Category Archives: Ersatz History

Museum Maintenance Woes

The Canada Science and Technology Museum is going into the porcelain facility quickly, a victim of years of neglect.  To those who don’t know the joint, the museum is one of the pre-eminent museums of, oddly enough, Science and Technology in the world, located not 10 kilometers from where we write this august blog.

Science and Tech, as is has been known for a zillion years, was originally a Morrison-Lamonthe bakery, a huge rambling joint in the suburbs of Ottawa since 1967 when it opened.  Morrison-Lamonthe, so the story goes, was expanding their production plant from their old Echo Drive location into a new state of the 1966-art high tech bakery when the market tanked.  They had a big, almost finished building and a big bill to finish the construction, when they decided not to go ahead with their mammoth undertaking and turned to the Feds to bail them out, which they did. 

Now, what to do with 11,000 square meters of floor space (118,403 square feet) and 12 hectares (almost 30 acres) of land?  It being Centennial Year, they decided to do a museum to Science and Technology and do it fast. 

Being an Ottawa kid, growing up a short bike ride from the site, I’ve probably been to the museum more times than I’ve had freshly laundered shirts.  It was an amazing place. 

We’re using past tense for a reason.  This story tells of the imminent demise of the joint.  Years of neglect, budget cutbacks, shifting priorities and the usual level of governmental dumb has left the now-shuttered Canada Science and Technology Museum in a bureaucratic limbo.  The roof leaks, there is asbestos falling out of the ceiling and enough mold growing to the point of the mold having their own exhibit space with their own docents for single cell attendees from the schools.  Alas.

The Crazy Kitchen, messing with your perception of what is level, or straight, the rotating Earth, the optical illusions, the artifacts of some of the first Cobalt 60 radiation machines, radios, televisions, telephones and telegraphs.  Where else could you see a working old-school rotary dial Central Office switch connecting two phones, not a foot away from your face, or an IBM card reader from an early IT beast along with a Minimoog Model D?  A Massey-Ferguson combine, a Model T, or components off one of the original Avro Arrows along with a working submarine periscope that stuck out the roof of the building?  Nowhere else but what we called Science and Tech.

In the Train Hall you could walk up into the cab of several massive 4-8-4 Northern-class steam locomotives:   Number 6400 looked like it needed nothing more than a few thousand gallons of water and a load of coal (plus the attention of a hotshot fireman) to get up a head of steam and pull the whole darn building out to the main CP line, then off to Montreal with green lights all the way

Outside was a collection of more rolling stock, some of the first passenger diesel locos, a working lighthouse, the working radar dish, and of course, the brushed aluminum menace of the Atlas missile pointing its finger at the Soviets, ready to release Armageddon at the press of a button.  We’re barely scratching the surface here, but suffice to say it was a magical place.

Now, with the mold, the collapsing roof and the asbestos, the years of fiscal neglect are going to kill the Canada Science and Technology Museum.  It will become pedagogically-approved, socially inclusive, hyperlinked, positive and affirming travelling exhibit on a series of tablet computers:  Here is a picture of a car, or a jet engine , or how sound travels in a tube that the target audiences and stakeholders can interact with in a contemporary learning modality. 

Interacting is nice, but being able to reach out and touch a drive rod of stainless steel as big around as your waist, smelling of oil and exertion, on a 1929 CPR Locomotive (#3100 to be exact) that would push a wheel twice as tall as you were, along with their five other brethren, is not interactive learning.

It’s magic.  Wild, uncontained, uncontaminated, magical, learning.  We’ll miss it.

Black Friday, Oil, Cocktails

Since it was Black Friday in the US yesterday, we were treated to the standard video of hordes of people lined up for hours outside stores, then rushing in to grab one of four deep-discounted items the store had on offer. 

There were the usual stories of people waving guns around, fighting over a big-screen TV and wrestling goods out of other less-deserving hands, accompanied by a cacophony of swearing, screaming, imprecations and comments about the other person involving antecedents, genetic status and general state of mental hygiene.  The store comments?  Let’s just say they appreciate the coverage on the six o’clock news as free advertising in primo eyeball hours as long as there are no machete-wielding crazies, butchering a dozen people to get the sole remaining counterfeit action figure from some kid’s movie. 

