Written by Kevin MacLean, Galt Museum & Archives, Collections Technician
Do you know what these objects are and what they were used for?
- Cans of Scotch broth
- Ice pack cans
- Whisky in a can
If you guessed ice pack cans, you’re correct!
Hamilton-Skotch Cooler Ice Packs, 1950–1970
These multi-freeze, metal ice packs are part of an insulated cooler set once used by the Willoughby family of Lethbridge. The cooler housed and preserved lunches prepared for the family’s summer driving excursions in the 1950s. Asked why she valued the picnic cooler, donor Barb Cavers told Museum staff, “I always thought it was so cool. It was kind of innovative. It looks like fabric but it’s metal and…[it] has such strong memories.”
Barb Cavers and Kit McRae are the daughters of the late George and Jean Willoughby—accredited pharmacists and owners of the former Willoughby Drug store. To this day, the sisters cherish their memories of being kids, specifically their remembrances of summer, and out-of-town drives with George and Jean. “The drugstore was open six days a week,” Kit told staff in 2015, “and [my dad] worked seven days a week.” There were no routine holidays for the family. “But,” said Barb, “there were Sunday drives when [we] would often have a picnic.”
It was George who suggested going for a drive and Jean who “made it fun.” In the ’50s, people enjoyed cars that got them further, faster. This aligned with George’s three great pleasures: “a good cigar, a good drink of rye, and a nice car.” On a handful of Sundays every summer, he got his family out for the day. But, as much as the adventures are owed to George’s love of his car, they are equally owed to Jean’s passion for the outdoors. Said Barb of her mom, “[My mom and my grandparents] were outdoors people. They were always outside. My dad’s family, not so much.”
Popular driving destinations were Waterton and Fernie. And at least once a year, the family travelled across the Logan Pass to have lunch at Lake McDonald—a “packed” and “elaborate” lunch. Barb recalled, “It was fried chicken and sandwiches, tuna and cheese sandwiches, cut vegetables, fruit salad, cookies, lemonade…and always coffee. Mom always had her thermos of coffee. Yeah, she’d be up early in the morning making fried chicken before we left.”
Both Kit and Barb think things have changed when it comes to family holidays today. Things were simpler back then. Said Kit, “I don’t think people go on drives any more like we used to. There are too many other distractions. [And] the equipment’s changed…We probably take a lot more things to be comfortable when we picnic now than we used to.” Barb agrees: “Yeah, we never took chairs and things like that—we’d take a blanket.”
Collection of the Galt Museum & Archives, P20100049002