Monthly Archives: April 2014

Things Ottawa Reprint

So, I’m a s-heel for not writing more, but the work has been onerous when it comes to writing cycles.  To make up for it, I’m reprinting a few older posts that have somehow found their ways into our collective unconsciousness by stimulating others to comment or write replies.  From September 9, 2008, with comments, comes Things Ottawa:

This is a bit of a reminiscence of memories of my hometown Ottawa that have somehow seeped up from the brain, in no particular order, for no particular reason.

The number 61 Elmvale Acres bus.  It was the 61 Bayshore until it got the other end of city, when it became the 61 Elmvale.  It took almost two hours for the bus to do the whole loop through the downtown core, east to Elmvale Shopping Centre, back around Urbandale Acres, through Elmvale again, to downtown, then out to the wilds of the West End:  Westgate Shopping Centre, Carlingwood and eventually a loop of Bayshore Drive, before there was a Bayshore Shopping Centre.  You could see almost the whole city for 50 cents.

Tiny Tom Donuts in the Pure Food building at the Ex.  Every year mystery people would bring a convoluted machine that would poop out tiny donuts by the hundreds at the Central Canada Exhibition.  They would be hot, greasy and lightly sprinkled with white sugar and if you paid extra, cinnamon and sugar.  There were also Shopsy Hot Dogs, Pizza, and Back Bacon on a Bun.  Why it was called the Pure Food building, I’ll never know, as the only thing that was ‘Pure” in there was the grease.

Hobbyland.  Downtown for a thousand years.  As all the small buildings downtown were bought up, then razed to make way for huge office buildings, Hobbyland survived.  If you needed Testor’s Candy Apple Red and some new brushes for your Eldon slot car, Hobbyland had it in stock. 

The Capitol Theatre was a monster classic cinema and theatre originally built in 1920 with Thomas W. Lamb as the architect.  The Capitol was an old-fashioned movie palace that sat 2530 patrons in luxury.  The stage hosted everyone from Nelson Eddy to Jimi Hendrix over its’ fifty-year life. 

As a school safety patroller, I got to watch double-bill movies at The Capitol on Saturday mornings.  Up past the dome, there was a slot car track with a huge 8-lane custom track, where you could race against other folks.  You could only get to the slot cars by walking up what seemed like forty-four flights of stairs from an obscure entrance off the side street.  I used to have a half a brick, rescued from the Capitol when it was demolished in 1970.

There were other cinemas/theatres in Ottawa.  The Regent, The Elgin, The Elmdale and The Rialto come to mind.  The Rialto, also known as the RatHole was a very old cinema that became a grindhouse in later years.  Triple-bill Laff Riots with Jerry Lewis, The Stooges and Laurel and Hardy, alternated with soft-core porn, “Emmanuelle, Queen of Sados” and violent exploitation horror films like “Die Die My Darling Die” and “Ilsa, She-wolf of the SS”.  The floors at the Rialto were always sticky.

Donald Duck Bread was baked by Morrison-Lamonthe bakery and was delivered to the house by the Bread Man, who trolled the suburbs in a green truck.  Donald Duck Bread was especially fascinating as it was baked as a round loaf, almost exactly the right diameter to fit a slice of bologna. 

Borden’s Dairy served the South end of the city with their milk trucks, while the West end was the purview of Clark’s Dairy and their weird purple trucks.  If you wanted bread or milk you put a little cardboard card in the front window and the various sales people would miraculously stop and deliver to the back door of the house.

The 85 Bank and Grove bus.  For the longest time the 85 Bank and Grove was an ancient gas-powered short wheelbase bus.  Unlike the 61 Elmvale Acres, which was a mammoth GM diesel, then an ultra modern GM Fishbowl, the 85 was always a small, smelly wobbly bus.  At the corner of Bank Street and Grove Street, the 85 would turn around and head back to the ‘burbs.   To get downtown you would have to transfer to a 1A St. Patrick.  The turnabout was a vestige of the streetcar turnabout when the streetcar tracks were torn up in 1954.

