GROWING UP IN SUDBURY 1950's and 60's - PART 5
25 November 2022
(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 had suggested in my previous musings that Nelson Street on the north side of the CPR tracks was an absolutely magic place to grow up. The rocks rising above the end of the street, the Grotto and field, the steady vehicular action crossing the bridge, the stores and diners, and a street with virtually no traffic – all the perfect ingredients that a kid could dream of in those days.
Our neighbourhood at the Old Iron Bridge had quite an ethnic mix – mostly families whose Dad was working at Inco in some capacity. Many of the parents had been born in the “old country” and had come over after the War to work in the mines or smelters. Most were very enterprising, and all had a vegetable garden – usually an impressive one at that. Next to us on Nelson Street we had the Depaulis’ and the Cristo’s in what was originally a six-plex apartment building I believe, and behind us the Pancaro’s – all Italian families. They were “all in” with their gardens in the backyards and they knew how to cultivate a great crop of vegetables.
Margaret and Bill Swain in front of 320 Nelson St. in 1960 – six kids to start with another soon on the way!
I recall also in the early summer, the Italian Moms would be in the backyard harvesting the dandelion leaves. As a kid I could never figure that one out, but I understand now how oddly tasty they can be in a salad or wilted like spinach in the frying pan. Looking back, I feel bad that we may have done quite a bit of trampling when chasing after stray rubber balls that accidently cleared the fences around our back yard. I must say however that we never raided the gardens like many other kids did in the day.
The Swain kids in the front yard of 320 Nelson Street in 1960 – Granny had a hard time aiming that Brownie camera from her waist sometimes! The six-plex apartment building next door visible next to the good looking kid on left (how come I didn’t get a sweater?!).
At the end of Nelson Street behind Christakos’ grocery store was a boarding house – not as big as the one on Druides St. behind it, but close. One winter there were a couple of young, early 20’s “Maritimers” living there after getting hired on by Inco. They joined in with us playing ball hockey on the street (we had virtually no traffic on Nelson Street so we had the centre paved section all to ourselves). One of them fashioned himself as being quite a goaltender so we would “take shots” on him for hours. Well, be damned if one day he doesn’t show up to play on the street with a full set of goalie equipment – right out of the box - leather pads, trapper, blocker and paddle (no masks in those days). It was the stuff of dreams for us to even just see it up close – probably worth $150 bucks or more even back then. It was crazy, leather goalie pads to use with a rubber ball on pavement!
It turned out that one of the young men got laid off or fired and they reluctantly decided to move on from Sudbury. To our delight, they offered to sell the goalie gear to us for 5 or 10 dollars (can’t remember exactly how much but it was very cheap) which my Mom managed to come up with realizing how important it was to us. I then reluctantly became a goalie just to be able to use this incredible set of gear – not to mention I wasn’t a very good skater.
I swear that these could be the same early 60’s pads that we bought from the street hockey “Newfies” who lived for a short time at the boarding house on Nelson Street – those two guys with the funny accent were a lot of fun!
A dreaded day that rolled around twice a year at our place on Nelson St. was the installing of the wood framed “storm windows” on the house in the late fall, and then removing them in the spring. There were no double glazed, gas filled, vacuum sealed windows in those days and your house would be too cold and drafty in the winter without the storm windows installed, creating the air space between the two windows. What a curse this was, especially on a two story house like ours. By the time you got to the back half of the house it was more like a three story building with the ladder on sloping ground. Installing the upstairs windows required one of those old school wooden extension ladders that weighed in at about probably 80 pounds and took two kids to barely carry and position against the wall – rocks or little pieces of wood or sticks used to level the feet.
The “storms” had a couple of slotted flanges at the top that slipped over two hooks permanently mounted on the window frame. Once we got to be ten or eleven years old, we took over much of the task from Dad. You would have to carry the window in front of you as you slowly climbed far up the ladder, then maneuver yourself and the window to place over the hooks without falling off the ladder. You would finish the job by closing all the butterfly tabs to secure the window - also mounted on the window frame, then move the ladder and on to the next.
Typical mid-century storm windows with a similar arrangement to our house. Ours had the same hangers on the top and the butterfly clips lower down to hold the window in. There were also three large holes drilled in the bottom with a tab installed on the inside that would hinge closed or open over the holes to let some air in if necessary or to clear condensation. Many other storms had a little hinged arm that would secure the window without the butterfly tabs and allow you to hinge the entire widow out about six inches to allow full air movement This made more sense as the tab which covered the three holes usually got painted over which made it impossible to hinge open – much the same with trying to raise the bottom sash in the summer.
In terms of other domestic activities, we kids would most often tag along with Mom when she went grocery shopping. We got most of our stuff from Christakos, just a stone’s through from our place, but Mom would always be on the lookout for any sales so she would venture out often for the best available deal on any of our staples.
In the early 60’s, I think her favourite store for produce was the A&P when it was located on 172 Elm St. right across from the courthouse, before the grocery store expanded and moved a couple of blocks behind to Pine Street.
