside the town limits, including one in New Minas. Also, there were seven shoe stores inside the town, all based roughly around what today is Centre Square, and two hotels, four barbershops and two bakeries. Compared to what it is today, the town’s police force in the late 1950s was skimpy, consisting of only a chief and three constables.
One of the interesting features of Mosher Directory was its alphabetical listing of every town resident, along with their telephone number and occupation. Also included in its 164 pages was a complete list, in numerical order, of every telephone number in the Kentville area, along with the names of the people using the numbers. Included also was a classified section and a town street map. In other words, Mosher’s publication was a combination business directory, telephone book and community guide, with other odds and ends of information thrown in for good measure.
With a head office in Kentville, Mosher’s Official Directory was also published in at least two other towns in the province – Yarmouth and Bridgewater. I’ve been unable to determine how many years the directory was published and if it covered other towns besides Kentville, Yarmouth and Bridgewater.