Shopper’s City West and East.  Either Shopper’s City demarcated the end of Civilization as We Knew It.  Frieman’s department store always had one half of the Shopper’s City, while Dominion supermarket had the other half.  Tower’s Department store was also in the Shopper’s City East, sort of an early super-discount department store that carried the genetic material for a downscale Target. 

At one time Steinberg’s Grocery was a big chain in Ottawa.  Based in Montreal, it competed with the local IGA and Dominion, but it was also a linguistic and cultural divide.  Anglos shopped at IGA or Dominion, while the Francophones almost always shopped at Steinberg’s.  Any supermarket with an entire aisle dedicated to pink popcorn and Jos Louis snack cakes was tagged as “French”.

The Miss Westgate Restaurant, the Carousel Restaurant, The Green Valley and Peter’s Pantry.  A grilled cheese and bacon sandwich?  Banquette seating around an imitation merry go round?  A restaurant on the edge of the Experimental Farm where the average age of the patrons and staff was 843 years old?  Excellent pizza and Zombies that would drop a stone statue on its ass?  Check, Check, Check, Check.  Done.

The Sandpits.  Out near the airport was a huge sandpit where we used to go and slide down the side of the pit.  Bring a cardboard box as an ersatz summer toboggan.  Now expensive housing.

Brewer Park was a response to the Rideau River being essentially a sewer in the 60′s and 70′s.  It was carved out of swamp and sand like a big oblong bowl next to the river.  Conceptually the water in Brewer Park was ‘filtered’ so you could swim there in the summer when the usual Rideau River swimming parks were closed from the pollution in the river.  Brewer Park merely took the big lumps out and pumped the water into the swimming area.

The Heron Road Bridge Collapse.  On August 10, 1966, one span of the Heron Road bridge collapsed while under construction, killing nine and injuring fifty-seven more.  We took the car down to the site to see what happened and I still remember it to this day.

Autorama 68…69…70…71..72…73.. was the winter car show.  Mostly show cars, hot rods and the occasional legit race car interspersed with the various car dealerships flogging that years’ model.  Watching the Valvoline race movies of the previous year races was always a highlight.  Invariably someone would light up a race car inside the Civic Centre and scare the snot out of everyone, while enveloping the arena in choking clouds of semi-burned Sunoco 260.

Fuller’s Restaurant.  A chain restaurant now long gone, but Fuller’s was always open.  The Red Barn was also a chain burger joint that had the “Big Barney”.  You can still see the buildings on Bank Street, north of Heron Road:  They were across the street from each other and still are.  Both places had a ‘special sauce’ on their signature burgers, attempting to emulate the guk on a Big Mac.  There were too many stories about what was actually in the ‘special sauce’ to actually consume it, so we would order ‘no sauce’, if only to keep from being exposed to the supposed contents.  Royal Burger in Eastview had a special sauce as well and we avoided it as studiously.

The Ottawa Coal Gas Company and Myer’s Motors.  The Ottawa Coal Gas Company was located on what is now Algonquin College, but was known as Grant Vocational School.  You could see the coal gasification storage tank for the longest time.  As to what toxic sludge lives there, it is covered by Algonquin College and the Transitway.  Myer’s Motors used to be on Catherine Street, where the Bus Station now resides.  You could always tell when the paint booth was in operation, as the paint fumes were vented directly outdoors.

The Union Station.  What is now the Federal Conference Centre used to be the train station.  We took the CN train to Montreal for Expo67, from Union Station, as the new station out in Alta Vista wasn’t done yet.  Yes, the Queen Elizabeth Parkway used to be train tracks.  Where the Westin Hotel is was the Grand Hotel, a working-man’s hotel.  Next to it was a Canada Post sorting building where the mail would come in by train, then be sorted for delivery.

“Temporary” Buildings.  There used to be hundreds of them across the city, erected back in WWII, to house the machinery of government during wartime.  Where the city hall is, used to be a big one.  Same at Dow’s Lake, a huge one fronted Carling Avenue for the longest time.  The Temporary Buildings were deathtraps when they were put up; cold in winter, hot in summer with asbestos-wrapped pipes.  They never improved over their forty-odd years of existence.