Early 1960’s photo of the Courthouse (’61 Valiant Station wagon in front) – the A&P would have been directly across Elm Street at this time. Those Valiants seemed to be everywhere in those days. I recall because I learned to drive in one which my brother bought for $75 – it had the push button transmission which was always getting messed up with buttons popping out – this idea for changing gears was short lived!
Push button gear changer on the left dash of the 1961 Valiant – I remember having to take the two screws on this panel out so many times to re-insert the buttons into their slots. A good idea in principle but the engineering just didn’t keep pace!
Parking was always tough at the A&P because you had to parallel park on Elm, and many times there weren’t any spots. Mom might then circle around the block one or two times before smoothly gliding into a space opened up near the store (Mom had been driving since 1938 and she was an expert at parallel parking as street parking at the family home on Cedar St. was the norm in the 40’s). There were always crates of produce displayed outside on the sidewalk which really had her attention when we arrived. She would pick through until she found the best of the bunch – for instance, she would peel the husk back and taste a raw corn on the cob. If it passed her taste test for tenderness and sweetness, she would buy a dozen or two, or if not, she would only buy the one she tested.
A pic of a 1960-ish A&P – not the one on Elm Street but the same storefront and advertising in the windows – the one on Elm had produce brought out onto the sidewalk in season – similar parallel parking in front.
The grocery store we visited most often was the closest to us, the Dominion on Riverside and Regent – I got to ride the rocking horse at the entryway window one time! The route to get to the Dominion back in the day, was heading down on Elgin from the Bridge and taking a left across the tracks to Riverside which at that time went right through to “T” into Elgin St. We would pass the iconic Emil’s Hairstyling Salon on the right just west of the tracks and sometimes pick up my Grandmother after getting her hair “done” at that old school shop (Emil’s got cut-off from downtown when the underpass was built, but despite the detour required to get there in subsequent years, no client would ever go anywhere else).
The building in which Emil’s Hairstyling Salon was located for decades back in the day just off the tracks on Riverside Dr. – you can see the entrance now to the underpass walkway in the back right.
The Dominion had plenty of convenient parking in lots on both sides of the store and it was easy access as long as you didn’t come from the “Killer’s Crossing” side of town – only in Sudbury can you find a convoluted intersection like that. I’m not sure how they figured out the traffic light coordination back in the day without a computer.
A great 1960’s night time shot of the Dominion on Riverside – parking lots on both sides made for easy access unlike the other grocery stores of the day on our side of town.
We would also visit Loblaws on occasion, a very modern looking building at the time on Lorne and Elm Street, but the parking there was also a bit of a problem. There were about a dozen or so somewhat cramped angled parking spaces in the lot behind the store but if that was full, you would have to luck out with a street parking spot on Lorne – only worth going there if there was a special sale!
Early 50’s shot of Loblaws on Lorne at Elm St. – a couple of the cramped angled parking spots visible on the near lower right – It had a touch of Art Deco styling to Elm St. face of the building and it was the state of the art groceteria in the 50’s.
We occasionally also went to the market on Borgia Street, which Mom had frequented often when she was a young working adult, living downtown on Cedar Street. It smelled awful from butchered meat and the fish market so we usually opted to stay in the car and avoid the unpleasantries awaiting inside.
I recall my Mom parallel parking on Borgia Street across from this market shown here in the late 50’s/early 60’s era. We kids would stay in the car while Mom went shopping - I believe for Salmon at Melanson’s. She made a tasty breaded salmon chunk dish for my Dad, of which we sometimes got to taste a delicious morsel. We had no desire to tag along to face the smell inside the market building. Hanging in the car we would watch all the mysterious people walking up and down the street in this poorest of Sudbury neighbourhoods.
There were so many memorable buildings in Sudbury back in the day, most of which are well documented in various locations on the Internet and in books – the downtown hotels, movie theatres, iconic department stores, and downtown diners for instance . In my era, the YMCA on the hill on Elm East was the focal point of many activities both athletic and social and will be fondly remembered by many.
Coming from Nelson Street we got to the “Y” along Drinkwater which ended at Larch Street – you would need to walk up the lane beside the Art Deco style Randolph Apartments to climb up to the entrance on Elm St or the side entrance off the lane – who could forget the smell of chlorine from the pool when you entered that lower side door. The YMCA building was neatly perched above the east end of downtown with the Bus Depot in view below.
Looking downhill from the “Y” location to downtown in the late 50’s – note the unmistakable 1954 white Buick Skylark convertible in the foreground. Driving around in this ride must have made this guy or gal the king/queen of Sudbury in the day!
The classic 1954 SkyLark up close – there were some magic car designs in those days but this convertible model had to be near the top of the list! The sad eye headlights and frown shaped grill probably inspired some of the animated car cartoons in later years.
Another building that I fondly remember from the early 1960’s was Stanley Stadium in Copper Cliff. We would often get a ride and go to public skating there for a minimal charge and I recall people from our church would rent the ice for an hour and we would play hockey with the group. Later in the 60’s we would go to high school hockey games and those old wooden cubicle “stands” would be priceless if anyone could bring those back to life.
