GROWING UP IN SUDBURY, ONTARIO IN THE 1960'S - PART 6
13 February 2023
This Blog is now the sixth in a series of compiled anecdotes about growing up in Sudbury, Ontario in the 1960’s. I hope you enjoy reading.
(As I had mentioned in my previous memories about growing up in Sudbury, I would again like to thank those who have taken the time to post the many related old photos into the public domain. I have used a number of these vintage photos to weave some context into my recollections – some have been cropped to highlight subject matter.)
I remember as a kid we had a sort of front “cloakroom” in our house on 320 Nelson Street. You entered the house through a glass window-enclosed front porch which was not heated or insulated. Through the “front door” at the end of the porch, you entered the cloakroom which had a glass divided-light door that led to the living room. The house was not a fancy place or in great shape but the cloakroom and front porch and the glass windowed door, were quite sophisticated touches at that time.
I will never forget my Dad’s Eiderdown Khaki work jacket with a corduroy collar, hanging in the cloakroom. The room had a dowel coat rack extending the full width of the room, opposite the living room door, which was where we all hung our jackets and winter outerwear.
Dad’s hip-length jacket was one of his most prized possessions. I believe it was technically called a “field jacket” with origins in the military. Due to the eiderdown feather filling in the lining, it was an expensive purchase. He wore it every day to work on the CPR and took special care if it. Attributable to his job as an “Engineer” driving the locomotives in the CPR yard, the coat had this wonderful smell of diesel exhaust penetrating every pore of the khaki fabric (which he pronounced “car-key” probably passed on from his Father who was born in Old Kirkpatrick, Scotland). I remember loving the smell when sticking my head into the jacket and drawing a deep breath – I can still recognize that distinct exhaust smell at a distance and it takes me back to that time! Whenever he would ask one of the kids to get his jacket he would refer to it as “my Eiderdown” or “my car-key” which to us, indicated his pride in ownership of this fine piece of apparel.
His other prize was his Hamilton Railway Model pocket watch. Another very expensive purchase he had made in the early 1950s as it was a requirement of being a Canadian Pacific Railway “engineer”. It kept precise time which was necessary for the engineers to deal with the exact scheduled time of train arrivals and departures. I recall that he was required to take it in annually, I believe to Morse Jewellers on Elm and Elgin, who were certified to do the obligatory check-up on the watch to ensure it was keeping accurate time. The jeweler would reset it as necessary to the exact second according to GMT with the appropriate time zone adjustment (Greenwich Mean Time or GMT is the time displayed by the Shepherd Gate Clock at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London). That watch was something you did not want to mess with as a kid if you saw it on his bedside table. It was never far from his reach, and it was “look but don’t touch” unless he asked you to “wind it” for him under his close supervision – this was always a treat for the lucky kid who got picked to undertake this important task.
A 1950’s vintage Hamilton “Railway Model” pocket watch identical to my Dad’s
One treasure that he was more liberal with us kids playing with, or using around the house, was his Navy issue jack knife or “Clasp Knife”. It did not in any way resemble a Swiss Army knife with a multitude of appendages – it was simply a boxy little cutting blade and a long pointed hasp used to unravel seafarers’ knots, all with a very sturdy shackle on the end. As long as you didn’t lose it, you were okay using it as this purpose-forged knife made from Sheffield steel was indestructible.
Royal Canadian Navy WWII standard issue Clasp Knife - you could take a sledgehammer to this thing and you would break the sledge!!
At Nelson Street, we also had an enclosed back porch off the kitchen and through that room, there was another door opening out to a four-foot-wide deck with a railing - but no stairs to the ground about 10 feet below. The back porch room was my Mother’s domain. It was not heated or insulated so Mom used it as a cold storage, similar in function to what she had grown up with on Basswood Lake without an electric refrigerator or freezer. She had all sorts of vegetables stored there – potatoes, carrots, and turnips. Due to the small size of our vintage fridge in the kitchen, she would put Jello out in the porch in the winter to set up. It was always cold in there so we avoided opening that door, but Mom loved that room and made use of it every day.
When we first moved to Nelson Street in 1959 from the Snack Bar at the west end of Ramsey Lake, we had oatmeal porridge every morning. Mom would make it up in a big cast metal pot (it was the bottom half of an old pressure cooker) as she attended to the other chores in the morning which included dragging us lazy kids out of bed.
1950s Cast Aluminum Pressure Cooker – the bottom half made a good porridge pot as it was thick cast metal which reduced the tendency of burning when momentarily left unstirred. I’m not sure what happened to the lid but I don’t recall Mom using the pot as a pressure cooker.
