A pillar of Petrolia’s business community
The life and times of Hyme Shabsove, one of Petrolia’s more colourful downtown merchants, is a story that could have easily been lifted from the pages of a Horatio Alger novel.
Alger was a highly popular 19th Century American author, best known for his rags-to-riches novels about impoverished young men who through honesty, virtue, hard work, and determination, rose from their humble beginnings to positions of respectability. A theme that fits perfectly with our subject.
Hyme’s Clothing Store was a well-known landmark in Petrolia’s downtown core for more than 60 years and its founder, the affable Hyme Shabsove, was one of the town’s most respected and successful businessmen during the first half of the 20th century.
He was born in 1894 in the Kiev district of Russia and spent his early life there, enduring many hardships in an era punctuated by political, economic and social strife.
Being the youngest of his family, his situation was made even more difficult by the death of his father when he was only a few months old.
Nevertheless, after receiving a basic education in his native Russia, he was apprenticed as a shoe cobbler, but when he reached the age of 18 and was able to travel on his own, he was brought to Canada by an older brother, Mike, who had removed to this country several years earlier.
Like many who immigrated to Canada in those days, the Shabsove brothers opted to leave the restricted confines of the old world, obviously in search of a life more promising than that ordained in their native land.
Hyme arrived in Canada just prior to the First World War and for a short time found employment in London, Ont. before moving to Brigden where, for a number of years, he was engaged in the scrap metal business.
In 1921, he came to Petrolia and in partnership with his brother bought the Normandy Hotel, which included a billiard hall business.
Under Hyme’s direction the business flourished and was soon expanded to include second floor apartments as well as a service station and barber shop on the ground level.
About 1936, Hyme bought out his brother’s interest in the business and continued to operate the pool room until 1939, when he sold it to Ralph Chapman, who subsequently transformed it into a bowling alley, for which use it remained until Aug. 2004 when the downtown building was engulfed in a spectacular fire.
In April of 1939, Hyme Shabsove purchased the men’s furnishings business of J.W. Patterson in the Kelly Block, renaming it Hyme’s Clothing, where he continued a highly successful retail business until the time of his death.
The business was subsequently taken over by his son, George Shabsove, who ran it until his untimely death in Oct. 1972.
It was then taken over by long-time employee Peter Quinn, who operated the business with continued success until his retirement just a few years ago.
In all, Hyme’s Clothing Store served the Petrolia community for more than 60 years.
Hyme Shabsove was married to the former Annie Forman of London, and the couple had a daughter, Ethel, and two sons, the late George Shabsove, a Petrolia business man and former mayor of the town, and Dr. Harold Shabsove, a long-time Petrolia physician, now retired and living in Toronto.
Hyme Shabsove died suddenly on July 5, 1944 after suffering a paralytic stroke at the young age of 50.
In tribute the editor of the Advertiser Topic wrote:
“Always congenial and affable, Hyme made many friends, especially among the younger generations and this quality, along with a shrewd sense of business, gave him much success as a merchant.”
Fraternally, he was a member of Petrolia’s Friendship Lodge # 65, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, where he was said to have been a regular attendant for many years.
He is interred at the Ben Israel Jewish Cemetery in London.