The Sudbury Public Library down on MacKenzie Street was another popular spot when you had to write an “essay” or complete a school project. It had a smell all its own and the orderly array of books was always very clean and impressive. Everything changed however when my Mom and Dad got talked into purchasing a set of Encyclopedia Britannica by a door to door salesman, typical of the day. I should rather say that we pleaded with them to purchase the set and the salesman got the easy sale as a result – we even got the bonus oversized Atlas which was a key selling point. Mom and Dad could afford a few more things when my Mother started teaching again in 1965. We no longer needed to go to the library as much but I missed the focused approach that the library fostered with no talking or fussing allowed for fear of reprisal from the very “librarian looking” librarian!
The good old Dewey Decimal System – who could forget this bit of genius in organizing all those books!
Earlier on, there was a pretty good little library room at Prince Charles School and I remember going in to read poems in books like the “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, “Casey at the Bat” or the like, over and over again – they were fascinating to me in those days. I recall there was also a book that I opened many times with a photo of Wilt Chamberlain in his University days with arms outstretched and clinging a basketball in each palm with his hand on top – an incomprehensible feat for an 8 year olds imagination!
We didn’t get to go to many movies as kids – one reason being that “Baptists” weren’t allowed to go to “shows” as they were called back then. Prior to my parents starting to attend Church though, I did have the opportunity to go to the Regent Theatre in 1960 to catch the epic Ben Hur movie with my friend Kenny Barnard whose dear Mother paid for my ticket. It was my first time in a theatre and I remember being in awe with the great spectacle before me – especially the chariot race at the end (I was also haunted by the “sister and mother in prison - leprosy scene” for many years afterward).
I also recall our class in Grade 4 in about 1961, Mrs. Braun (lovely lady) taking the entire class down to the Regent Theatre to watch a live operetta performance of Carmen. Our teacher had great insight in speculating that a cultural event of this type might make a positive impression on the very young students. I for one will never forget it, and I was certainly not an artsy kid. Again, the spectacle of live opera singing was spellbinding for a kid – especially the leading lady with her big voice, big hair and tons of make-up.
Late 50’s Elm Street looking towards Durham Street – the “air conditioned” Regent Theatre located on the left between Yolles and “Mitchell the Druggist” – what a great trusting name for a Drugstore!
As a family, I can recall in perhaps 1959, going to the Drive-In at the far outskirts of “Robinson Subdivision” as it was known then, in our Dodge station wagon. We sat with the tailgate open facing the screen. We all shoehorned into the back compartment with Dad sitting on the tailgate and watched “Around the World in Eighty Days” on a hot summer evening. I expect that Mom would have brought along a picnic as we couldn’t have afforded the concession booth.
A great posting on the net of a photo of the Drive-In at the extreme west end of “Robinson Subdivision”, looking to Copper Cliff in the background – only the three “Smokestacks” in those days.
Who can forget these clunkers at the Drive-In - I can recall the hollow clunking sound when you put them on the window. I also recall packing 4 or 5 buddies into the big trunk of our ’57 Pontiac to sneak them into the Lasalle Drive-In, several years later as a teenager where you were supposed to pay by the head count – I was always worried about the person at the ticket booth hearing all the giggling and fussing going on in the trunk while we made the transaction.
Back in the early 1960’s, an event that was a “must visit” for us kids, was the annual “Sportsmen’s Show”. We would hustle down to the Sudbury Arena and perhaps visit more than once during the staging of the event. As kids we weren’t that interested in the boats and all the other stuff being flogged at all the booths, but I certainly remember that there was a booth set-up that gave away free little Dixie cups of Orange or Grape Crush pop (two of our favourites). We would bring a jacket or a cap, something with which we could change our appearance so we could casually stop by again without raising any alarm. We’d also watch for the attendant to take a break and when he or she was replaced by someone new, we would fall back into the line-up for another shot – when it came to free slugs of pop for a kid, desperate measures were required!
I also remember the “fish pond” they had set up with a huge water tank. There were magnets on the fishing lines and a “Carny” with a microphone calling out for participants and announcing the results of the ongoing activity. You would pay for a rod and cast into the pool and drag the magnet along the bottom to hook onto a little sheet metal fish cutout that had a particular prize described on it. There was a cash jackpot prize that was the ultimate reason that most people purchased a line. We could never afford to participate but we would watch for extended periods as people pulled in their catch to see who might win the big one.
The Sportmen’s Show was a big deal but really every trip to the Arena was an event and recalling the smells of the lower concourse will be forever in my senses – the hot buttered popcorn in the north east corner - freshly popped, the diesel exhaust smell on the Zamboni side, and the smell of the dressing rooms - everyone who has ever played hockey or used a rink dressing room in Canada knows that smell!
The “Shrine Circus” was another annual Arena date on the calendar which I recall attending several times. It was quite a spectacle with the elephants, lion tamer and aerial acrobats! My friend Kenny Barnard’s father, Merle, was a “Shriner” so I think we got free tickets to get in. Not sure I ever understood what a “Shriner” was - or did, or why they wore those peculiar hats, but I was grateful for the free tickets nonetheless!
1960’s kids souvenir Shrine Circus Fez hat – not sure what kid would have wanted to buy, and then place one of these on his nugget – I guess stranger things have happened.