Ice Racing on Dow’s Lake.  In the depths of winter, as part of the Winter Carnival, someone would plow a road course race track on the ice.  Then they would race cars and motorcycles on it. Of the cars, you would see original Mini Coopers and Fiats blasting around corners, with studded tires.  Invariably some loon would bring a hulking stock car to compete with the Minis.  Blindingly fast in a straight line, but couldn’t turn worth a damn, while the little rally cars ricocheted off the snowbanks.  Racing motorcycles with hundreds of sheet metal screws in the tires as ice spikes was an invitation to disaster.  We froze to death on the ice, but we loved it.

Brewer’s Retail and the Liquor Store.  In the day at the Liquor Store you could not see the display of any bottles of liquor or wine.  There was a list of products on offer around the walls; you filled in a paper slip with the product number and handed it to a government functionary.  He went through a door to the warehouse and got your bottle, then brought it to the cash register.  After you paid, he bagged it up in a plain kraft paper bag and you left. 

Brewer’s Retail was a little more relaxed, in that they had display space for one bottle of each product on offer.  The cashier would shout your order into a microphone as you paid for it, then moved over to the conveyor belt as your order magically appeared.  “Peewee Fifty” meant a six-pack of Labatt’s 50, their premium beer at the time.  “Long Red Cap” was a twelve of Carling Red Cap. “Ex” was a 24-case of Molson Export, the implied size was always 24 beers.  Only the underage or women bought Peewee or Long sizes.

Pascal’s.  It wasn’t a department store, or hardware store, or a furniture store, but under one roof in the west end on Merivale Road, Pascal’s had one of everything known to Man.  If you needed 3/8″ keyway bar stock, a sofa and restaurant grade salt shakers in a box of 12, then you went to Pascal’s.  From lumber to lingerie, Pascal’s had it.  You could buy a lathe and a dining room at the same time.

The Rough Riders.  At one time Ottawa had a Canadian Football League team with players like Russ Jackson, Whit Tucker and Gerry Organ.  The South side of Lansdowne was where we sat.  Coffee with Palm Breeze rum was the beverage of choice, rain, snow or shine, for young and old.  Only the crazed sat in the end zones.  If you couldn’t be at the game, you listened to Ernie Calcutt call it on CFRA with Dave Schreiber.  If you didn’t listen, or attend, you were a subhuman destined to a life of eternal burning Hell.  Or an Hamilton Ti-Cats fan.

That’ll do for the time being.  Let’s see what kind of link action we get out of this one.  You can always post your own peculiar Things Ottawa too. 


13 responses to “Things Ottawa”
  1. Arnica | February 14, 2009 at 11:11 PM | Reply | Edit

    Beamishes. Small discount stores. There was one on Bank Street opposite the Mayfair Theatre, beside the candy store. I don’t remember the name of the store, but it featured large Easter bunnies – very large – and always closed for Exhibition Week. When the safety patrollers went to the Capital, we got Crunchie Bars and, once, a gold pen.Elmer the Safety Elephant pennants below the Canadian flag at every Ottawa Public School Board school.The Auditorium where the YM/YWCA is now. Elvis played there, and a circus. I also remember the public school hockey tournament.The Minto Follies Ice Show. The Ice Capades were pale in comparison.Mutual Dairies Ice Cream in a small concrete building by the canal, just north of Pretoria Bridge. The first place in Ottawa to have more than five flavours.Skating on Dow’s Lake in the days before “The World’s Largest Skating Rink.” If there was a thaw then a hard freeze, or if it was very cold before any snow fell, then Dow’s Lake became a huge open-air rink. It happened about once every five years, for about a day or two, and there was always a hurricane blowing. Once I saw an ice boat. Of course, you could also skate on the big puddles in low lying areas of Brewer Park. Devine’s in the Byward Market – it later became Domus and now is an outdoor adventure store I think. It had the old long wooden counters, interesting ceilings and rounds of very sharp old Cheddar Cheese that the assistants cut with a sharp wire.Thanks for reactivating the memories.