Sometimes she would very occasionally forget to add salt, which as every porridge eater in the country knows, is a critical addition to make the oatmeal taste right. We would eat it reluctantly with extra brown sugar and I’m sure we would have complained if we didn’t already know we would get a serious whack upside the head from Dad - if he was around (Mom had a pretty good “right” herself in those days). On other rare occasions, when Mom was distracted by her horde of “ne’er do well” kids, she might burn the porridge on the bottom of the pot. Again every oatmeal eater can identify this fatal mistake – the burnt taste immediately goes through the entire pot and makes the gruel inedible. In those instances, Mom would hastily redo the pot and expeditiously send us on our way to Prince Charles School.
In the morning during the chaos of all the kids eating their porridge and getting ready for school, Mom would always have the radio playing in the background. At about 8:30 in the morning Staff Sergeant Archie Stewart would come on the radio with his familiar nasal tone to pass along safety tips to school kids, trying to reduce pedestrian and bicycle accidents on the Sudbury streets. Archie Stewart was well-known and respected by all kids in the city in those days. In our minds, to coin a much-used movie phrase, he was a “good Cop – a damn good Cop!”. These were in the early days of the “Elmer the Safety Elephant” program directed at kids’ street safety and Archie really brought it into focus in Sudbury.
Staff Sergeant Archie Stewart (upper left centre) swarmed by adoring Sudbury youngsters at a 1955 “Elmer the Safety Elephant” rally. My entire life I have always kept his oft-repeated advice “stop, look and listen” in my mind when crossing the street – especially any time crossing between parked cars – all drilled into my head at an early age by Mr. Stewart!
The original 1950s icon for the “Elmer the Safety Elephant” Program which still exists today – the caricature, since 1947 has been modernized to a “cooler” image of a hip ball cap-wearing elephant. It is quite notable to see that this program has endured through the ages and I think that the integrity and efforts of cops like Archie Stewart laid the solid foundation which has perpetuated the safety program through the years.
Right above the end of Nelson Street was of course the Grotto complex, which I had mentioned was in decay in the early 1960’s in a previous recollection. The slag covered area behind the main Crucifix was were we “played War” at that time – and just to the right of this pic was the “Pond”. In the background you can see the telecommunications tower sited on a hill beside Prince Charles School – barely visible just to the right of it is the “Air Raid Siren” installed in around 1963 at the height of the Cold War
Looking in the other direction, another pic of our playground - the slag field behind the Crucifix. Ramsey Lake and the General Hospital smoke stack are in the background along with one of the yard light towers on the CPR tracks.
I had mentioned in an earlier blog anecdote that occasionally we would have pancakes for lunch – I can’t recall ever having them for breakfast? The next best thing was when Mom made what we called “cooked Muffets”. For lunch or supper midweek and Saturday we normally ate Nabisco “Shredded Wheat” cereal. It was cheaper and similar to Quaker “Muffets”, but then again, they were two completely different experiences. When Mom made cooked Muffets, she would heat up the milk and some sugar in the pot and then gently add the Muffet biscuits into the mixture until the concoction heated up to a nice serving temp over low heat. The cereal would cook and break down into a lovely thick mixture of soft short wheat strands and sweet milk – absolutely delicious.
1960’s Vintage Quaker Muffets Box
If you tried to do this with Nabisco Shredded Wheat, for some reason the centre of the biscuits would gum up and create an awful lumpy mixture. For Shredded Wheat, which came three loaf shaped biscuits inside a plastic pouch, we used flexible plastic bowls where we would put two biscuits in the bowl. We would put it under the hot water tap, fill it up and then hold it over the sink for about 15 seconds. You would then drain the water by folding the bowl to create a spout. You had to add the milk right away or again the slightly cooked shredded wheat would get gummy with an awful texture going down. It was an art to get the timing just right for a good bowl of cereal. We were all pretty good at it but if you didn’t check to make sure that enough Multi-Milk was already mixed up – you were in for trouble racing to mix the concentrated milk with tap water in a jug before the Shredded Wheat coagulated!
1960’s Nabisco Shredded Wheat – 18 pack!
I had mentioned Multi-Milk before and it came in a carton similar to regular milk only slightly smaller, but at a comparable price (after the milk bottle days were transitioning out by the late 50’s). We mixed the concentrated milk at 2 parts tap water to 1 part concentrate and you could make three jugs of mixed milk out of one carton – making the cost about one third of regular milk. We used a lot of milk eating this cereal - often for three meals a day, so this was the only way Mom and Dad could afford to feed the family. The Multi-Milk tasted funky, but the option was powdered skim milk which was even worse – alot worse. Probably one of the problems with the taste was the chlorine and other chemicals which they put in the Lake Ramsey tap water back in the early 60’s to kill the algae bloom.
Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice were two other cereals from the late 50’s which we also had quite often over the years. They came in boxes on the regular grocery store shelves but somehow Mom managed to get them in large wholesale bags. The big bags – probably a metre high would be placed beside the fridge and we would scoop out bowls full with our plastic bowls which were badly deformed from folding them to strain shredded wheat. Both cereals were very bland but with a couple of “heapers” of sugar added, they turned out to be not too bad.
1960 Quaker Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice – two cereals that Mom got in bulk in large plastic bags rather than having to fork for the higher priced box packaging at the grocery store.
Another thing that Mom made on occasion that were incredibly tasty were “Girdle Scones”. Apparently “girdle” is Old Scottish for “griddle” (why didn’t they just call it a griddle or us just call it a girdle?) – anyway, this variation of scones are not surprisingly cooked in a cast iron griddle on the stove top and similar in shape and size to today’s English Muffin. I recall that Mom didn’t grease the pan but rather used heavily sprinkled flour on the pan at low heat to prevent the lightly kneaded dough patties from sticking. Well, they finished up with quite a dusty texture from cooking in the flour in the pan and the outside would be a bit chewy and charred but with a big gob of margarine on them when sliced in two, they were just divine – I think they might have been an acquired taste but we kids just loved them!
Mom would sometimes go for the gusto and make one of her chicken pot pies cooked on a big beat-up aluminum rectangular pan which was about 3” deep. Mom would put in some cut up chicken pieces and a gravyish mixture with potatoes, peas and carrots into the pan and roll out some pie crust dough into a big round. Mom would then place the round over the pan and cut off all the protruding dough, then patch in the square corners with the trimmed pieces. Scooping out some of that with a good chunk of pie crust was so good – making sure that you had a bit of the crust included in every bite.
When we moved to Nelson Street next to the “Old Iron Bridge” in 1959, upstairs we had three bedrooms for eight family members - Mom, Dad, and six kids (and soon to be a ninth member in the spring of 1961). They were pretty small rooms and originally because Dad worked shift work, he had his own bedroom. The four oldest boys were in one room with a single bed and a bunk bed. Jimmy and I shared the bottom bunk and it wasn’t one of those double-bottom bunks – it was 39” wide - coast to coast. My oldest brother Billy had his own bed and Johnny had the upper bunk to himself. My Mom, sister Chrissy, and the youngest kid Tommy (about 3 years old) shared the other room. After the new addition to the family in early 1961, we were reorganized with one kid going in with my Dad, one graduating from my Mom’s room to the boys’ room, and myself, the middle child, being relegated to the broken “chesterfield” downstairs in the living room (how did we end up with the rather mundane monikers of “couch” and “sofa” to replace such a noble sounding name as the “chesterfield?”).
I clearly recall the Saturday “bath night” in the 50s – the three or four older boys shoe-horned into the tub to save on hot water. I was the youngest of the group so I got the worst seat under the tap at the front – you had to “do the dance” when you added a bit of hot water to try to stop the shivering!
Typical tradition back in the 50’s – “bath night” the water was only ever about 6” deep – I guess so that nobody could get drowned – notice the enamel diaper pail on the right!
There was a U-shaped, three-section stairwell at our house leading upstairs from the living room. From the bottom of the upper portion of the stairs, you could peek around the corner of the wall to see the TV at the far end of the living room. Well on the nights when “The Untouchables” was on after our bedtime, Dad would be watching the show and we would all be stacked up trying to get a glimpse around the corner of the stairwell without Dad noticing. The “staccato” like delivery of the narrator’s voice on that TV program was absolutely captivating, and Elliot Ness with his incorruptible squad of lawmen were such heroic figures, we yearned to be able to watch the show. My Dad on the other hand, had other notions, bedtime was bedtime. When he would hear us fussing with each other to get the best view around the corner, there would be a stern warning - “BED!!” and we would all scramble back up to our room, trying desperately not to be at the tail end in case he came running after us to give us a whack!
We had a common driveway with our neighbour who had an identical house beside us. The driveway led to two separate gable roofed single garages that were adjoining. We used to climb up on top and then jump off the roof – not sure the attraction was of that regular undertaking but that’s what kids did in those days and probably explains any future necessary knee replacement surgery? In the backyard, we had a huge poplar tree that was a magnet for tent caterpillars. I can certainly recall the plagues of moths that gathered around the street lamps at night in front of our house after the cocoons hatched.
