When I was 11 years old, my parents bought their first house. I’d lived in Hamilton’s east end on Eaton Place (read more here) my entire life. My whole world was there in that quiet idyllic neighbourhood on the edge of the city. Then we moved up on the mountain to 425 Upper Wellington Street to a small 800 sq. ft., two bedroom pink (with black trim) bungalow on a busy 4 lane street at the top of the Jolly Cut mountain access road. Our Upper Wellington Street home had a very small kitchen, a livingroom, one bathroom (much to my Dad’s pain, with three daughters), 2 bedrooms, and an unfinished basement. My Dad got busy right away finishing a bedroom for my oldest sister Faye and a ‘rec room’ for us to hang out in. I REALLY missed my friends on Eaton Place. A lot. But times were changing and many families were moving away from low income housing that was ‘the survey’. I think this was my first opportunity to learn to adapt to a new situation. I’ve had many opportunities since…..
Let me tell you about my new neighbourhood. Our house on Upper Wellington was really a great place even if I did have to share a bedroom with my sister Betty (and get ‘kicked’ out of bed for ‘breathing too loud’). My parents were always caring about their yards too: my Dad had his vegetable garden and raspberry patch and my Mom had her flowers. I recall going for drives in the country with my parents to gather moss covered rocks for the front rock garden which won the city’s Trillium Award in 1974. Now that I’m all grown up, I have my own raspberry patch and veggie garden as well as a love for flowers especially cosmos which my Mother grew profusely. We had a little front porch where we’d sit out after supper in the summer, although I don’t know why we didn’t sit out back where it was quieter…..
Back in the day, the Milkman came to our house (and all others on his route) every day to leave quart size bottles of milk on our front porch, taking away the rinsed empties. Payment was made bi-weekly. There were no worries about milk spoiling…….
Our place was 8 houses down from the parks, Sam Lawrence Park and Mountain Brow Park, which overlooked the city. There was even a small neighbourhood park at the end of our street with trees that I loved to climb. Walking to these parks and climbing trees or going for a hike along the escarpment to the Wentworth stairs, helped me adapt to the changes. It was really beautiful! The gardens in the parks were immaculately tended and nothing was ever vandalized in those days.
Catching a city bus was the best too! All the buses on the mountain came to the intersection down the street because they all had to go down the Jolly Cut mountain access to downtown. I would just stand at the corner and see which bus was coming and go to that bus stop – I never had to wait more than 10 minutes. Sweet!
Everything you could ever need was nearby. The small local grocer, McColman’s Grocery was only a block away. I’ll always remember the layout in that tiny 700 sq. foot store. It was VERY compact yet it had everything including a butcher, fresh veggies, canned goods, and a 10 cent coke machine. My Mom shopped there every week and they delivered the groceries right to our home. I stopped there many a day on my way home from high school and phoned home to see if my Mom needed anything. I wouldn’t have to pay at the time because the owners (who lived across the street from us) would simply put it on my Mom’s bill.
Across the street from McColman’s was the Mountain Police station. And beside it was the YM/WCA where I attended many weekends. There was a gas station; a bakery; the Queensdale Variety store (where I used to buy Tiger Beat magazine and where they had a dreamy set of toy drums that I ‘wished upon a star’ for); an electronics store where we bought our first floor model colour TV; a drug store (where I spent an hour and a half once, picking out the perfect Birthday card for my Mom); AND the Pizza Shack (where we spent many weekend evenings in high school). Up further on the next block was the Clark Funeral Home (were my Mom was waked) and Sally’s Soda Bar (where my sister Betty briefly worked) among other small shops and restaurants.
I loved to swim. When we moved to the mountain, I found the nearest pool – Inch Park Pool – and went nearly every day all summer. In my mind, I can still smell the wet cement as I lay my dripping wet self down on the hot cement surrounding the pool. They also had an outdoor ice rink every winter which was fun to skate on since we didn’t have our own anymore like we used to on Eaton Place.
Concession Street was just around the corner and was a great place to walk down. Besides houses and small apartments, there was a Dairy Queen (where I’d buy a Mister Misty on many occasions); a Banquet center; our favourite Chinese food take-out; a shoe store; a butcher shop (which had the best black forest ham I’ve ever tasted); and a 5 & dime store – Baines, I think it was called (for you young pups, this kind of store had just about everything you wanted, cheap). I carefully chose a white laundry basket for my Mother’s birthday one year – now I’m thinking, what a dumb present! Who wants a stupid laundry basket for their birthday! But at the time, I was SO excited to give it to her!
I also had a TV Guide magazine route. I delivered TV Guides every single week to designated houses that I asked to sign up. It took me about 40 minutes to deliver them and longer on pay week when I had to catch people home to pay their bill, usually once a month.
A 20 minute walk on a Saturday would get me to the Woolco department store and mall. I loved Woolco > they had a photo booth where we would go to have our pictures taken for about $1 for 4 little pictures. And every once and a while, I’d buy a Hoagie sandwich in the Woolco restaurant. This was also the place where my Dad and I would go to buy our pre-cut Christmas tree. A couple of years ago, I went back to this mall with my sister Faye. Woolco is long gone and a brand new Walmart is there along with other new stores. There IS still a small fraction of the old stores, now in an enclosed area including the same Cobbler’s Bench where I had my sandals fixed in 1974! Same owner. Unbelievable!
I attended several schools in the area including Queensdale Public School for grade 6 then George L. Armstrong for grades 7 and 8. I met many lifelong friends at these schools. My high school was 2 kms away (it seemed a lot longer walking in the winter) – Hill Park (read about it here).
I have fond memories of my days growing up through teen-hood on Upper Wellington. I moved away when I eloped with my high school sweetheart when I was 18 years old. But that place will always hold a special place in my heart.