Changing Times & Memories

With my doctor’s appointment on Tuesday (and being in Beamsville), Nat and I decided to make good use of the day, so we made a list of things we had to do while “out that way”. First to Stoney Creek on an errand, then grabbing a bite to eat at the Grimsby Welcome Centre, a quick stop at Mom and Dad’s grave site and finally to the Beamsville Medical Centre to see about the old leg. Why not make good use of our time and make a day of it.

Mom and Dad’s grave site was looking a little haggard. So we cleaned up as best we could – forgot to bring the little garden tools – fixed up the edging that’s now becoming iffy, and pulled most of the weeds. After a quick look around at other grave sites, we’ve come up with what we think is a better idea for the edging, and then maybe plant two or three Hostas. Less maintenance and the grounds crew will be able to get around without dinging the edging that’s now getting torn up.

We were only ten minutes at the Medical Centre. The Doc says my leg seems to be okay. It’s healing slowly, but it’s healing. The water on the knee should dissipate with time (lots of it, for me!)

So with that, Nat and I headed into St. Catharines for his favourite kaisers from his favourite bakery, and then onward home.

As we were driving home from Stoney Creek, we stayed on old No. 8 Highway, avoiding the QEW at all costs. Meandering along, Nat and I were amazed at the development that’s sprung up – houses, strip malls, wineries – inbetween the towns of Stoney Creek, Winona, Grimsby and Beamsville. Each and every time we take this drive there seems to be something new that’s built or soon to be developed. There was a time when you drove through quite a few tender fruit fields before hitting the next little town or hamlet – but they all blend into one another, only distinguishable by their town signage.

As we approached the outskirts of Beamsville, I began to recall some of the retail stores, restaurants and business that our family dealt with during our childhood.

Marv’s Drive-In – one of the cool places for the teenagers to hang out. Just on the outskirts of town, away from prying eyes of parents, where the food was greasy but good and the parking lot was large enough for those bigger model cars and a few hot rods. My best memory of Marv’s is when Gail’s (then) boyfriend, Ken, allowed a couple of us “kids” to come along for a burger and fries. My God, that was such a big deal. I still remember where we sat in the far right corner. Alas, old Marv’s has changed hands so many times, I’m amazed the original old building is still standing. Nothing since Marv’s has been that good or reputable!

Mountain’s Variety Store – just about the only place in town where we could buy our school supplies without taking that long trip into the big City of St. Catharines. Mr. Mountain was always behind the counter, always willing to help little hands with whatever they were looking for and always greeted accompanying parents by their names! We couldn’t wait to buy our new scribblers, new pencils, markers, pencil cases, binders and reams of paper. Remember opening the scribbler to that fresh brand new page, and you always vowed you’d be neat with the whole year! This was also the only place in town that you could buy those Necco wafers, that I’m still addicted to when I can find them! Well, the old variety store is now a Bible Shop.

Lay’s Pharmacy – another great store that was probably visited more by our parents, but nevertheless carried neat stuff. I went to school with Billy and his parents were good friends with ours. Both Dads were volunteer firemen and Lodge members, and both Moms involved in other community activities. The building still houses a pharmacy, only bigger to keep up with the newer and growing population.

Bell Telephone – the building on the corner that use to house the local telephone operators. Back in the day when party lines abounded and everyone truly knew what everyone else was up to!! The only thing I remember about this old building is that big sister, Gail, wandered up to that corner one day as a child and one of the operators called Mom to let her know where she was. The operators and most other villagers were very aware of the growing family down Ontario Street! Now that’s small town!! The old building is long gone and newer retail establishments have taken its place.

Kresge’s 5 & Dime – a store that stocked all sorts of goodies that any little girl wanted. From jewelry, make-up, toys and household items, it was always an adventure to wander around with Mom, your hand in hers. I’ll confess to something that I’m sure everyone else has done! This is the one and only store that I actually pinched a small piece of jewelry when I was about 4 or 5. I also still remember the clerk or manager – that tall lady with the round glasses and hair in an upswept and tight bun. Long before the days of bar codes and scanners, the goodies were laid out in small little bins with price tags stuck to the back of each item. A store that couldn’t survive the newer and more up-to-date retailers.

Christie’s Dairy Bar – one of our all-time favourites. The Christie family made the best chocolate milk in the whole world (or at least to us). It was also ‘way cool’ that each of the boys were able to get behind the counter and help themselves! We all knew each other from public or high school. This was also the best restaurant for burgers, fries, onion rings and chocolate milk on your lunch break from Beamsville High, just a five minute walk away. A great hang-out for several generations of teenagers taking a break before, after and sometimes during classes. The old Dairy Bar is now a health food store (egad!!).

There was also (what I believe) an appliance store that also sold 45 records. I do remember buying my first package of 45’s. Yes, you’d get one good one (in a pack of three) with the other two being unknowns, but sometimes you got lucky and they turned out to be hits. My first 45 was by Gordon Lightfoot – Daisy Doo on one side and (Remember Me) I’m The One on the flip side. Still one of my all-time favourite singers and I’ve still got that 45!! The store didn’t sell a whole lot of records, but I was at least able to get a package or two before we moved on to an even smaller town – Campden in the early 1960’s.

As a child riding along in our Dad’s old ’54 Ford with floor boards you could see the road through, it was embarrassing to pass someone you knew and Dad, with his left elbow resting on the open window and his right hand on the wheel, would wave and holler ‘how ‘ya doin’?” It’s only about 45 years later that I appreciate where he was coming from and even where he was going. Always down No. 8 Highway, always looking around and always proud. I also wonder what he would think about all of the wineries that have now popped up and taken over the tender fruit lands that were prominent 40 years ago. I’d like to think he would at least appreciate that the land was being used for something good and yes, tasty!!


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