Nelson Street was only a short walk away from the Sudbury Arena down Elgin Street. I had mentioned in a previous blog about the colour-coded seating sections at the Sudbury Arena back in the ’50s/60s. A 1955 Sudbury Star ad identified the different pricing for Reds – at the center line, Greens at the blue lines, Blue in the end zones and Orange in the corners – priced according to the perceived quality of the view. Sudbury was a true hockey hotbed in the 30’s through the 50’s with several teams representing Canada in international competition back when Allen Cup local senior men’s club teams constituted the Olympic Games representatives. This was the situation when the Sudbury Arena was built in the early 50’s – no corners were cut in building a beautiful modern 5,000 capacity building near the downtown core. Without the mass popularity and pride in those Max Silverman local senior teams of that era, a venue of that quality and size would likely never have been conceived.
1955 Sudbury Star advertisement for a pre-season exhibition game between the Senior A Wolves and the NHL Montreal Canadiens – the famous 1950’s Sudbury Wolves “Kid Line” of Mauno Kauppi, Yacker Flynn, and Tatter McLellan were lined up this season under capable Coach “Peanuts” O’Flaherty – note the colour coded seating sections priced differently.
I always preferred the end blues to see plays shaping up as the players came up the ice but you had to keep your eyes peeled if you were seated above the puck trajectory of the screen behind the nets. This was before that now familiar netting was used around the ends and corners to stop wayward high pucks sailing into the end seats. It was also before Plexiglas – the screen around the ends of the rink was sort of a chain-link fencing with a secure chain-link enclosure for the goal judge (lockable to avoid possible lynching if a goal was contested by the rabid home crowd).
Not as many pucks cleared the screen in those days as the “slap shot” at that time was only a novelty performed by just a few players. One player was the shot’s widely acknowledged “inventor” – Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion of the Habs. Plus of course in the ‘50s, there were no curved sticks or goalie masks. This was until 1959 when Jacques Plante introduced one after getting hit in the face by an Andy Bathgate shot. He went off the ice bloodied and came back out from the dressing room with the mask on. This was much to the displeasure of his Sudbury-born coach Toe Blake who figured that Plante would not be as effective with the perceived impaired vision created by the mask.
Jacques Plante wearing his 1959 innovation – the goalie mask – here assisted by all-star defenseman Doug Harvey on the left. The original mask was a crudely shaped, unpadded fiberglass shield that would soon catch on with other goaltenders. The quality of design and face protection improved rapidly over the duration of the 60s. My favourite all-time look was Terry Sawchuk’s 1967 mask which he wore when he, in tandem with the ageless Johnny Bower, spearheaded the Leaf’s final cup in 1966/67
In this game advertised above, the Habs prevailed by a score of 5 – 1 over the “Senior A” Wolves. This result was despite Marcel Clements, a prominent name in Sudbury Wolves coaching and management in later years, opening the scoring and giving the avid local fans a short-lived taste of great anticipation. Any Sudbury success would have been overshadowed by the fact that the Habs loaned six players to the Wolves to help even up the sides. The loaners included former all-star defenseman Butch Bouchard, then the captain of the Canadiens, who was in the last year of his long illustrious career. This juggernaut Habs team would go on to win five consecutive Stanley Cups starting in this 55-56 season, with a nucleus that included Rocket Richard, Dickie Moore, Jean Beliveau, and backstopped by Doug Harvey on defense.
Terry Sawchuk’s mask while he played with the soon-to-be Stanley Cup Champion Toronto Maple Leafs in the spring of 1967 – here flanked by iconic defenceman Tim Horton on the left who had a stint as a young teen playing hockey while attending Sudbury High School in 1945/46.
Terry Sawchuk - The face of a hockey goalie before masks became standard game equipment - 1966
I liked Terry Sawchuck's mask so much that I tried to copy it by making one out of paper mache to use for street hockey. I used my brother's mug to roughly shape it but I didn't have the finesse to get it together to make a usable version.
On the topic of hockey – I grew up in the era of first, the Senior A (Allan Cup) Sudbury Wolves, followed by four years of semi-pro EPHL hockey in the late fifties and early sixties. After the EPHL folded in 1963, the Sudbury Cub Wolves of the NOHA came on-stream with Junior A hockey.
A Sudbury Star cartoon of the start-up teams of the EPHL in 1959 – Kitchener-Waterloo would replace the Three Rivers team soon afterward.
