The Hometown

Ridgetown, Ontario
Friday, February 10, 2017

I lived the first eight years of my life in Ridgetown, this small town in southern Ontario, once the home of Canadian Canners and Silcox Hardware, and the Kent Dairy Bar that sold Cherry Cokes. This is the place where the hill on Erie Street down one block from Main Street to Tiffany Street was a big hill. Truly it was, but maybe my seven year old legs helping my big brothers pull a wagon load of newspapers up that hill imagined it to be more Everest than it really was. It is still difficult to believe that this little bump could ever have been called a hill.

Ridgetown is where milk was delivered in glass bottles to our door, lots of milk as well as many loaves of sliced bread to feed our ever expanding family. We were up to seven children by the time we moved from Ridgetown to Simcoe in the spring of 1959.

The last time I was here, which is several years ago, I knocked at my friend, Doug’s door but did not find him at home. This time I emailed well in advance to see if he would be here. Alas he and his wife would be in Mexico, but friend from long ago that he is, he said we could stay in their beautiful home anyway.

After a three hour drive from deep snow in Owen Sound and snow fogged air past acres and acres of flat fields, we arrived in Ridgetown where there is not one snowflake to be found, but a bitter wind chilled us as we walked up and down Main Street, I looking for stores from my childhood and Brilynn chuckling at my side as we saw empty shell after empty shell. There are not many stores still operating in downtown Ridgetown. The cinema where I saw my first movie, The Ten Commandments, I think, is gone. I think the Foodland parking lot occupies that space. I cannot imagine how this Foodland can be open twenty-four hours a day, but obviously someone thinks that this is profitable.

The dairy bar is a laundromat with a row of empty stores beside it. The hardware store on Main Street has disappeared. A Home Hardware exists on the edge of town, on the way to Morpeth. Only Mitton’s Jewelry store survives, dating back to 1876.

Tiffany Street was only ever one block long. This has not changed, although our house at 5 Tiffany Street could really use a fresh coat of paint. The sidewalk is the same, still as narrow as it was when I first learned to ride my new red two-wheeler. The backyard seemed smaller although I only viewed it from the street. Someone appeared to be at home. Tempted as I was to knock on the door, I did not. I wanted to retain my childhood memories of the interior.

Faye’s house at 6 Tiffany Street seemed smaller. I could still picture Bert in his tidy workshop.

We drove to St. Michael’s School, only one kilometre away. I am sure I remembered it twice that distance. Of course it would have been in miles then. The two room school has mushroomed into something bigger that did not at all resemble my first school. St. Michael’s Church has not changed.

Sadly the Carnegie Library was demolished and replaced with a plain red brick one floor building with no character. Across the street the lawn bowling is still available but no one was hanging about on this cold windy day.

The Ridgetown Ag School is now a satellite campus of Guelph University and is quite possibly the only business in town that has grown. It even spawned a Tim Horton’s beside it.

Canadian Canners long gone, is now the setting for some storage units and a few small bungalows.
Yecks appear to have the eatery business in hand with three different restaurants, the latest of which is licensed. We went to the unlicensed Grill that advertized yellow perch on Fridays. We entered the restaurant at the absurdly early hour of 5:10 PM. There were only a few empty tables. It is definitely the senior crowd that dines at this time. There were two children younger than Brilynn present.

The servings were generous. My yellow perch was good. Brian and Brilynn would have liked their ribs to be warmer. Dessert was included: rice pudding or jello. The rice pudding was enhanced with whipped cream and cinnamon but was cold and lacked raisins. Sigh!

Back at Doug’s we relaxed playing Hand and Foot. Brilynn and I let Brian win both games.

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