Monday, July 12, 2010


It has divided North and South.

It’s called Colborne Street East and West but it has divided North and South.
The cause?
Unavoidable summer construction.

Heat. Dust. Potholes. Detours. Traffic tie-ups.

It’s the Berlin Wall of Orillia dividing one part of our city from another.
Like the Quebec Border that separates Ottawa from Hull.
Like policies that separate Liberals and New Democrats.
Like a street sign that separates the cities of Waterloo and Kitchener
Like Oro-Medonte that separates Orillia from dreaded, over-populated, heartless Barrie.
You get the idea.

Orillia has always been divided over North and South. When I was a kid it was the railroad tracks- not construction that divided us.
If you lived in the North Ward- that was considered very good. If you lived south of the railroad tracks and the CN Railway Station- the awful South Ward, that was bad. How Elgin Street and the streets around the waterfront Junkyard were ever considered better than the South end is beyond me.

In reality that area is east- about as far east as one can go in Orillia. So maybe it didn’t count. Anyway, for the most part if you are east of Front Street South in the Sunshine City, it means you had better learn how to swim or walk on water.

The real dividing line in the latter case of the “East Ward”- we don’t use that term of reference in Orillia, would be Mississaga Street East and Mississaga Street West. Living North of that line would be very good.
You would hear people say-
“Oh, you live in the North Ward. ~sigh~ Must be nice up there.”

If you told someone the street name, in general area where you lived in the south end you’d hear-
“Is that anywhere near The White Rose Gas Station or the White Grill or Dwarf Village? Do you have to drive past your street to get to the “First” Hotel in Atherley.”
If you answered “yes” that could be bad.
We Southenders had to get used to the idea that we lived on the wrong side of the tracks.
Like we had no morals.
Or electricity.
Or Christmas.
Or indoor plumbing.
Or bus fare.

I must confess that several neighbours even had “outdoor” privies when I was growing up in the 6o’s in the South Ward. If I were to confess further, I would tell you that as a kid living on Lake Simcoe- just off Forest Avenue and Victoria Crescent, we didn’t have indoor plumbing either. Just one lonely cold water tap hanging over a white, enamel sink. Now living on Victoria Crescent was considered “the boonies” back in the 1950’s. The only plus was living on the lakefront. It seemed to allow you a smidgen of respect.
“You live on the lake. Where?”
“In the south end off Victoria Crescent.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Do you have a big boat?”
“No. Just a small rowboat.”
“ Ohhhh. That must be, uh- nice for you.”

Eventually, in 1960, we moved closer to the North-South line and all of a sudden we had running water and a toilet.
Just no lake.
We did have several dirty factories like Otaco and Door-Oliver Long as well as the Canada Wood Specialty that belched wood dust all day long from its kilns.
We thought we had arrived. We were only a couple of blocks from the tracks and a half dozen blocks from downtown Orillia. We felt like we had raised our station in life at least a notch or two.
Not good enough, however.
As soon as you spoke to a North Warder, you would be put in your place soon enough.
“Do you live in an 1878 Victorian House?”
“A tudor style?”
“Uh, no. Our house was built in 1960.”
Unfortunately, the question was posed in 1963.
CN Station Front Street South & "the Tracks" 1991

So having running water and such was just no comparison for a North Ward address like Peter Street North or Matchedash Street North or Maple Drive. Then there was always Bay Street.

Now, finally after all these years I have a Lah-Dee-Dah North End address. An 1875 Victoria House no less, with huge perennial gardens, white picket fence. Big property, Big Taxes and three bathrooms!
No waiting.
Lah-Dee-Dah indeed!

Now this summer with construction cutting the city in half and no train tracks in sight, Colborne Street is the “new” North-South Divider Line. Not that there’s anything wrong with living south of the Colborne Line, it’s just that most things are indeed better up north.
Suck it up!
As Dame Clare Voyant would say:
“I Mean that-
I really do!”

Look there’s a bright side for you South Ward residents, it clearly gives you something bigger to aspire to- doesn’t it?
Have a good one.