The initial NOJHA junior league as best I can recall, included the Soo Greyhounds, Espanola Eagles, Garson Falconbridge Native Sons, the Cubs and the North Bay Trappers.This league was depleted of teams over the 60s due to limited box office receipts and I seem to recall it was down to just a couple of teams by the 1968/69 season. I’m not sure if anyone will remember but the Cubs in those seasons were on such a tight budget that they could not purchase a new set of the traditional Sudbury green uniforms with the wolf crest and somehow ended up sourcing some well-used white Chicago Blackhawk-style uniforms – some badly worn from previous use.
Well to make this even more interesting, the Cubs won the NOHA title in 68/69 and ended up advancing to play the Quebec league champion Sorel Blackhawks in the Eastern Memorial Cup quarter-finals. The Sorel team were “all in” that year and had bolstered their roster with Quebec League superstar Michel Briere from the Shawinigan team for the playoffs, and a couple of imports from the Saskatchewan league. The western imports included Dave “the Hammer” Schultz who would go on to Broadway Bullies fame with the Philadelphia Flyers in the mid-seventies. These were the days when Mr. Schultz actually displayed some significant hockey skills and I can recall him being dominant with the Sorel team walking all over the smaller outclassed Cubs in both games at the Arena. The strangest part of the series was that both teams wore Chicago Black Hawk uniforms with Sorel needing to wear red throughout, as the budget-strapped Cubs only had the single white set.
Sorel went on to win another series before going up against the eventual Memorial Cup Champion Montreal Junior Canadians of the OHA. Montreal had a stacked team with future NHL’ers Gilbert Perrault, Rick Martin, Marc Tardiff and Rejean Houle and they narrowly defeated the feisty Sorel team before going on to beat the western league representative Regina Pats for the Cup. Major Junior would come to Sudbury shortly after with the relocation of the Niagara Falls Flyers to Sudbury in 1972 and this legacy has continued to this day some 50 years later.
Hard to decipher but this 66/67 program cover shows the Sudbury Cubs players wearing the Blackhawk uniforms.
I recall for many years after the Arena was built in 1951 that the old Annex building of Central Public School, where my Mom taught from 1938 to 1948, remained on the site and was retained for use as a business college right across from the Memorial Park Cenotaph. There was also the “Wading Pool” with a very modern changeroom in Memorial Park which was retained with the alignment of the new Brady Street underpass in the early 60’s. At that time there was a large parking lot behind Moses Men’s Wear off Durham Street, and Mom would park in that lot to go shopping and we would hang out unsupervised at the Wading Pool.
As I had mentioned in a previous blog, there is plenty of content on the internet about Sudbury’s old diners, restaurants, and downtown department store lunch counters. They added a lot of character to Sudbury life at that time with their simple traditional menu items and very economical prices.
Perhaps someone can tell me what ever happened to the “hot beef sandwich” – my “go to” Sudbury restaurant meal in the ‘60s and early ‘70s before I moved out west. Served with the entire piece of unsliced white bread top and bottom (no crusts cut off either) with gravy smothering the ensemble – sometimes fries or most often with a perfectly domed scoop of mashed potato that your fork would delight plunging into for the first bite. Heaven knows that the beef slices were often gristly and tough, but it was all about the gravy on that bread and those spuds – usually house mashed from scratch in most Diners in those days. Depending on your “Jones” on a given day, you might have opted for one of this sandwich’s old diner menu cousins, the “Hot Turkey” made with real bird, or the “Hot Hamburger”! Try to find any of these treasures on a menu now at a “Bistro”, “Café” or “Family Restaurant”, and I wish you best of luck.
A retro “hot beef sandwich” perfectly executed and plated! (no wiping off any of that errant gravy or cutting the sandwich in half - and for certain none of this open-faced stuff!). That glorious little dome of gravy-smothered mashed potatoes was always the target of the first delicious fork full then on to one of those square corners of the sandwich with fork and knife with a quick dip in the extra pools of gravy!!
I recall that for the girls in our high school classes, this menu item was a bit of a neanderthal exercise to eat in front of others – many girls preferred the civility of nibbling on a “Toasted Western” or a “Hot Pastrami” at Murray’s or Frank’s Delicatessen down on Durham. This was before the A&W’s moved in on the Kingsway and Regent St. to completely change our teenage culture to burger eating. Back In the late sixties when we started to get more mobile with our cars, or our parent’s cars, we headed out of the downtown core for our social gatherings. Incidentally, when I moved to Alberta in the seventies, no one there had heard of a Toasted Western Sandwich which I thought was odd – being out west and all?