We suspect that someone, somewhere is planning a reality show that has Black Friday every week, with the contestants fighting over a KitchenAid stand mixer, a case of Ragu sauce and a big-screen TV in exchange for answering general knowledge questions about other reality show contestants. 

We would add a feature of the Big Savings Tunnel of Doom, a 70-foot long Lexan tunnel that the 30 contestants have to run through, barefoot, facing a barrage of pepper spray, fire hoses and beanbag projectiles, as well as an amphetamine-crazed ostrich, four toddlers with Lego on the floor, a hill of fire ants and Gordon Ramsay judging how well they can fry an egg while running a gauntlet of Ferguson, Missouri protestors hell-bent on burning the studio down because of Michael Brown.

We surmise that the End of Civilization is nigh, as this is no different from the Roman Coliseum with their historical bear-baiting bouts, or feeding Christians to the lions, except Black Friday The Series, will have much better numbers:  The Colosseum could only hold about 50.000 and didn’t have WiFi so we could keep up with social media and see who is trending.

Oil has been in the news of late.  Prices for Brent Oil and West Texas Intermediate have tanked, now down around $66 – $70 a barrel.  Which means the price at the pump is lower.  If you listen to economists this is either the end of Life As We Know It or the Beginning of a New Era of Prosperity. 

Economists are those people who can use terabytes of statistics to prove any air-headed postulation, but can’t actually tell if it is raining outside.  Remember when reading financial projections, everyone has a hidden agenda and it is usually sinister.  OPEC has responded as only they can as an illegal price-fixing scheme that we tolerate:  They’re both reducing and increasing production at new higher, but lower prices. It’s complicated.   

For the time being, we’ll adapt to cheap gas.  We don’t care that  Exxon or Sinopec is taking a beating on their quarterly earnings per share:  The shareholders can kiss my sweaty pink puckered portcullis.  We’re thankful we don’t have to sell a kidney to gas up the car tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we finished up a tough week and plan on relaxing with a cocktail tonight.  There may be more than one involving a coffee liquor and vodka.  And how was your week?


The Eleanor F.M. Scott Memorial Deck

The dwelling has a deck on the back and there is a story in that deck.  When we bought the joint in 1989, the builder put something on the back that was called a “deck” as the patio door is four feet above grade.  Without a “deck” you would step out into space and fall to the ground from enough height to ruin your day.  This is the building code at work. 

Needless to say the builder back then, who shall remain nameless as they are still in business, put on the smallest, cheapest, most meanly built piece of ineptly thrown-together structure he could get away with by law.  There was enough room for your ass and a gallon of gas and that was about it, then down some deathtrap stairs to the back lawn, as you risked impalement on the handrail, or one of several dozen nails that stuck out at odd angles.

In 1999 we decided to take that hideous piece of ‘work’ off our house and put on a proper deck, built by yours truly and some help from good friends.  The joys of a townhouse are that the back yards are small.  Ours is 22 feet wide and 24 feet deep, so we made the deck cover about half the back yard, leaving an area with patio stones and some grass for our various dogs over the years to use as their local lavatory. 

The deck has been the scene of hundreds of outrageous gatherings of like-minded fiends and friends, gathering for food and, of course, copious amounts of alcohol.  There has been sunbathing, conversations by the thousands and a few thousand hours of just staring off into middle distance enjoying the feel of the sunshine, the sounds of birds and the gentle rustle of wind through the leaves at all hours of the day or night.  The most precious times have been at ghastly hours of the earliest of the morning, as the sun was just starting to colour the sky, the moon and stars still visible and the birds barely beginning to wake with their first tentative chirps of the day. 

There are also tears.  It is called The Eleanor F.M. Scott Memorial Deck, named in honour of Marylou’s mother, who passed away in 1999 not long after we started work on the deck.  Hidden under the deck, on the ledger against the house is that very title and the signatures of those who worked on the deck, the idea being sometime in the distant future someone would be working on the deck, find the inscription of who built it, when and Eleanor Scott’s name.  A little history nugget left behind that they could pursue or ignore as they see fit.

