Serge Gauthier remembers the Village of Blue Water as an ideal place to grow up.
“We had dances in the church hall, lots of space for neighbourhood baseball games and we’d go trapping in the woods close by,” he says. Work was literally paces away.
Blue Water is gone now, deemed unsafe in the 1960s because of its proximity to heavy industry, its inhabitants evicted and its homes moved or demolished.
But it was once a bustling community with 500 homes, churches, schools, stores and a fire hall. An estimated 2,300 people from all corners of the world made Blue Water home when Gauthier was a boy in the 1950s.
The village sprang up to house labourers building the Polymer synthetic rubber plant during the Second World War. It grew quickly starting in 1942 to accommodate the huge influx of workers aiding the war effort.
Following the war, people who had come from as far as Italy and Portugal stayed in Blue Water and raised their families. The Gauthiers came from Northern Quebec in 1949 and chose to stay as well.
“It was a fun place to be. There was a lot of camaraderie,” Gauthier recalls.
“We had one of the first TVs and everyone would come over to watch it.”
The Gauthier home at 966 McIntyre frequently boardedlabourers working construction in the Chemical Valley.
But by the early 1960s the village was virtually surrounded by heavy industry and health concerns arose.
“People began moving out around 1962 and the last to leave was in 1966,” said Gauthier.
“We were evicted by the city, given notices and fair market value for our homes.”
The Gauthier house was sold and moved to Grove Street in the north end. The family moved near St. Joseph’s Hospital.
“It was sad because it was such a nice community,” he said. “But it was probably a good decision. Imagine if we were there now.”
Today, Huron and Tashmoo Avenue are the only streets left from Blue Water’s heyday, according to Gauthier. The houses and shops have been replaced by industrial sprawl.
He and a handful of other former residents are planning a Blue Water reunion on Aug. 12 to mark the 75th anniversary of the village.
A hall at Le Centre communautaire francophone on Rapids Parkway has been rented and former residents, friends and family are urged to attend with their photos, videos and stories.
Memories of the social clubs and bowling leagues need to be shared, said Gauthier.
“We want to reconnect with long lost neighbours and friends.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: 75th anniversary reunion of the Village of Blue Water
WHERE: Le Centre Communautaire Francophone on Rapids Parkway
WHEN: Aug. 12. Time TBA
TICKETS: $20, available by calling Serge Gauthier at 519-542-3738 or contacting Judy by email at [email protected].