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OPINION: Sarnia a vastly different city these days

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Norma West Linder

Half a century can bring many changes, so I shouldn’t be surprised that the Sarnia I live in today is vastly different from the one I moved to in the early ‘50s.

At that time the place seemed more like a small town than a city, maybe because we had moved here from Toronto. The fact remains, however, that my husband and I couldn’t go downtown without running into at least a dozen friends or acquaintances.

On summer weekdays, Canatara Park was practically deserted.  We often packed our lunch and took it there to eat among the squirrels, much to our young daughter’s delight.  My husband was on shift work at what was then the Polymer Corporation.

We got our first car shortly after our second daughter was born. A boxy looking old Ford, but to us, freedom on wheels.  We were finally able to explore Lambton County. The drive along the beautiful blue St. Clair River was, and still is, a source of never- ending pleasure.

Sarnia is much prettier today. Along Front Street, flowers bloom in profusion where once the land was taken up by various industries. Domtar, the last eyesore, closed its Sifto Salt Works in 1964, selling the riverside property to the city for a quarter of a million dollars on condition that it be used for a public park. Unfortunately, a problem area today because of contamination.

Still, people of all ages enjoy the wide walkway along the river: cyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers, babies in strollers, and seniors in sneakers. It’s a great place for walking dogs as well.

It was “renewal” I was seeking when I was 33 and bored with being a stay-at-home mom, so I took a job at what was then Eaton’s Catalogue Store on Christina Street. I worked on customers’ accounts and sometimes had to smile when I came across those of friends or relatives whose payments were overdue.

Some of the excuses given were quite innovative.

Gone, too, are the Marwood Apartments where my dear friend, the late Dorothy Harris, once lived. During the months I worked at the catalogue store, I used to cross Christina Street to visit her at noon every day.

She would make my favourite dish of mushrooms in gravy on toast.  Kenwick Place occupies that location now. I often think of Dorothy as I pass by. She was a good friend who loved this city and sorely missed it when she moved out west. I missed her. I thought those apartments dull and dingy, but Dorothy brightened hers like a 200 watt bulb.

I suppose when it comes right down to it most of us remember people far better than buildings. And that’s the way it should be.

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

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