  2. Steverino | January 13, 2011 at 9:49 PM | Reply | Edit

    Wow ! What interesting memories …

    Compared to other two posts, I am a baby in age, having only been around since 1976. Still, here are a few random reminisences of my own:

    movie theatres:
    – the old Towne Theatre in New Ediburgh (first renovated to a Mountain Equipment Co-op and now a pharmacy, I think)
    – going DOWN the escalators to the cinemas in the basement of the Place-de-Ville complex (one of my last memories of this place : Right before seeing a movie with a schoolmate before he moved to the UK, he broke a toe after jumping off one of the planters outside. Much to my disappointment, we had to skip the movie to take him to the emergency room.)
    – going UP the escalators to the theatres at Capitol Square (on Queen Street, at Bank), the theatre with the most comfortable seats in all of Ottawa (now at the Bytowne if I am not mistaken)
    – the Somerset Theatre (where the co-op housing directly beside the Hartman’s Independent Grocer now is)
    – seeing “Ishtar,” probably one of the WORST movies ever made, at the Elmdale Theatre in the late 1980s (the only movie I ever saw there)

    – the R & R Restaurant on the north-east corner of Bank and Holmwood Streets (where the Pizza Pizza now is)
    – the ground-floor and basement interior of the grand Duke of Somerset Hotel (which I only had the honour of experiencing once or twice before it was sold and gutted)
    – Benny Lo’s, the GREAT Chinese restaurant at 575 Bank Street (Queensway), now the Clocktower Pub

    – people smoking in the Rideau Centre while shopping (ashtrays were contained alongside the trash receptacles)
    – being in the original location of the Glebe Apothecary (where the La Strada Restaurant is)

    – seeing Rough Rider games from the South Side upper deck for $10

  3. S. Wolf | February 26, 2011 at 8:38 PM | Reply | Edit

    Takes me back, too, though I can think of others as well.

    – The disaster that were OC-Transpo’s confusing weekend/holiday ‘Orange routes’ roughlyn thirty years back.
    – Duff’s, a terrific ‘all you can eat’ buffet place in what was then Bell’s Corners, also roughly thirty years back.
    – The line of small, often family shops along Rideau before they put up the Ridiculousw Center and ruined the appeal of the area.
    – Spending Saturday evenings at the Dominion Observatory of Canada in the summer, looking through their antique, yet still working 15″ telescope before it was moved to the Museum Of technology.
    – I remember nearly running out5 of gas because the twits at City Hall forced gas stations within the Ottawa boundaries to close at a ridiculously early hour.
    – Sampan restaurant just west of Westgate on Carling. One of only two places in the city which served ‘Breaded Bo-Bo Balls’. Changed ownership about 25 years back, after which it changed staff, menu, decor and wondered why it went under less than a year later. Pity, because the only other place which had that dish couldn’t do it right to save their lives. Inedible, even.
    – Remember the drive-in theatres? The Skyline near Fisher, the Bayshore, the Airport and one out in the east end.
    – I remember when one could see stars, lots of them, in the night sky, before the city went ‘security-happy’ and had to install powerful night lights seemingly every ten feet, with a resultant light pollution which wipes out most night sky viewing. Thanks a heap.

  4. Don Runge | March 17, 2011 at 2:00 PM | Reply | Edit

    Visiting Ottawa as a kid with my brother I remember coming down Carling Avenue,which was then part of HWY 17 from Bells Corners and stopping at the Tourist Bureau Cabin across from the Towne and Country R—We lived in Pembroke at the time.

    My parents and grandparents all borne in Ottawa, the Glebe, Ottawa South Mom would talk about how she and her brothers would follow the fire truck to Brewer Park, then a dump, when it would catch on fire which was all the time and her brothers sneaking under into the Ex under the fence- which nobody seemed to mind. My Grandmother was a Mulligan and was borne on a farm which later became the Green Valley Cabins (Hwy 16). She would remember streetcar trips to Britannia Beach. Good book if you can find it, is called the Carleton Saga. Very good history of Ottawa and area.