Speaking of cars, I had previously mentioned our 1961 Valiant with the push-button transmission and the 1957 Pontiac salvaged from the Laurentian University parking lot in 1969. My brother Jimmy also had a white Volkswagen for a while until the motor caught fire one day driving up the hill on Hyland Dr. (mentioning Hyland – what was with that hill at the top end of the street driving down to Wembley – scary when driving a “standard” transmission). Most kids went through owning a Volkswagen at some point in those days – in the winter, scraper and gear shift with the right hand and steering wheel with the left.
My Mother really loved driving that old Pontiac and Mom often hopped in when nobody was using it and snuck a drive up to Alexander School when she was teaching there. Mom was very fond of the “three on the tree” gear shift.
The interior of the 1957 Pontiac with “3 on the tree” gearshift – what a beautiful car it was and so much fun to drive until the gearshift linkage broke. I recall going with my Mom to a “wrecking yard” on the Kingsway just past the Bancroft Drive intersection, to try to find a replacement steering column. We worked to get one off a 1956 Pontiac which appeared to be the same until the guy from the wrecking yard helping me almost lost a finger trying to pry the pieces out. We gave up after that.
The big clunky Pontiac must have reminded Mom of her first car in 1941 while she was teaching at Central Public School – a 1938 Nash Lafayette – a huge car that she would parallel park down at my Grandmother’s home at 146 Cedar Street just on the north side between Young and Lisgar Streets.
My Mom – Miss Margaret McEachern at the time, with her Grade 2 class at Central Public School in September 1938 (Mom’s classroom was in the Annex) – “Okay kids, fold your hands on the desk like little good boys and girls and smile for the photographer”! Mom was by far the youngest female teacher at Central and the teaching job sure helped keep the wolf away from the family’s door over the duration of World War II and beyond. Mom would return to teaching in the late 60s and spent the rest of her teaching career at Alexander Public School into the 80s.
This 1939 photo was taken of the Capitol Theatre just up Cedar Street from my Mom’s place. The black car, second from the right, could well have been Mom’s 1938 Nash Lafayette – it was a huge car, and owning it was probably why she became so adept at parallel parking.
Central Public School in 1935 before it was demolished, and the Sudbury Arena was built in 1951 to replace the old Palace Rink shown on the left. The Central Public School Annex where my Mom taught is on the right. This Annex building was retained in the back parking lot of the Arena for many years serving as a Business College for an extended period as I recall.
The 1957 Pontiac was also my all-time favourite car – so cool to drive around town, especially after I wired in a Radio Shack cassette player on a homemade painted plywood console. It was a great car but things started to go wrong over time. One time I drove my brother Johnny and his buddy Dave McInnis down to Dave’s family camp on French River (remember the “Do Not Pick Up Hitch-hikers” signs along the way between Estaire and the turn-off to Killarney – referencing potential escapees from the “Burwash Industrial Farm”). The front-end alignment and tie-rods got so bad on the car that it started to shimmy uncontrollably when you exceeded 40 miles per hour. I developed quite a string of traffic behind me on the two-lane (and no passing lanes) Highway 69 both ways that day.
Eventually, as mentioned above, the linkage on the steering column gear shift broke and I drove the entire summer to my job on the Greens Crew at the Idylwylde Golf and Country Club, back and forth in third gear. I would start rolling on a slight slope then “ride the clutch” until it got enough speed to not stall. I would need to slow down and time the lights on Regent and Paris Streets so that I didn’t need to stop. At both ends of the journey I had to open the hood and change into reverse manually to get the car turned around, turn it off then get out and change back to third – the things a kid did back in the day to have a ride to work?
The classic turquoise and white 1957 Pontiac – identical to ours only we had plenty of “Bondo” holding the fenders together and certainly no “White Wall Tires” which were a fancy option in those day.
These were the days of putting “A Tiger in your Tank”, a promotion from the Esso gas stations. When the promotion first started they gave out little tiger tails that you were supposed to hook onto your gas cap and then hang out from under the gas tank cover. I recall cars racing around town with the tiger tail billowing in the wind. Those were also the days when you would regularly put in two dollars of gas – at about 25 cents a gallon (or about 6 cents a litre). Two bucks would last you for a couple of weeks or more! – back when the two-dollar bill was a handy denomination of currency to carry around.
The Esso put a “Tiger in your Tank” promo lasted through a big part of the ‘60s when gas was so much cheaper than it is now.