By 2014 the deck had reached the point where it needed some serious work.  Pressure-treated wood lasts for a certain amount of time; stain or paint can only save so much.  We decided to rehabilitate it.  Today, the contractor has stripped off the weathered and worn deck boards, revealing the underpinnings, still in excellent shape.  Composite decking will go back over top, that we won’t ever have to paint, sand, stain or seal.  The planters will come back up, along with the furniture, the umbrellas and lanterns.  There will be several hundred more scenes of truly outrageous gatherings of like-minded fiends and friends, gathering for food and, of course, copious amounts of alcohol, laughter and general good times.

He also revealed the area where we had inscribed the following:

The Eleanor F.M. Scott Memorial Deck Built with love, July 1999 by David Smith, Marylou Scott-Smith, Rob Scrimger, Juudy Scrimger and John Fahey.  Faded, yet still readable, it stamps a date and time on our efforts and the memory of Eleanor Scott.

We have appended the names of the contractors and the appropriate date of their work to the ledger board, next to the original inscription.  We might even get a small brass plate inscribed to make things a little more permanent. 

Whomever owns out house a couple of decades from now will find those inscriptions and wonder for a moment about Eleanor F.M. Scott. 

She was my mother-in-law and is sorely missed but warmly remembered to this very day.  We love you, Miss Ellie.   

Seventy Years On

Near 6 am tomorrow one of the more historic events in the history of the world will be commemorated.  Seventy years ago the landings started on Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah beaches on the Normandy coast of France.  We know it as D-Day and it marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War.

The youngest of the surviving veterans would be in their late 80’s now, humbled by infirmity and the relentless toll of age, but for a few moments tomorrow, they will be tall, strong and brave again as they were when, for many, they first arrived in France, June 6th, 1944. 

My favourite quote from the historical documents is the line attributed to a British officer, whose landing craft was being shot to hell by enemy machine gunners on the run in to Sword:  “We seem to be intruding.  This might be a private beach!”  

World War II was never the war to end all wars, or the penultimate war, or the last good war:  War can never be “good” involving as it does, the mindless waste of things, treasure and lives.  However we must take a moment tomorrow and remember what they did and show our respect, not just for those who have lived long enough to see this anniversary, but for those who never got to see the sunrise on June 7th 1944. 

We know their friends from then will take a moment tomorrow to remember them with a muttered thanks, a discreet tear and invariably a firm, sharp, salute.

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.

Easter Catch Up

Sorry about not posting sooner, but life intrudes once in a while. 

We’ve made it to Easter, Good Friday specifically and am sitting here puzzled. 

The meme of Good Friday for those of us who do the Judeo-Christian thang is a religious holiday commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus around AD 33.  It is preceded by Maundy Thursday, the day of the Last Supper and followed by Easter Sunday celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.  One would suppose nothing much happened on the Saturday, except getting the camel washed at a Sabbath Camel Wash, where you didn’t actually have to do anything, except walk the camel through and go to Temple.  Like Walter Sobchak, most folks back then didn’t roll on Shabbos either.

What is puzzling is the conjunction of marketing and occasion-hype with a religious holiday.  Here’s the story, as told by advertisers:  Easter Sunday all good children get chocolate eggs delivered by a rabbit or a ginormous chocolate mould of a bunny that weighs more than the kid.  Official colours are purple and fire-engine yellow, with a bale of chopped paper or plastic excelsior stuffing to ‘cushion’ the 14-pound chocolate eggs from damage. 

Or, the young ones search for brightly wrapped ‘eggs’ again hidden by the mysterious Easter Bunny all over the back yard, with the attendance of parents screaming fearsome encouragement at their offspring to find more than the other 3-year olds who can barely walk, let alone understand the confluence of bunny-egg-chocolate-purple-yellow-basket-uber-competition they’re being immersed in as a cultural touchstone of their faith.  Then we sit down to a massive meal that must feature ham and scalloped potatoes, otherwise what kind of shitheel parent are you, ignoring the whole pork-kosher thing.