Of course we never went to these kinds of things with our parents – just little kids out and about entertaining themselves – usually hanging out at the Minto Street entrance to see if we could sneak into something (I’m telling stories out of school but my older cousins Peggy and Affie Maley, and later Caroline Maley, all worked as Arena “usherettes” in those days in their classy old-school uniforms and hats – they had a hand in some of those free entries).
Another mid-1960’s freebie that I recall, was peeking through the spaces between the fence boards with neighbour Billy Rich at Queen’s Athletic Field, watching and listening to the announcer give updates on a Sudbury Hardrocks football game – I can clearly recall “Alex Fex” scoring a touchdown running almost the length of the field complete with the excited “play by play” by the on-site broadcaster. The fence boards had probably been installed tight when it was built, but with shrinkage over time a space developed between each board – some wider than others. The “Sudbury Hardrocks” - another Sudbury original – what a great name for a football club! Too bad that my mentor later in my college days, Sid Forster, changed the name to the “Spartans” in the early 1970’s but knowing Sid I’m sure he had his reasons.
Another must do for kids on a regular basis, was to keep your eyes peeled when Mom was driving by Queen’s Athletic Field along the Regent Street side. As you sped along you could see the activities clearly through the spaces in the fence boards, kind of like those old booklets that you could leaf through and see an animated image.
In the early 60’s when the weekend rolled around we would look forward to the delivery of the Weekend Magazine together with the Sudbury Star daily. Forget about all the other stuff in the mag, on the back page would be a full-page hockey player photo with a write-up on the player. These were carefully cut out and pasted in a scrap book or posted on the wall if it contained one of your favourite players! For us being Red Wing and Leaf fans it was always disappointing when you opened up with great anticipation only to find featured Chicago’s Moose Vasko or Pierre Pilote, or Montreal’s Jean Beliveau – great players for sure, but we “hated” the Blackhawks and the Habs!
The Sudbury Weekend Magazine hockey profile circa 1962 – these were the days when the Maple Leafs won three or four Cups during the Punch Imlach years before helmets and curved sticks – nice piece of lumber in Mr. Stanley’s glove and you had to love those retro Leaf’s “hockey socks”!
Later on Saturday we’d look forward to Hockey Night in Canada during the years when we had a TV. For some reason the coverage at that time would start at 8:30 near the end of the first period – you might catch the last couple of minutes or sometimes it was already into the first intermission. Bill Hewitt, Foster Hewitt’s son, had taken over the play by play duties on the Toronto TV broadcasts, the inimitable and much beloved Danny Gallivan did the Habs games, and you would sometimes need to switch over and catch Rene Lecavalier doing the French station coverage of the Montreal games depending on who was playing – only the Original Six in those days.
Speaking of Hockey Night in Canada, I had mentioned “Wally” hockey sticks on an earlier blog on growing up in Sudbury, as the Cadillac of hockey sticks in and around 1960. I managed to find a photo of the great Gordie Howe inspecting one of these craftsman made sticks in that era.
Gordie Howe inspects a Wally, the finest hockey stick of the day made in Wallaceburg, Ontario – boy did that thing need to be tilted up to keep it flat on the ice – no wonder everyone skated upright in those days like they had a pickle between their cheeks – could that heel be any sharper?.
There were other staples on the HNIC broadcasts like Ward Cornell doing the Hot Stove segment and Murray Westgate coming on as the pitchman for Imperial Oil all decked out in his classic gas station attendant uniform and funky cap.
Who could forget cheerful and reliable Murray Westgate on the hockey game Esso commercials! How could anyone ever maintain such a constant smile? ‘Gas Station Attendant’ used to be a very honourable profession back in the days before self- serve took over – rag hanging out of the back pocket - check the oil sir?
Afterward, the “Juliette” variety show would come on which didn’t have a lot of appeal for the younger set – usually bedtime I guess. But once in a while a “Wayne And Shuster” special would be aired after being announced weeks ahead to build the anticipation – pre-empting Juliette. This was always looked forward to, as both kids and adults universally enjoyed the “Canadian flavoured” comedy of this iconic pair of entertainers.
Often billed as “Canada’s Pet – Juliette”, Juliette Cavazzi hosted the post hockey game variety show which was sometimes abbreviated by a penalty filled hockey game or sometimes pre-empted by a Wayne and Shuster special.
Who could forget the antics of Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster in the 1950’s and 60’s on their variety specials – and occasionally on the international stage of the Ed Sullivan Show (they were a favourite of Ed’s).
Without conveniences like computers and multi station cable TV, the Sudbury Star was not only the source of the great hockey pics in the Weekend edition - it was also the gateway to information on everything going on in the city and around the world. Once the sports section was fully perused for stories and statistics, and the news was browsed, it would be off to the “funnies”, or “comics” as we called the page. Lil Abner, the Phantom, Dagwood and Mr. Abernathy are all strips that I recall.
Top of 1955 Sudbury Star comic strip page – I don’t recall Freckles and Friends – must been before I could read and later replaced by Mr. Abernathy perhaps?
