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Remembering Monterey Gardens

Graham Duncan for local2 sault ste. marie
June 17th, 2012 at 5:25pm | Last Updated at 6:55pm

Monterey Gardens

Credit: Sault Ste. Marie Public Library

Aerial photo from 1950. Waterfront in foreground, Monterey Gardens seen in the back ground on top of the hill

pink elephant popcornOur family moved into 53 Oakwood Drive when it ended at the bush before Brian Avenue existed. Those were the days when five year old kids could leave home in the morning by themselves to play with the many others on the block and show up for lunch a few hours later. We were told you had to have children to move into the area. The bush was our world until the bulldozers arrived to prepare the site for Brian Avenue and the next installment of houses. I canít forget being caught behind the massive piles of burning trees with the twins Heather and Arthur Roy whose house was the last on the street. We thought we were doomed. We found our way out through a narrow, unburned patch of earth to return home. I donít think my Mom even asked what Iíd been doing. We were there as well when Glen Gibson had the grocery store at the corner. Mom could call up and have her groceries delivered for free. The Gibsons became good friends of the family one New Yearís Eve when neither my parentsí guests nor theirs could get up Pim hill in the snow so they partied together anyway.

At that time the other building that I recall on Poplar was Bouchardís Bakery, operated by our next door neighbour, an opera singer manquť whose ďLa Donna e mobileĒ resounded from his living room during CJICís Saturday afternoon broadcasts. When he closed that business and sold it to Mrs. Sanderson for a confectionary store, he opened a dry cleaning establishment beside the Precious Blood Church. For years afterwards, my mother baked bread in the tins he gave her.

When Sam Manning built his barbershop, I remember how wonderful it was to chew the tar the roofers left behind. It was just as good as gum and it was free. Like all the other merchants, Mannings lived in the neighbourhood behind us on MacDonald. They were great friends of my parents all their lives. Perhaps that was why Sam gave me a brush cut no matter what I asked for.

I think that Mrs. Frazer was the first merchant that didnít live nearby. Then George Grant opened his pharmacy and our family helped him to stock the shelves. The final business I recall opening along the street was Budís restaurant and corner store at the end of the block. It had a magnificent Wurlitzer jukebox and a constant supply of pink Lucky Elephant popcorn. At last we could get a milkshake in our own neighbourhood.

Gene Autry

Credit: file

The great excitement for us came in the spring when the bulldozers would arrive to push back the snow into great mountains to clear the ditches of the spring runoff. That was when a huge, chuffing, horse drawn steam generator (in retrospect, probably a superannuated fire engine) would hiss great clouds of hot steam to clear out the driveway drain pipes. What could be more exciting for a six year old than standing on that Everest, peering down at the frozen lakes below, terrified that the hissing monster would explode at any minute, blasting us all to smithereens?

As Clergue hadnít opened yet, we began school in the basement of St. Stevenís Mission across from King George School, taught by the wonderful Miss Beck, my first love affair. After Christmas, the class moved over to the new King George kindergarten. We were thrilled to be in the same building as the big kids. It was in grade two, I think, that while walking home alone through the bush behind the school, I realized that black caterpillars were dropping all around me. Panicking, I ran to the safety of the street only to discover that the sidewalk was black with those same beasts. I just stumbled into the great army worm invasion of 1950. It was the one that stripped trees, stopped trains and blanketed black the asbestos shingles of our house.

Later in our more mature years, the guys used to climb trees and play guns in Holbrookís bush, fly model planes with Mike Dayís dad, take annual spring walks along the railroad tracks and practise smoking in our most secret place using tree bark wrapped in newspaper. Yuck! Yes, Monterey Gardens was certainly the best place in the world to grow up.


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