Yeah, yeah, we get the bunny-fecundity-spring-renewal thing and wonder exactly why a manufactured spring ritual is now tied to the peak of the holy story of crucifixion-resurrection-redemption of one of the bigger religions out there.  It sits poorly.  There’s no marketing tie-in with March Madness college hoops, uncontrolled sports wagering and specials on carpet, siding or replacement windows at special prices to celebrate some guy getting nailed on a cross a long time ago? 

Heck, if all we wanted to celebrate was an execution, Gary Gilmore was executed January 17th 1977 and we could use the energy to lasso in some last-of-Christmas season sales by pairing a cute groundhog mascot with Little Debbie cakes (Gilmore Dusties!) as a swing-holiday between Christmas and Groundhog Day on Feb 2.  Dammit, Stella, get me the Coast!  We got us a movie-tie and merch to move!

For those of us who have a clue, we are left shaking our heads while the neighbour’s kids carom off the second floor siding, in the grips of a sugar-buzz that would stun a buffalo.  At least there’s a holiday out of the deal. 

That Last Step

Austrian Felix Baumgartner did something remarkable today as part of the Red Bull Stratos project.  He jumped out of a balloon.  This in itself is not all that remarkable, BASE jumpers have been doing that for years, taking conventional hot-air balloons up to altitude then jumping out of the basket for some free-fall time, then parachuting to safety.

That Felix Baumgartner’s balloon was 24 miles/39 kilometres above the surface of the planet was more the remarkable achievement.  Those of an historical bent will recall pictures of Capt. Joe Kittinger jumping out of a balloon in Project Excelsior circa 1959.  Kittinger’s big step was from 102,800 feet:  Baumgartner’s jump clocked in at 123,000 feet.  Both men survived of course, as that kind of high altitude jump might ruin ones’ day if things go wrong.  Services tend to be private afterwards.

Where the real fun comes in is the whole idea of private corporations, like Red Bull, SpaceX, or Virgin doing the things that NASA used to do.  Sure, the Red Bull Stratos jump was a bit of a publicity stunt to promote their beverage, but it also packed some legit science along for the ride.  SpaceX has proven their Dragon capsule works nicely as a cheap tug to the International Space Space Station.  Of course there has always been ‘private’ companies working with NASA, like Boeing, North American, Grumman, Hughes and such, but none of the usual suspects would so much as lift a slide rule without a NASA contract for cost-plus.

We like that private industry has the vision and the stones to get it done and get it on.  NASA and for that matter, most of the aerospace industry have been paralyzed by project managers and bureaucrats who treasure process over actual results or accomplishments.  Our explorers were never process monkeys who got a secretive stiffy over a GANTT chart with multiple milestones.  They were folks who did some back of the envelope calculations, took a look again, then said Giv’er.

What the jump actually shows us is that we can embrace the potential for dramatic failure, in the bright light of public scrutiny and through some luck, some pluck and some good science, make it work.

Mason Baveux and Libya

Since I’m up to my eyelids in work, I gave our esteemed pinch-hitter Mason Baveux the password.  He’s full of thoughts on the Arab Spring, Moammar Gadhafi and what democracy means. 

Thanks for the keys to the bloggery again lad.  Hope you had a good summer, as I found out that the price of Laker is now at the lowest she’s ever been, which is stretchin the disability dollar quite nicely thanks. How was August anyways, as I don’t remember? 

Dave wants me to be writin on the Arab Spring in the Fall, which makes no sense to me.  Fall is the same everywhere, what with the leaves and the rain.  Springtime is when you smell the dogshit thawin out on the path and the Leafs are on the golf course. 

So’s I looked her up on the Goggles.  What he’s meanin is all the revoltin goin about in the Arab countries.  Like Egypt, what tossed Hosme Moobarack onto the shitcan of history.  But like they say in the infomercials, “Wait there’s more!”  They got all revoltin in Tunisia, put in a new President of Tuna, took over Libya and to quote up that Wikitikitavi-pedia, had some civil uprisings in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco and Onan as well.  Although I think the Onan uprisings were just spillin’ the seeds of revolution, instead of bein in right up to the bristles of revoltin.