In the early 60’s in Sudbury, Bell Grove was the poor second cousin of Bell Park as a place to swim and play on the opposite south side of Ramsey Lake. I clearly recall using the change room at Bell Grove to go swimming at the rather basic beach facility - small gable wood framed buildings with separate structures for each gender and no lifeguard or anything like that. There was however a picnic shelter and a day use area with a nice little field which was big enough to play softball.
I also recall picnics with the church group – Bell Grove was ideal for that type of event as the parents could sit in the shelter and gab while the kids would swim or play in the field.
A great shot of Bell Grove – early 1960’s with the change rooms near the shore, the picnic shelter for day use on the far right and the playing field on the right foreground, just out of sight behind the bench .You can see the top of the General Hospital above the change house on the left.
I also recall our neighbours for a short time on Nelson Street, Roy Edey and family. Roy had been a very fine city all-star ball player in Sudbury when he was younger and when baseball in the city was a pretty major thing. He would organize games and we would drive over with him to the Bell Grove field and play for hours.
In the 1940’s and 50’s (and actually dating back before then) the Sudbury community baseball league was a very big deal – our neighbor on Nelson St., Roy Edey (third from left above) had been an all-star in the 40’s and mentored us kids in the finer points of the game at Bell Grove. Jay Arbour on the left would of course be Al Arbour of later Maple Leaf and NY Islander fame.
When we moved to Wembley Drive later in the ‘60’s, our neighbours were “Beefy” McKay and next to him, “Scoop” Briscoe, two baseball legends from two previous eras in local league play. It was sad to witness the demise of very competitive community based leagues when I was young in the 60’s.
The smaller towns of Coniston, Creighton and Copper Cliff were baseball hotbeds back in the fifties and former two went head to head for the Monell Cup
in 1955 – 50 cents to get in!
I remember the Sea Cadets having a clubhouse type of boathouse building in the little bay where Science North is now located – I believe the entrance to the access road was off Ramsey Lake Road, before the turn-offs to the Yacht Club and Bell Grove. The Sea Cadets always looked so spiffy in their sailor uniforms in parades etc. around the city or often you would see one of these kids on early Saturday mornings walking across town to the Armoury beside Riverside Playground.
The Sea Cadets Clubhouse on the little bay where Science North now occupies the site. Bell Grove would have been located beyond the peninsula which here is leading out to where the Yacht Club was being newly constructed – photo is circa 1960. We would have always accessed this site by cutting over the rocks to go to look for golf balls at the Idylwylde when the clubhouse was on Ramsey Lake Road.
Our frequenting of Bell Grove was right around the time that the Sudbury Yacht Club building was being developed which somewhat upgraded the perception of that side of the lakeshore as a recreation centre.
This aerial photo from 1963 shows the Yacht Club then in operation on the right as well as the Sea Cadets Boathouse in the lower centre. On the upper left is our old house, then owned by the Ledrew’s and the Marina in the bay with the Lily Creek culvert also visible. Paris Street curves around the rock outcrop to the south before reaching the intersection with Ramsey Lake Road just out of the photo at the bottom. The “Big White House” is just at the curve in the lower left. Science North would be located right in that circular looking rock outcrop on the lower left hand half of the page.
The cops launching their boat at the Yacht Club boat ramp in the late 1960’s (cop car looks like a 1969 Plymouth Fury with a cherry on top) – note my parents’ former home and gas station/diner in the far background at the west end of Ramsey Lake (all before Science North and the Paris Street reconstruction).
Another shot of Bell Grove – circa 1960 - the upper parking lot to the west of the park off Ramsey Lake Road (1959 Chev Impala on the right with “stepside” half ton beside it). The road down to the beach was off to the right. At that time Ramsey Lake Road only led to the Idylwylde Golf Course Clubhouse, the Sanitarium, the Sea Cadets and legacy cottages on the south shore of the lake – the Yacht Club and Laurentian University would came along shortly afterward.
Family sitting in front of the Hot Chip stand circa 1960 at Bell Park on the North side of the lake – see the Sanitarium across the lake in the right background accessed by Ramsey Lake Road.
Leading up to Christmas, only in Sudbury would you have a TV program dedicated to having kids taking turns sitting on Santa’s lap with parents eagerly waiting and escorting their children. I can’t believe now, that I actually sat there and watched a procession of youngsters moving to a platform where the camera focused on Santa in his chair. Santa would be continuously serenading the assembled masses with – “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merrrrrrry Christmas – Oh my!!, look at all the boys and girls – Ohhhh my” – after each kid had his brief moment of fame telling Santa what he or she wanted for Christmas, Santa would shuffle them off his lap with an uncerimonious “way we go”, and then on to the next “lucky” kid. I can still clearly recall “Santa’s” voice on that program. This show was aired daily by CKSO would go on for a week or two as I recall. This Santa you could recognize was the same man who did the Santa Claus parade – Sudbury had a consistent face of Santa for many, many years which built probably some trust in believing the myth among young local children.
Another familiar and anticipated moment in my world leading up to Christmas, was the day Eaton’s would start distributing their Christmas Carol sheets – a four-page folded sheet with the lyrics for twenty three of the most popular Carols of the day. The sheets were made of this lovely shiny thin paper.
