I’m from a town in southern Ontario called Cambridge. When I was born it was called Galt, and then the province decided to amalgamate three villages, Galt, Preston, and Hespler, into one city. As a result it has three ghost-town downtowns, and one booming big-box area that sits in the geographical middle of the three original towns.
When I was a kid, though, that big-box area was in its infancy and the downtowns were far away and full of ancient gift shops and department stores, and I thought Cambridge was the most boring place on Earth. There wasn’t a mall, we had only a two-screen twin cinema that always showed babyish movies, and the only exciting attraction in town was the roller rink. Cambridge sits at the junction of two rivers, and as a result is a very industrial town, and most people worked in factories then went home at night to watch TV, or maybe took their truck out for a joyride if they were really lucky.
I was BORED.
Gal Smiley has a Grade 3 project to write about any city or town in Canada. The Captain did this project last year and he chose Calgary, for no good reason other than the fact that no one else in the class had picked it. We learned about Calgary together and now I kind of want to go there, although it’s the last place on Earth that the Captain wants to visit, because he is worried I will make him act as our tour guide.
And so I shall, dear, and so I shall.
Anyway! Gal Smiley came home last week and mentioned this project and announced that she had picked Cambridge as her city to talk about. I snorted, because ugh, what is there to say about Cambridge?
(Rhetorical question followed by the sound of crickets.)
So we read Cambridge’s city site, and went to wikipedia. I got out my old photo album from when I was a kid, and we looked at pictures of when the Grand River flooded the whole downtown in 1974, and at shots of my old high school (I think it’s the oldest public school in Ontario), the old mill, the library. I was reminded about African Lion Safari (CLASSIC, we went every year), Reid’s Candy and Nut Shop (best on the planet), all the beautiful bridges and the farmer’s market heritage building where we spent many a Sunday morning. I learned that the old Tiger Brand factory has been converted into the University of Waterloo’s school for architecture, and that there’s a butterfly conservatory there. And of course, we talked about the coming of the Toyota plant, and how that completely changed the face of the city when I was in high school.
It’s been a blast, and the best part is that Gal Smiley is really interested in hearing all my stories. She chose Cambridge in the first place because she knew I grew up there, and Nanny still lives there. She can’t get enough of hearing about me as a kid, which is both flattering and powerfully moving, because I feel like my life and the lives of those I loved will be passed on.
So here’s what there is to say about Cambridge: it’s where I’m from. REPRESENT.