Yer gotta ask yerself, what are they revolutin for?  Freedom for one, and a chance to not starve to death for the other, while the dictator and his arse buddies swan about in a limousine, eatin grapes from the creamy thighs of one of the 70 virgins they keep on staff as tables.  Folks what have full bellies tend not to get all revolutionary minded up on their back legs with flags and guns.  Hungry folks can only be held down by a big ass army whose armed to the tits.  Ask Uncle Joe Stalin about that one when the Russki wheat crop took a crap, in a bad way afore the sequel to World War I.  But as Uncle Joe found out, big armies cost big money.   

Now, as for freedom, well, the Arab Springers sort of got it partially right.  Being as I’m Canadian and rightly proud of it, I get to do damn near anything I want, as long as I got the money, the time and the inclination.  If all I want to do is collect plates and show’em off at a fall fair, then I can give’r as long as I want, or until some jackoff with a ball-peen hammer takes a disliking to me. 

I can take my empties back to the Beer Store, as free as you choose, without worrying some cop is going to hijack me, steal my empties, or rob me on the way there, or back.  I can have waffles for dinner if I choose and don’t have to use margarine on them.  I could use butter and lots of it. 

The Arab Springs want some of that.  Maybe not the waffles, but the high concept of bein’ safe in their persons and possessions.  They want the right to be able to choose stuff, good or bad.  If they do want waffles, I can probably email off the recipe, if someone were to tell me where to send’er.  They’ll have to get their own maple syrup though.  I don’t think they’s got maple trees in Arabia, but I bet waffles with date juice would be tasty.   

(Davey said I have to use the CP spelling here.  What the railroad has to do with spelling, I don’t know) Let’s talk about Moammar Gadhafi.  He’s deader than the Leafs chances at the playoffs and it’s only the first week of the season.  Ol’ Moe ran Libya for 42 years like the usual crazy as a shithouse rat despot, with the usual killin’, torture and terrorism.  He wound up on the YouToobes gettin slung across the hood of a half-ton, alive, then moments later, his heart stopped beating when some lad put a couple of rounds through his head.  So’s technically, he died of a heart attack.  Good friggin’ riddance.  The World Court in the Hague wanted to try Moammar’s ass for terrorism, thievery, crimes against Humans and general douchery, but the revolutionaries sort of beat the World Court to the punch.  Just as well, as they saved a couple of million dollars in lawyers fees, trial judges and hotels. 

The question what I get stuck on is like this:  This whole Arab Springin’ is like a dog whats chasing a car.  They want that freedom and democracy and are willin to stand up to get it.  Now, what happens when you get it? 

If that dog does catch the car, he can’t drive it, he can’t reach the pedals, he can’t see out the mirror and he probably can’t even figure out where to put the gas in.  So’s the dog has got exactly what?  He’s better off because he’s got a place that smells like a stale, sweaty arse and is out of the rain?  Not much of a big payday there. 

Which is where my alnalogy leads me:  What’s the Arab Springers goin’ to get out the other side?  Jeeze, it makes the plate in my head throb just tryin to ponder the possibilities.  You could have a couple of countries decided to go all theocratic and reset the calendar to 1345 AD, makin the internweb illegal and not drawing to the house in the final end, punishable by stoning?  That’s not right.  Nor does puttin another dicktater on the chair.  Lookit Africa for how well that works out what with the tribal wars, starvation and mass murder passin for a country or five on the Dark Continent.  

Maybe, I’m sayin, they need a bit of time.  South Africa had a good idea with their Truth and Reconcilliation Commissions goin about tellin the whole story and makin sure everybody was on the same page.  Yes, they made a few mistakes and sometimes it just resulted in the Comission sayin  “Sorry. She’s fooked and we’ll fix er up, but not today.”

That’s about as close as we’ll get’er this year, even though it’s Fall and the Arab Spring is still goin’.  So’s, as I say every year at this time:  Go Leafs!

Ottawa Memories III

Unusual things happen when you’re on vacation.  Your brain sometimes goes places it hasn’t gone in years and mine is no exception.  We’ve done some of the Ottawa Memories before and had some reaction from others who have remembered some of what came floating out of the brain case.