The cover page of the 1950’s/60’s Eaton’s Christmas Carol Sheet – the texture of the paper was unmistakable.
Even though the paper appeared delicate, the pamphlet could withstand quite a bit of abuse and remain usable even when they became quite dog-eared from being handed out to school classes or church congregations time and again. You could go to the Eatons store downtown on Durham and grab as many as you needed and it was always nice to open up a brand new silky smooth copy. These Carol sheets really made it feel like Christmas and people in those days where more engaged in singing Carols than today – both adults and children.
The back page of the popular 1950/60’s four page, twenty three song, T. Eaton Co. Christmas Carol Sheet.
I mentioned in an earlier recollection about the lower Elgin strip that ran from the Townhouse to where the Brady St. underpass is now located. In among the Prospect Hotel and the Pick n’ Eat restaurant there were some respectable businesses located there when the Riverside track crossing intersection still existed, and it was more of a main thoroughfare. I had mentioned in previous writing that Sudbury Paint and Wallpaper, Evanshen’s Sporting Goods and a jewelry store were squeezed into that short section. I ended up finding a photo of the street which clearly shows the latter two stores in the background during a late 50’s parade. The Laughing Buddha restaurant now occupies the Evanshen/Jewelry store location.
Behind the well decked out marching pipe band, you can see Nick Evanshen’s sporting goods and the jewelry store to the left of it (the “New Ontario Hotel” in the background with the word Ontario just visible – now and for many years up to this date, called the Towne House Hotel). This sporting goods and jewelry store was a single building with twin side by side entrances. We kids would pass this strip every time heading downtown and then walking to Sudbury High School later on. These stores would have been at the intersection of Riverside and Elgin before the underpass was built. You will also notice the kerchiefs commonly worn by women in those days- maybe they had just come down the street from Emil’s Hairdressing Salon across the tracks and didn’t want to lose those bobby-pin curls?
Speaking of Elgin Street, this entire area back in the day was quite fascinating with all of the “goings on” between downtown (starting at Wolfe’s Bookstore) and the “Old Iron Bridge” at Nelson Street. Of course, the Sudbury Arena and the CPR Station dominated activity but there were a lot of other things at play.
This great 1950’s aerial photo says a thousand words about the Elgin strip at that time – top left corner is the Riverside track crossing and lower right is the Old Iron Bridge. The Arena is in the top left also with Prince Charles School in the upper just right of centre – Alexander Public School in the lower left. Upper centre you can note Minto, Shaughnessy and Drinkwater running vertically and Howie Crescent curving up to the top right. The Grotto and Nelson St lower right with Elizabeth, Morris and Annie streets all visible among others.
My Uncle recently passed on to me that in the late 50’s, he worked for Household Finance in the office down in the wedge building (also called a flat iron building) at the railroad track crossing through the city centre at Elm and Durham. Just an aside - one graveyard shift my Dad was driving his diesel locomotive on the tracks through the city centre tracks and the box car he was pushing over to Borgia Street, derailed from the track due to some ice build-up. The box car squashed the United Cigar store located in the wedge and traffic was snarled for the day with the clean-up – the building was unoccupied at the time and it was determined that he had no fault in the affair but I recall the thorough investigation really stressed him out.
Anyway, getting back to my Uncle - after signing out, he and co-workers who lived in the Howey/Morris Street area might check in after work at the Prospect Hotel (also called the Prospect House at one point) for a few glasses of Silver Foam. The parking area of choice was in behind the Elgin strip accessed off Grey Street on a driveway behind Helpert’s, and then in the back door of the tavern. He also mentioned that he believed that the son-in-law of the Prospect owner went on to build the Ambassador Hotel some years later on the Kingsway and Falconbridge Road after cutting his teeth in the business at the Prospect. The Prospect had a good reputation in those early days however things declined badly after the Riverside St. access was closed off and modified with the Brady Street underpass and walkway.
I just missed out on sampling an ale during Silver Foam’s golden age as a Sudbury beer selection – I believe Sudbury Brewing and Malting and other company outlets were consolidated in 1960 as Doran’s Northern Brewery.
Other neighbourhood items which I recall in particular were, from the top of the hill behind Christakos grocery store, there was this very large Boarding House type building which stood on its own above the neighbourhood. I knew a kid that lived there for a bit but there seemed to be a high turnover throughout much of our hood as it was pretty “low rent” and for certain, a lot of families were barely getting by in those days.
This pic of an old style Pullman coach at the CPR Station used on the Dominion Trans Canada has what looks like a ’57 Chev parked on Elgin Street to the right of the railway car. Rising above in the background is the solo large “boarding house” which was located on Druides Street down from the Stations of the Cross Grotto footprint, and just above the future location of the Senator Hotel.
When you went downhill of the Drinkwater St. crossing, you would pass an especially rundown apartment building with the first part of the building collapsed and a door leading nowhere. This building surprisingly stayed in this condition for the duration of the nine years we lived on Nelson Street and beyond – no building code officials I guess in those days?
