By Mike Anderson
92 year-old Charles (Charlie) Bodley is saying goodbye to Sutton after owning a retail store at 120 High Street for nearly 71 years.
After they married in 1952, Charlie and his wife Ruthe took over her parent’s clothing store and succeeded in growing the business.
The Brooks Clothing Store, which eventually included Bodley’s Home Video, became a popular stop on High Street for cottagers and locals looking for deals on quality clothing. But it eventually closed in the late 90s when the couple retired, and remained a vacant storefront.
During the store’s heyday, Charlie was a well-known figure in Sutton, serving on the BIA and earning the nickname the “Mayor of High Street.”
“It was their life,” said his daughter Karen D’Arcy. “And back in the day, when Sutton was booming, when I was growing up in the early 60s, High Street was very vibrant.”
“They were especially busy at Christmas time. They’d be open until 9 p.m.,” she recalls.
“My mom was very good at purchasing. She would have wonderful sweaters, and people still talk about coming in and getting those sweaters.”
After Ruthe passed in 2010, Charlie lived alone in the house behind the store. But, now in his early nineties, he’s acknowledged it’s time to sell, moving into a seniors residence in London, Ontario, closer to his daughter, Karen.
Karen admitted to The Post that they were considering an “Irish Goodbye,” leaving without making much of a fuss. But that wasn’t in the cards after Elaine Coates, owner of Elaine’s Black River Coffee, got wind of it.
Coates organized a celebration for Charlie, complete with balloons, coffee and a photo cake, at Knox United Church on Saturday, April 15, where friends and family gathered to share stories, take pictures and wish him well.
Charlie was presented with a certificate of appreciation from the Mayor, Council and the Town of Georgina by Ward 5 Councillor Dale Genge. There was also a Wishing Well to leave cards and a message book for people to sign.
“He’s one of the originals of the town. He’s one of the last ones. He’s put in over 70 years on High Street, with many years on the BIA,” said Coates, who didn’t want him to leave without giving him a good send-off.
“There’s a lot of people who love him. There’s a lot of people who respect him too. And they wanted a chance to say goodbye.”
Charlie may have wanted to make a quick exit, but surrounded by friends and family; he soon warmed up to the idea of a celebration.
“It’s very nice they haven’t forgotten me,” he said with a smile.
Charlie told The Post operating a store on High Street in the 1950s was fun.
“Back then, it was great. There were no malls and four grocery stores on the street. So it was busy,” he said.
“We had angle parking. You could park seven cars between the music store and our place.”
Charlie says moving away from Sutton isn’t going to be easy. He’s going to miss living next to the Black River, but most of all, he’s going to miss the people.
“I’ve lived in Sutton most of my life, so it’s going to be hard,” he said.
Georgia Lyons, 93, a family friend, recalls working for Charlie and Ruthe one summer in the early 1950s. She said the store was always busy. And while Charlie was fun to work with, there was no mistaking who the real boss was.
“Charlie and I just went around the store. We would pile the sweaters, socks and everything on tables. Ruthe took the money. She was the boss!” She laughs.
But, like many of the people who gathered in the church’s basement, she admitted she was sad to see him go.
“We’ve been friends all these years, and with Ruthe, so, yes, it’s sad to see Charlie go.”
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