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“Hot Roasted Peanuts,
Five and Ten Cents a Bag!”

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Submitted by: Devonna Edwards

“Hot Roasted Peanuts, Five and Ten Cents a Bag!”

The Halifax Peanut Man, A Fascinating True Story 

In a small island off Metilin, Greece a determine young man by the name of Giovanni Mauverius made a startling announcement which shocked his mom, dad and eleven brothers and sisters,

“I am going to the United States of America.”

At first his parents tried to discourage him from going, but finally agreed to Giovanni’s decision to leave home and his father agreed to lend him money to go, so in 1905 Giovanni journeyed by boat to New York City. When he arrived there he didn’t know any English but he quickly adapted. He became accustomed to the new county and changed his name to John Morris, which was easier for people in the United States to pronounce. The next four years, he was busy with his new life making friends and working in a painting factory. He became good friends with another new-comer by the named of Peter who encouraged him to come with him to Canada, telling him it was a better place to live.

So John and Peter came to Canada, visited Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec and along the way in all the cities through which they travelled John noticed an interesting sight, there was a ‘peanut stand’ in every city he came upon.

Finally John arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1909. He noticed immediately that the city of Halifax had no ‘peanut stands’ and an idea formed in his mind about starting a peanut business. He swiftly got to work, first ordering a peanut stand that cost him twenty dollars, which was a goodly sum in those days. His new little wagon was equipped with a copper box and a can of gasoline for keeping the peanuts hot. Later a glass case was added to cover the peanuts which not only kept the dust from the street off the peanuts, but it also kept peoples fingers from trying to sample his goods. Oil cloth was tacked all around the frame work for ornamentation. The wagon had two wheels on it and tiny little handles to push it. Two wooden legs on the wagon supported the end of the case.  

He bought peanuts from Outhit’s Store (C.W. Outhit Wholesales Fruit located on Barrington Street) and some paper bags from another store called Eddy’s (E.B. Eddy Co. Ltd. located on Upper Water Street) which was also famous for Eddy’s matches. John was ready to start his new business, “Hot Roasted Peanuts, five and ten cents a bag!” That was the cry that could be heard from the Peanut Man on a busy corner in Halifax for many years.

One day a policeman came along and asked him, “Do you have a license to sell peanuts?” John told him yes, he had a license. Before he started selling peanuts he studied all aspects of his business.

Even in the earlier days of Halifax, food vendors like the Peanut Man had to have a license from authorities in the town which they were selling. The Department of Health subjected the vendors to random inspection for cleanliness and other regulations. Vendors that managed their resources well and  built a steady customer base could make as much money as a permanent small business which had to pay overhead costs. 

After he been in business for several years, John saw an advertisement for a more up-to-date peanut  stand, so he saved his money and was able to buy a new wagon. The new wagon cost him the pricey sum of seven hundred and fifty dollars in cash. It was a luxurious peanut stand which had four rubber wheels, a long-handle and was ornamented with a realistic figure roasting peanuts. It also had fancy mottos and signs which said, “Hot Peanuts.” “Fresh Roasted Peanuts, five cents and ten cents a bag.” The letters stood forth in unmistakeable letters and figures. Business prospered, so he bought peanuts fifty or hundred pounds at a time according to business. His business was not good on rainy days and it varied on fine days. Saturday was his banner day, for that was ‘pay day’ for many people. Men, women and children all bought his peanuts, but his best customers were the little children.

“Hot Roasted Peanuts, five and ten cents a bag!” was the cry that could be heard, bringing many customers to his little stand.

The Peanut Man had his wagon parked regularly on the corner of Barrington Street and Sackville Street for 28 years. By day he was seen standing at his Peanut Chariot, by night his wagon was lit by a flaming torch and its flare could be seen from a far. Because of his jolly and kind disposition he made many friends in Halifax over the years, especially the little children that often visited his peanut stand. 

His peanut business was a success because he was a hard worker and toiled at his stand sometimes twelve hours a day, sometimes more. He was content with his life in Halifax where he said he can work all day and no one bothers him. He said he had his freedom here and that’s what all men want above anything else.  

He would have witnessed many changes in Halifax since he first arrived in 1909, changes such as in transportation with automobiles taking the place of horse and wagon. In 1912 due to the sinking of the famous ship ‘The Titanic’, John noticed how the City of Halifax became extremely busy due to the fact that many of the victims were transferred here for burial. He seen businesses around him come and go, all the corners around him had many different occupants and appearance over the years. In 1914 he probably saw soldiers marching down Barrington Street to Pier Two, to be shipped oversea to fight for their country during The First World War. He lived through ‘The Halifax Explosion’ in 1917 when the streets of Halifax shook, and lastly he observed the change in fashion that happened quickly with the outbreak of The First World War. Women’s fashion became more realistic, with emphasis on practicality, comfort and simplicity. 

John fell in love with Sophie Romo, a French Acadian girl from Chezzetcook, Nova Scotia.  They married and had several children, John A., Elaine, Peter, Marie, Lorraine, Anna, and Grace. They lived for many years on Dresden Row not too far from where his peanut stand was located. John Morris gave up his peanut stand in 1937 and set up a family business called “John Morris Concessions Limited”, which was affiliated with the Bill Lynch Shows. The family business became very successful and over the decades, his son John A. and other family members joined him. 

John passed away in 1966 after a long and prosperous life.

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