  5. Dana | July 10, 2013 at 1:16 AM | Reply | Edit

    The Carousel Restaurant. I loved that place as a kid! Was a real pain to my folks though, always begging to be put on the carousel horses – LOL!

  6. Randy Sheik | September 28, 2013 at 2:42 PM | Reply | Edit

    I grew up in the East end and frequently visited both Shoppers City East and the Towers department store and they were never in the same building. Shoppers was at Blair and Ogilvie Roads and Towers was on Cyrville Rd.

  7. David Pridham | October 21, 2013 at 6:53 PM | Reply | Edit

    Tremdous nostalgia!!! I’d almost forgotton about the sand pits across Riverside from the airport. My dad would take me there to “slide” on summer days in the late 60′s -early 70′s. The smell of the baked goods wafting from the Morrison Lamothe bakey near the canal was an enduring memory. Another Ottawa tradition was Treble Cleff records – probably 4 or 5 of them across town during their hey day. CFRA “Top 40″ sheets would be dropped of at the Treble Cleff outlets every week and they were postioned near the 45 RPM reacks.

  8. Claude Desaulniers | October 26, 2013 at 4:45 PM | Reply | Edit

    You must be about 5 years older than me. Just wanted to say I used to work at fullers on Bank street and used to serve all these drunks. It was full at 3am. All the Chaud and Chez people and disco ducks showing up with their Camaros and custom shag-wagon vans. The restaurant was actually “Always open”. That was their slogan. Good old days.

  9. John Baker | February 18, 2014 at 5:33 AM | Reply | Edit

    I love it !!!!!!! Ah the slot cars ! Billings Bridge upstairs (now the food court area) also had a large track. Models, every kid made models, Evans and Kirts (spelling ?) at Billings Bridge used to sell models and had contests you could enter a couple of times a year. I still have my trophy from one such contest. Skate boarding on a piece of plywood with a set of steel wheels salvaged from some roller skates, skating down the ramp and under the bridge by the Chateau Laurier by the locks. I worked at several A&W’s, Bank and Alta Vista (now a car rental) was one. The “Coffee Kings” with there ‘Super B’s and Chevy 6 packs’ met every Wednesday at the A&W. Mayfair Theatre (still going strong). Going for your license on Catherine street. Getting a motorcycle license consisted of asking for one . Cushman Lambretta and Vespa scooters were the big thing, Honda 90′s were just appearing on the scene, BSA and Nortons where the big boys toys. Placing pennies on the rail tracks at Pleasant Road and waiting for the train to flatten them. Alta Vista Public school and the firemen doing demonstrations of jumping off the extended ladder on the ladder truck onto the hand held safety net (try that now). And oh yes don’t forget the ‘Nuclear Bomb Attack Sirens” and the safety drills of hiding under your desk at school if you heard that SIREN. What where they thinking? I LOVE IT !

    • Claude | February 18, 2014 at 4:19 PM | Reply | Edit

      We used to hang around Alta Vista park. We probably know some of the same people. Any of these names ring a bell . Cruikshank, Downs, Soubliere, Poulton, Loper, Desaulniers, Yendal, Lebreques, ?

  10. John Baker | February 18, 2014 at 5:40 AM | Reply | Edit

    Almost forgot! The Sand Pits. Had a birthday party out there with several friends and my dad, had a fire and cooked hot dogs. Jumping off the edges into the pits, rolling, tumbling, god that was fun. Used to ride our bikes from Alta Vista and Cunningham to the pits for a day of fun. And when you got to hot you could throw yourself into the Rideau River. No bridges, no condos, it was out in the sticks as we would say.

  11. John Baker | February 18, 2014 at 5:48 AM | Reply | Edit

    Anyone remember the Christmas tree fires at the dump, beside the Rideau River by the Riverside Hospital. In January or February after all the Christmas trees had been collected and dumped they were piled into one large pile and set ablaze, it was a party, it was advertised and hundreds of people attended. Ah, the Good Old Days, well maybe not, but it was fun.