In the early seventies the engine died in my Mom and Dad’s 1969 Plymouth Fury. I was fortunate enough to have the vehicle gifted to me by my Dad if I would get a replacement motor for the car. Well, this was a great opportunity for me and without hesitation I ordered a new 225 cubic inch slant six motor from Sears, which had a good reputation then as the best place to get a rebuilt car motor in those days. When the motor came (all painted blue) on a pallet, I rented an engine hoist and proceeded to disconnect and unbolt everything on the old motor, jack it up and take it out. If you brought in your old motor – Sears would credit back a nice rebate on the rebuilt motor purchase. I then dropped in the rebuilt motor one – taking notes along the way in the days long before cell phone cameras.
When I got it all back together with some help from my brothers, we fired it up and damned if I hadn’t put the shroud on backward on the flywheel – clearly indicated by the ticking sound which accompanied every rotation of the motor. I guess better notes were required as - out came the motor again – reverse the shroud and back in again - accompanied with a substantial amount of cursing.
My Dad asked a mechanic friend, Johnny Kallonen who also attended the Berean Church, if he would come by to check things out. Johnny, a delightful diminutive man with a heavy Finnish accent, knew everything about a motor just by the sound it made. He scrambled right up into the engine compartment and spent a few minutes tinkering with the carburetor screws with just his fingers – no screwdriver, and you could hear the car settle into a perfect purring sound. What a talented man he was! I was delighted to have masterminded the project and subsequently have myself a very nice-looking new ride. The body of the car was still in great shape as it had not yet succumbed to the rust which quickly ate away at most vehicles in those days.
The 1969 Dodge/Plymouth famous 225 cubic inch “slant 6” had all kinds of room under the hood with its offset tilted configuration. My Dad’s mechanic friend climbed right into the compartment to make the final carb adjustments to my newly installed “rebuilt” car motor.
It was so nice to be able to work on cars back in the day – they were 100% mechanical with nothing computerized, and very few if any electric features in the 1960s. Often with your old clunkers, you would have your wrenches out in the Canadian Tire parking lot down on Cedar Street (the location of my Grandparent’s house from 1928 to 1948) changing out a generator or battery - or putting in a new rotor, distributor cap and points (or pounding a cold chisel on a seized lug nut). Another victim of progress and one that every kid who took his hand to car repairs back in the day will probably miss now forever.
Another significant transition in around 1970 was when we started seeing imported cars from Japan. I remember a classmate at Sudbury High School, Heather Hatch driving the first Toyota any of us had ever seen or even heard of - a Corona I believe. It wouldn’t take long before the market was flooded with Honda’s, Toyota’s and Datsuns. I recall a buddy when I moved to Edmonton in the mid 70’s racing around in a little Mazda equipped with an innovative Wankel rotary engine which made a hell of a racket.
Something that changed forever as the New Sudbury Shopping Centre gathered steam as the place to go for all your household needs, was the steady decline of the independent businesses in the central city. Downtown was once the essence of Sudbury’s status as a great place to live and grow up but the seemingly well-intentioned “Urban Renewal” project in the late ’60s inadvertently greased the tragic skids which ultimately led to the demise of the core of the City.
This area of Borgia Street was razed to accommodate “Urban Renewal” in the mid to late ‘60s. The vintage New Queen’s Hotel is noted on the near right and Melanson’s Fish Market on the upper left. My Uncle recently harkened back on when my Grandfather John McEachern was superintending the resurrection of the Gold Mine at the south end of Long Lake in the late 30’s. John would head down Lisgar from his 146 Cedar Street home to this hotel to recruit a crew of labourers. He would provide a glass or two of Silver Foam draft beer to entice the often-transient group to work on the project at the mine site – apparently, he was met with some success as the strategy was often repeated.
I recall in particular the number of independently owned and operated “Men’s Wear” stores downtown back in the late fifties and the sixties most of which lost hold over time to the chain stores in the New Sudbury shopping centre. Some managed to survive but most faded into oblivion.
In the late ‘50s, and early to mid-‘60s, Durham Street and the east-west grid of cross streets were home to a plethora of independent clothing, shoe and jewelry stores.
At that time, on top of the department stores like Woolworths, Kresge’s, Zellers, Silverman’s, and Eatons, which all sold “Men’s Apparel” – there was a score of men’s wear stores throughout downtown that could cater to any need – including the felt hats worn by many men in the day. Dispersed around the city center were Moses Men’s Wear, Seymours (an “L” shaped store with entrances to both Durham and Elm with Laura Secord and the news shop sandwiched in the corner), Dabous Men’s Wear, Paquette’s, Martin’s Men’s Wear, Reg Wilkinson, M. Radich’s on Borgia, and of course Russ Blain – Clothes of Distinction – these together with numerous other tailor shops and work wear stores. For a mining town, it is surprising to think that there was such a market for nice clothes beyond the regular department store fare. A lot of miners and smelter workers must have been dressing up on the weekend and taking their wives to the “Ladies and Escort’s” or the “Men’s Entrance” lounges which had proliferated throughout Sudbury neighbourhoods at the time. Perhaps Stompin’ Tom’s description of a typical Sudbury Saturday Night missed the detail of the fine apparel worn by the “boys” that were getting Stinko!