This priceless pic was taken of the building I mention above back in the later 60’s. The photographer was probably thinking WTH? when he or she stopped and took the time to capture this bit of history. Note the rubble from the collapsed structure on the right behind the doorway to nowhere. It was a great place to ”play war” as you could shoot the enemy hiding in the bushes across the street from behind the raised wall as if you were defending the Alamo – motorists back in the days were probably swerving trying to avoid the crossfire! You can barely see some of the gables of the few buildings that remain from Drinkwater on the right background – they now sit just below the Bridge of Nations and the Senator Hotel (or whatever it’s called now?).
I also remember in the summertime, the doors and windows being left open in all these apartments - I expect from the stifling heat, and little kids scrambling around in the patches of dirt out front, just steps from the main drag traffic.
This photo of the 1952 Notre-Dame du cap Pilgrimage to the Grotto shows the same Elgin St. tenements in arguably better condition – with porches sheltering above the doorways. The Ledo Hotel in the left distant background and the Sudbury Arena roof just rising above in behind. Drinkwater Street would meet Elgin St. just above where the procession is in the photo.
Just down the hill from these apartments on Elgin St. were other apartment buildings which still stand today. One on the east corner of Shaughnessy housed Orange’s variety store (I remember the boys in the Orange family being very big kids and later football players at St. Charles – you wouldn’t have wanted to try to knock over that establishment!). Across the street was Wright’s Confectionary, then another residential house before getting to the Ledo Hotel. Sometimes walking by the Ledo, men would stumble out, squinting into the daylight as you passed. I mentioned in a previous blog about that unmistakable odour wafting out the doors of that hotel from the beer spilled on the tables and floors – I will never forget the Ledo for introducing me to that now familiar “morning after a college party” smell.
Looking uphill to the Elgin Street tenements with the “Orange Grocery” sign hanging out over the sidewalk in the middle. I note what appears to be a 1961 Plymouth Valiant parked on Shaughnessy to help date the photo. The “Flatfoot” in the left foreground is talking to a man at the entrance to Wright’s Confectionary – I recall a nice kid in the family, Colin Wright was in my brother Jimmy’s grade.
Just a block away at Shaughnessy and Van Horne was another confectionary store just to the south of Palm Dairies. I don’t recall for certain but I believe that a classmate Julie Clark lived there. Julie was one of those memorable girls that every school had, who was quite a stretch taller than all the boys in her class in early elementary school and there was no question that she ruled the roost until the boys started to grow taller in later grades.
The confectionary store at Shaughnessy and Van Horne (probably 1950’s) – Palm Dairies would be located down Shaughnessy Street to the right.
The Slevin family operated the restaurant at the CPR Station across from the Ledo for many years in the 50’s and 60’s. I recall it was very common for many people to drop in to the restaurant while waiting for someone to arrive on the train and the diner was very busy in those days. I remember stopping in with my Dad on occasion after he finished his shift in the morning. He would grab a coffee with some of his co-workers like Jimmy or Billy Daggett, or “Porky” Burke – greatest nickname ever I recall when I was a kid! The diner had an excellent reputation for good service and food and it was kept spotless - just like many of the quality family run restaurants in the day like Booth’s Fine Foods on Elm St (which I had the pleasure of visiting with my friend Phillip Booth on a several occasions). The Slevins at the railway station were highly regarded in the neighbourhood for their excellent stewardship of this community amenity during that period.
The Slevin family ran the restaurant at the near end of the passenger building which is on the right in this early 1960’s photo. The CPR operations/baggage office was in the near building – where my Dad checked in for work every day. The baggage carts on the left were used to unload and load luggage during either the separation of the Montreal/Toronto trains heading east, or the consolidation of the two trains into one heading west. Later in high school I worked every night on the baggage exchange loading up the carts from one baggage car and loading into another – lots of coffins travelling by train in those days. I also had the job of turning off the big yard lights after the passenger trains had left – the musty narrow catacombs under that operations building where all the electrical controls were located, would have qualified as equal to the colosseum in Rome. Barely visible in the right horizon is the Crucifix statue at the Stations of the Cross.
Workers installing the Sudbury Arena outdoor sign in the late 1950’s – all the familiar Elgin Street neighbourhood landmarks in the background including the Ledo and the CPR water tower.
I had mentioned old St. Thomas School on Drinkwater Street in a previous entry and it would have been located directly behind this tenement strip before the overpass was built. The new bridge would cost the city all of the south side and most of the north side of what was then a very lovely and classic Drinkwater Street neighbourhood.
I found this old pic looking up Van Horne Street across Drinkwater from the side yard of St. Thomas School. This appears to be late 1950’s with a familiar Palm Dairies DIVCO delivery truck parked on the street in front of the confectionary store located on Van Horne just above Drinkwater (this is where my brother Jim’s paper route ended). There were no grass play fields in those days (although Prince Charles at the top of the pic did have a curious lower field that was never really used for anything – fully grassed?