The Auto-Sky Drive In:  Right on the edge of the Experimental Farm, the Auto-Sky partially backed onto a housing development at the corner of Fisher and Baseline.  I always thought it would be cool to have your bedroom back onto the drive-in, because you could watch movies every night, but you couldn’t hear the sound track, because the speaker wouldn’t reach your house.  However, the Auto-Sky was a pricey place, our family would only go to the Star-Top Drive-In as it was cheaper.

Miss Carlingwood/Miss Westgate:  These were two restaurants that were at the Carlingwood and Westgate shopping centres respectively, out in the depths of the west end of the city. 

They served traditional diner fare, including the ubiquitous grilled cheese sandwich and french fries.  Waitresses in uniforms complete with the paper tiara and white aprons.  Back then malls were open front shopping malls, meaning there was a common roof so your could get out of the rain, but the storefronts were open to the planet.  The 61 Carlingwood bus took you there for 35 cents. 

Blackballs, 2 for 1 cent at the Elmvale Candy store.  Elmvale Shopping Centre had a candy store that sold all kinds of hard candy in little paper bags.  You would place your order after carefully scrutinizing the incredible panoply of sugar confections, trying to divine the best return on the empty pop bottles you had collected at various construction sites.  After cashing in your empty bottles, the long-suffering clerk would count out the number of jujubes, blackballs, toffees or jawbreakers that you had ordered, into a little paper bag not much bigger than a seven-year olds’ hand. 

Blackballs were the size of a marble.  The flavours ran from licorice to some sort of berry concoction, but you never bought blackballs for the flavour: Blackballs were designed solely to turn your mouth black, so you would look like a sooted kerosene lantern with a tongue.  As the colour wore off, you would take the confection out to see what colour it had changed to from your relentless sucking.   

If you were truly prosperous you would buy a package of Thrills gum.  Thrills still exists and although technically the flavour is rosewater, it smells like and tastes like old fashioned school bathroom pink soap.  Thrills were purple and if you sucked the coating off the gum before you chewed it, your mouth would go purple and blotchy.

When the Giant Sweet Tart came out, the ultimate dare was to put the entire Giant Sweet Tart in your mouth and hold it as long as you could without puking, drooling or disintegrating into a foam and sputum puddle in front of your friends.

Pure Spring Beverages:  They were an Ottawa concern who made good, as the bottler of Pure Spring Ginger Ale, at one time the most popular ginger ale around.  As kids we didn’t care much for the Ginger Ale, as that was what the grownups used for mix, usually with Five-Star Rye, or Palm Breeze. 

We were more concerned with Swiss Cream Soda or Honee Orange.  The Swiss Cream Soda was purply-pinkish-red and the Honee Orange was the kind of orange that made your eyes bleed if you looked at it too long.  Swiss Cream Soda foam would permanently stain any clothing, so it was usually rationed by the grownups. 

Occasionally we’d have Gini, which was a lemon concoction in a curvaceous green bottle, but mostly that was for the grownups as well.  We suspected the Gin went with the Gini.  

To recreate the taste of Gini, tape a lemon to a two-pound bricklayer’s hammer and hit yourself in the face four or five times.  Hires Root Beer was also well-regarded as a source of the joy of foam and burping later.

Donald Duck Bread:  Morrison-Lamonthe Bakery used to deliver bread to your door.  They had green painted panel trucks that cruised their routes, looking for the little square of cardboard in the front window that said “Bread Today” in Morrison-Lamonthe green.  You could get a loaf of “Donald Duck” bread that was round, exactly the same diameter as a slice of bologna, but the same length as a conventional loaf of bread.  Morrison-Lamonthe also made cinnamon buns with icing that could be used to patch a canoe, it was so sticky. 

Delivered directly to your door, any morning you put the little cardboard sign in the window, the delivery man always wore the Morrison-Lamonthe uniform with the peaked hat and Donald Duck emblem as our personal guarantee that our bologna would fit the bread.