Before the “Sudbury High School Athletic Banquet” when I was in Grade 12 in the later 60s, I went to Seymour’s Men’s Wear where my brother Jimmy worked part-time after school. I got decked out with a full outfit - new blue sports jacket, white tailored shirt with a wide patterned blue tie, white plaid pants and white shoes. I felt very conspicuous dressing up out of character, but all the older sales staff talked me into it saying how cool I looked. I spent all my savings on that get-up and then never wore the outfit again that I can recall.
The Sudbury “fairer sex” were no slouches either when it came to getting properly attired. They had a plethora of downtown stores Levine’s Ladies Wear, Sobie’s, Irene’s Ladies wear near Gardner Motors, Mary’s Ladies Wear next to Mitchel the Druggist, Sally Shops, Vode on Frood Rd. in the Loblaws building, The Roselyn on Cedar, Pick.Fairs Ladies Wear on Durham, and Hollywood Ladies Wear in the Coulson, this on top of fur shops, dressmakers, and of course the above-mentioned department stores which often had full-page ads for ladies clothing selections in the Sudbury Star.
There was no Sunday shopping downtown or anywhere in those days and stores regularly closed at 5:30 PM. I seem to recall also that most places also closed Wednesday at noon. The early closures had the somewhat peculiar exception of Tuesday nights, and of course Friday nights until 9 PM. Many kids in high school had part-time jobs downtown to in-fill staffing on those two evening shifts.
Fur coats in those days, before the population was fully awakened to the animal cruelty associated with the fur industry, were the norm and something that most women desired to have in their closet. United Furs and LaFrance Furs were both located downtown at that time. Many coats were passed on from generation to generation as I expect that a fur coat maintained its style better than most apparel. I recall my Grandmother’s familiar Persian Lamb coat and matching hat – it was part of her Sunday best. Granny would come over to our house for the only formal family meal that we had all week on Sunday after church. She was always dressed finely in her coat and church outfit (she attended Calvary Baptist Church over on Ontario Street) and would sometimes bring over a cabbage salad with the shreds of slaw suspended in green jello – definitely my favourite every time she made it!
It appears that nice outfits were not enough for our finely dressed citizens in the late ‘50s – Sudbury must have been the jewelry capital of Canada with Morse Jewelers, Blais Jewelers, John Bazar Jewelers, Robert Brown Jewelers, Birks, Chapman Brothers, Dorsett Jewelers, T.M. Palmer, Stan Watson Jewelers, and Burman Jewelry (beside Nick Evanshen’s sports shop on Elgin Street). It must have been very confusing to decide where to go when you wanted to tie the knot!!
In around 1962, one of my brothers and I walked downtown to try and snoop on Mom doing her Christmas shopping. Last minute was her tradition, shopping on Christmas Eve so there wasn’t the futile need to hide the presents in the house – we would have found them for sure. My brother and I figured we would follow her around to see if we could get any hints on the gifts we might find under the tree the next morning. We trudged down to Durham St. through the snow and found her car, parked of course near Eaton’s Department Store - her favourite. We managed to track her down in the store and watched Mom circulating through the departments for a short while. We got spooked when we thought that she might have seen us and we soon aborted our misguided mission and plodded home shivering up Elgin Street in the snowy darkness.
This iconic early sixties pic looking north on Durham St. through downtown is priceless. This captures the very essence of downtown in those days which was especially magic in the snow with all the Christmas decorations mounted – I remember the excitement you sensed when making that turn off Elgin St.
One Christmas around 1960, my Grandmother got Dad a “paint by numbers” set which were much more popular back in those days. The painting was of a ship similar to the one which my Dad served on during World War II. I remember him sitting at the table intricately filling in the tiny polygons which were the white crests of the waves. It was very interesting watching the painting slowly come together after hours of work by my Dad. Eventually, it was mounted on the wall and actually looked like an original painting.
Early 1960’s “Paint by Numbers” kit – these were very popular in the days when “John Gnagy’s Learn to Draw” was a regular staple in TV programming.
Thank you for reading these anecdotes and we hope you enjoyed.
To Be Continued with....... Blog - Part 7, which continues with recollections of high school days in the late 1960's.
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