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GUEST COLUMN: How I wound up dropping anchor in good old Port Sarnia

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Norma West Linder

Norma West Linder

I never thought I’d end up staying in Sarnia after retirement, but a place can subtly claim you for its own. Where else could I have a beach minutes away or nature walks through beautiful parklands?

Many years ago a woman from Chatelaine magazine met with me and several other writers in my living room for an informal chat. When the article was published, she zeroed in on the problem of pollution, even though we told her about our excellent schools, social programs, and wealth of blue waters and green parks.

For a long time afterwards, people would pinch noses at the very name of Sarnia. Still, in the summer of 1992, the same magazine listed Sarnia as one of the ten best cities in Canada in which to live.

We moved here from Toronto because my late husband’s brother, Herb Linder, was Recreational Director. We were starting to raise a family and thought it would be a bonus for our kids to have such an uncle.

True to life’s penchant for ironies, Herb took a position in Quebec shortly thereafter. However, my husband found a job with what was then Polymer, built to produce synthetic rubber to help in the war against Germany, and we stayed put. Years later, Polymer was owned by Germans. Another of life’s ironies.

On our daughter’s third birthday, in 1953, a tornado hit town. We were driving across the Blue Water Bridge when it struck. In Port Huron, a stranger called out to us to come and keep her company until the ‘all clear.’ She’d been hiding under her bed. Later, we heard stories of milk bottles being picked up and moved blocks away without a drop being spilled.

After that day, I used to take my daughter and cower in the basement of our rented house on Campbell Street, fearing rats almost as much as wind. Luckily, no tornado passed our way again, although one did go through Reece’s Corners in 1983, giving rise to sick jokes about ‘Reece’s Pieces.’

Home is, I believe, both a time and a place, and Sarnia is, for me, rich in memories as well as extraordinarily rich in friendships.


Norma West Linder is an internationally published poet and novelist living in Sarnia


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