GEM Department Store:  If you were a government employee, as my Father was, you could apply for membership in GEM.  It stood for Government Employee Merchandising and was a private label, membership-only limited-service department store just for Federal Civil Servants.  It was out on Baseline Road, near Merivale and carried only one brand of things you would find in a store like Sears or Simpson’s.  Occasionally there would be a special purchase, like the three ring high inflatable child’s pool.  The colour was whatever package you grabbed first.  Ours was green, not the girly pink one that we might have gotten. 

GEM was the genetic precursor of Sam’s Club cross-bred with a PX, with all the merchandising flash of a store run by government bureaucrats.  Imagine a Soviet-era department store in a backwater town in East Germany. 

Ogilvy’s was the posh department store in Ottawa.  Owned locally with the five-storey flagship store downtown, Ogilvy’s was the place where a proper lady could get dress white gloves, any time of the year, in any size, style and design you could imagine. 

If memory serves a real, live, Ogilvy-tartan clad full-dress bagpiper would pipe the store closing.  Or was it tea at 4 pm?  Any gift that was in a tartan box was from Ogilvy’s.  If it had that modern graphic F, it was from Frieman’s. 

At one time the Advertising and Merchandising Department was on an unregarded corner of the fourth floor at the Rideau street store, where jacket and tie-clad graphic artists did the layout and pasteup for the Ogilvy ads.  Employees who were women were not allowed to wear slacks, end of discussion.

The RA Center was near the Ogilvy’s store at Billings Bridge Plaza and was the Recreational Association for the Federal Civil Servants only.  There was a bowling alley, archery classes, ringette, and the mammoth outdoor pool at the RA.  I’m certain there were other things going on too, like a chess club and a Toastmasters group, but I didn’t care. 

Five-pin bowling on your birthday was about as good as it got.  In the heat of summer when the public beaches were closed for E.coli, Salmonella, Bubonic Plague and General Stench, the RA pool was the only game in town.  The RA is still there, but it has expanded beyond all recognition. 

The Train Station:  No, not that time capsule out on Alta Vista (Hello, 1966 is calling and it wants its’ train station back) but the original at Elgin, Rideau and Wellington streets, right across from the Chateau Laurier. 

At one time the now Federal Conference Centre was the Union Station.  Tracks ran along the Parkway, to such distant, exotic metropoli as Smith’s Falls, Brockville, Kingston, Belleville, Oshawa, Guildwood and Union Station.  Or to Montreal, or Detroit, or Chicago and Points West.  You could even get on the Canadian and travel as far as Vancouver on rails. 

It was very much a mammoth sandstone Cathedral to Transportation of soaring columns with Gothic capitals and stained glass windows illuminating the ten provinces.  The brass was polished every morning to a glowing shine and red caps would help you with your luggage.  Everything smelled of diesel from the engines, while the floor vibrated from the cars being shunted below you.

Ottawa’s Union Station predates the Toronto Union Station, with the same designers and construction company, so the look and feel still live on.  In Toronto.

That’s about all the brain is letting float to the surface right now.  As more comes up, I’ll write it down.

Refried History

The clever RoadDave readers will notice some subtle changes over the next few weeks.  The original RoadDave was a Microsoft Website that we updated regularly, with writings from the road.  There was no ‘blogging’ back then, or even tools to blog with.  One cold afternoon, Mothership informed us that we were being ported to something called Live Spaces, which was before this iteration of RoadDave on 

What happened in the intervening years was a lot of the 2002 to 2006 postings on RoadDave disappeared, as the first version was mothballed then 404’d.  Through a happy coincidence, a site called Multiply sent me a link to the old RoadDave where many of the old posts and some of the old photos still live.  Kismet.

As time moves along, we’re taking the old postings, with their original date of publication and moving them to the WordPress blog.  The old photos will come too, aided by their assistance dog.  You’ll see posts going back to August 2002 and if you are inclined to read them, just scroll down the left hand side of the page for each months’ entries. 

We’re not correcting them beyond the obvious spelling errors, as the old postings are what they are.  I wrote differently then, but I also write differently now and a rewrite seems unfair, perhaps even vaguely unethical.  RoadDave was never meant to be a documentary record of pristine historical importance.  With any luck, it never will be either.