Another thing I recall in those days was really looking up to some of the kids that were 4 or 5 years older than me in our neighbourhood. At Prince Charles School I can recall in Grade 3 or 4 my hero was Baiba Karklins – we called her “Baiba Ruth” as she was the best softball player around – male/female or otherwise. We would watch with anticipation when she would be up to bat in an inter-school match against Adamsdale, Gemmell or one of the other rival “Minnow Lake” schools. She would routinely clobber the ball down to the parking lot on the girl’s side field and run the bases like a gazelle. Eventually we just went to watch her games from the parking lot as we knew we would get to retrieve her home runs which would sometimes bounce all the way up Van Horne St. She was so nice and would smile and talk to these insignificant little kids when she came out to play left field.
Other older kids like Henry Fabianiak, Tony Smrke, Frankie Tabac and Frankie Pugliese, I remember as being particular personalities who were looked up to around the school by us youngsters either for athletic or other endeavors.
The neighbourhood we normally frequented went from Ramsey Lake in the south and extended north down Drinkwater to the “Y” and probably as far as Trudy Manchester’s house at the east end of Larch Street – and over to the south end of downtown. Of course it also included all the Howey Drive and Morris Street byways where we delivered papers and “handbills”. A few friends like Ralf Sachsalber and Judy Whiteside lived way up the Kingsway past the playground, but we seldom roamed that far away in that direction.
Typical of the ethnic mix of the neighbourhood and the varied background of the kids, I remember one of my classmates Peter Waldmann’s family had fled Hungary in 1956 during the revolution at that time. Peter was new to the School in about grade 4 and I recall visiting Peter at his family’s small apartment downstairs on Cedar Street near Drinkwater. Mr. Waldmann was a doctor and both parents were very humble and kind despite the turmoil they had gone through to safely flee the strife in their homeland. As with all kids then, Peter just fit right in the rest of us playing whatever our pursuit was at recess.
We had an hour at noon to go home for lunch back then. About once every month or two Mom would announce she was making pancakes for lunch and believe me you never saw kids run over those rocks so fast on those memorable occasions! Many times Mom couldn’t afford a bottle of “table syrup” (I can’t ever remember having real maple syrup) and she would make a concoction of melted brown sugar and water as a substitute with no complaints from the kids who were just grateful to be having pancakes!
Drinkwater was such a classic city street before the construction of the Paris Street bridge. Here looking south in the 1950’s from Larch Street – the new Jackson and Barnard Funeral Home on the very close left hand side. Past Brady Street, my friend Clifford Cameron lived in one of a row of lovely gambrel roof houses on the east side just before reaching the Polish Catholic Church – St. Casimir’s, perched up on the hill.
Anyway in closing this commentary, I would be remiss if I didn’t again fill in some additional notes on Bell Park which was such an important centre of activity for much of the city in that period of the late 50’s and early 60’s.
I had also mentioned in a previous recollection about some of the features of the entry to Bell Park on the Elizabeth Street side – the most common entry point to this beloved Park.
I thought that perhaps I was dreaming when I mentioned peacocks in a previous blog. The family members I talked to afterward had no such recollection. Fortunately, I picked up some info on one of the Sudbury sites with some pics of the Bell Park Peacocks (or Peafowl as I now stand corrected) to assure me that I actually did see them there when I was a kid.
Pea Fowl at the entry to Bell Park in the late 50’s
Also as mentioned previously there were two pedestrian entrances to the Park from Elizabeth Street. You could walk through the garden/cage/goldfish pond path to get to the park, or walk beside Sudbury Boat and Canoe on a sidewalk next to the paved loop that came up to the Park entrance on the waterfront. The sidewalk entry was fortified with a rather ornate wrought iron fence to delineate the slope down to the lake.
A walk down Elizabeth Street to Bell Park would always mean a peak into the Sudbury Boat & Canoe Marina.
The entry loop to Bell Park with the Sudbury Boat and Canoe Marina in the left background – circa 1960. Was this the only place with trees in Sudbury at that time? This photo may have been taken from the alternate path through the “garden”.
A close up photo of the Bell Park entrance loop –you will note that the quality of paving in Sudbury is something that hasn’t changed in 60 years! The sidewalk into the Park was along the wrought iron fence line in the background.
Who didn’t drink at this fountain when coming in to Bell Park, the smell of frying “hot chips” made you thirsty!. It was a classic with the step for kids on one side - next to the Hot Chips pavilion.
First Beach at Bell Park was happening in the 1950’s - early 60’s on every summer weekend. The Coniston smelter “Smokestacks” in the far distance.
Living in a city with so many lakes and especially having Ramsey Lake so conveniently located, was certainly a gift that made up for all the sulphur smoke and bare rocks.
After we moved to Wembley Drive during High School as I mentioned at the outset, the lakes and “the rocks” became less of a focus and we moved on to other pursuits typical of older teenagers. It wouldn’t be long until summer jobs took over and there seemed to be less time to enjoy a swim or walk to the Park to climb trees. Regardless the memories remain of that unique period.
I hope that these notes have helped some others make some connection to this period growing up in Sudbury. Some recollections may be slightly distorted by time (or from hitting my head on that Octopus furnace at 320 Nelson Street) but everything written has seemed very vivid in my memory.
I have some additional notes on experiences that I hope to pull together in the future to account for the later 60’s high school years and into the early seventies. Stay tuned for the next installment.