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A street full of memories
Bray wrote in her essay, that "not only was I born and raised here, I also worked here, met my husband here, had my wedding reception here, rented an apartment here, had my son here, attend my dentist and doctor appointments here, bought a house here in 1979, raised my kids here, watch my grandkids being raised here now, and have already purchased a condo here for later years because I'm staying here."
Concession Street, As I Recall. Each Friday for the first years of my life, my mother pushed my older brother and me down the street, often through mud but eventually along a bumpy wooden sidewalk, in a buggy large enough to hold $12 worth of groceries that she bought at the A on Concession Street. The street was a hub for shopping: I recall Bain's 5 to $1.00 Store with its broad wooden floors and bin like tables to display the wares (ladies underwear, all white, mens socks, all dark, and baby clothes); Edwards Shoes with patent leather pumps all but prancing in the window; the Brewer's Retail, where customers and staff were exclusively men; the shoe repair shop with a scent of polish and small machines; the jewelry store and its show of sparkling diamonds and big colourful snap on earrings (everyone simply window shopped here no one I knew ever bought jewelry); the coffee shop that was always busy; the gas station where the man who pumped gas wore matching shirt and pants and a dark brown tie, his name embroidered on the shirt pocket and he always waved as we walked by; the meat shop where my tongue stuck to the frost as I licked the window in an attempt to see inside (the butcher applied a teacup of warm water to my firmly attached tongue which released me, but still, there was a lot of blood); the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce where, as a child, I opened my first account and where my kids did the same; and the Concession Street Library my mother took me there often and I delighted in browsing even before I could read she borrowed books for me until I was old enough to get my own card, and many years later, I did the same for my kids.
Librarian Naomi Brun says the local BIA wanted to record memories of the street at a community event last year using an iPad, and from there it was decided a better approach would be to have a writing challenge. That would give people a chance to properly think about their responses.
It's a street full of memories, she says, recalling the broad wooden floors and "bin like tables" of Bain's 5 cent to $1.00 Store and Steve's Soda Bar where she would go after skating at the Mountain Park open ice rink.
In 1895 the Wentworth Street Incline Railway was started that made the community more accessible. This led to an increase in residents, businesses, schools and churches. As road accesses were improved that encouraged even more growth.
Recollections, in no particular order, abound: skating at the Mountain Park open rink, but wanting to skate in the boarded hockey rink on the west side of the pavilion; and Steve's Soda Bar across from the park, a place where we could spend our allowance on sweets and later, enjoy a cigarette when we were too young to be doing so; lining up at Inch Park for one short session in the pool; and later, swimming every day, all summer at the War Amps Club; buying a jelly donut at Tim Horton's; assembling in the Inverness School auditorium with every other kid on the Mountain to get vaccinated they did it in winter when kids were in a snow suits and wet boots wailing and runny noses filled the room; the Mountain Theatre where Ben Hur, Geronimo, and Goldfinger connected us to the world beyond Concession Street; and Noah's Ark, with its corner marquee that advertised singers we had heard on the radio. Most of those places are gone now, but the Concession Street community remains.
In 2009, our house burned badly. We had to relocate to a wonderful old place in the village of Dundas, and despite the chaos we were feeling, we had a good year there. The beauty of the valley was sustaining. We considered making it our permanent home. But that was a fleeting thought. Concession Street was in our bones, and in the end, we could hardly wait to get home, home to old comfort, home to the people whose kindness and generosity helped us through a difficult time. Home to the familiar.
The other winner is Rene Neuner, who grew up in the area but now lives in California.
Familiarity is all around us. The names on the buildings might change, some have had a face lift, while others have been demolished. But a Discount Women Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber Summit Pink Australia black and white photo of the street, taken in 1930, is still recognizable as the Concession Street I know today. I also recall many familiar faces. I recognize one older woman by her distinct gait, another man by his cap, and many a person by the dog he or she walks. We don't know each other's names, but we say hello as we pass one of the church yards, or meet at the deli counter in Longo's, or pick up falafels at the Almazan Grill. I am one of those older women now, one of the familiar faces that creates community. People nod and smile every time I walk down the street and I am content to be their familiar, to belong to the oldest community on the Mountain, Concession Street.
A total of 20 entries were received and quotes from the stories are being used with historical photos in an electronic slide show exhibit as well as in a scrapbook that can be seen at the library branch.
She was born in 1950 at Henderson Hospital, which is on the street. She grew up on East 19th a short walk to Concession, and today lives behind the Concession Street branch of the Hamilton Public Library on Cliff Avenue.
That's because of the people.
And I know a bit about the people of this community because, not only was I born and raised here, I also worked here, met my husband here, had my wedding reception here, rented an apartment here, had my son here, attend my dentist and doctor appointments here, bought a house here in 1979, raised my kids here, watch my grandkids being raised here now, and have already purchased a condo here for later years because I'm staying here.
"We just wanted to give people a chance to share their stories about Concession Street and help build community spirit," said Brun.
Bray is a co winner in the Hamilton Public Library Concession Branch's writing challenge to submit a 750 word essay about experiences on the street.