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Last week, we ran a story about the remnants of the old underground shops in the Galloway Ellis Block, which now houses Zack's coffee shop.

After that story ran, our Readers Reporter department received a note from Kamloops resident John E. McCannel, who gleaned some fascinating information about the building from an old school chum named George Law.

George used to work at the Galloway pharmacy, one of the original businesses in the block, which happened to be co-owned by John's uncle.

John sent our story to George, who now lives in Courtenay, to see if he had anything to add to the documented history of the building.

Here's what George wrote:

"That old building indeed has a great number of levels.

As far as the drugstore itself, when I started to work there as a delivery (boy),there was a street level and, under that, the basement.

From the store, the basement was reached by an almost vertical set of steps up which once had been a dumb waiter.

The basement could be exited through a door. Turning left from the door was a long hallway, at the end of which was a flight of cementstairs leading down into the furnace room.

My memory might be faulty but I remember the furnace room as beingabout 15 feet by 15 feet and about 20 feet deep. Straight ahead from the basement door there was a flight of wooden stairs, which led up to the hall behind the rear of the drug store. This hall was about three feet above the store level and led to the exit door on the avenue. Underneath those stairs was a little alcove where in my time there rested a 45-gallon drum of mineral oil. People used a lot of mineral oil in those days and one of my jobs was to fill smaller bottles and label them so they could be sold in the store.

I can't remember whether it was in 1945 or 1946but Mr. Galloway decided that more storage space was need for the store so he had apiece of the wall in the basement knocked out, which gave access to another large room, which was five or six feetbelow thestore basement. I should mention here that the original store basement was not actually below the store whereas the "new" part actually was.

In the corner and to the far left in the new part, there was a small storage space,which Mingay Killen (a pharmacist) told me had been used as a cooler when there was a bar down there."

So, there you have it - a detailed description from someone who was actually there in the days when shops flourished below street level.

We're extremely grateful to John E. McCannel and George Law for taking the time to contribute this valuable information to archival record of downtown Kamloops. Firsthand memories are vital to any community's history and, sadly, too many of these memories are being lost before they've been recorded.

FOOTNOTE: We also got a call from another Kamloops resident, who mentioned there used to be an underground mini-mall below the Blue Grotto at 319 Victoria St. in the 1970s. We were told it had occupied two buildings. If anyone has photos of that, please email our Readers' Reporter at litt@kamloopsnews.ca.

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