Unpacking The Writer ► First In A New Series
I started my professional career on a machine like this.
I still bang my keyboard as if it’s a manual typewriter
and I wear off the most used letters within a year.

Welcome to the inaugural post of a new, occasional blog series that will look into the machinations of being a professional writer. Pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

Last night I found dozens of files in a folder that was buried inside a folder, which was nested in another folder, that was interred deeply on the hard drive of my computer. I didn’t realize I was still lugging this stuff around. It’s not all that heavy.

It’s a strange melange of files and contains a lot of crap, but there’s also some wonderful stuff that would be called ephemera, if it were actually printed on paper. Some of it’s fascinating; some is dross. There are angry letters, email from the early ’90s, query letters to editors, articles I clipped and saved, research links, sketches for short stories, articles I started writing “on spec” but never found a place to publish, and some files that I don’t even remember how they got there or who wrote them.

Included are several early drafts of published articles. Like the one below. This article was originally published by Hamilton Magazine and was a lot of fun to write. At the time I was fairly new to Hamilton, Ontario, and knew almost nothing of its history. Consequently, then entire article had to be researched extensively. Before it could be narrowed down to 50 items, I had to come up with a list of some 100 items, which me and an editor whittled down. The file is named DRAFT 15. There still would have been changes and corrections made before
it was published [and I see a few I would make], but
this is the version that was approved and for which I finally
got paid. I am publishing it as is. However, I added the illustrations, a few hyperlinks, and a couple of writer’s notes that I couldn’t resist.

Since Hamilton Magazine is not using it any longer, I will. I presume the copyright has reverted back to me by now. If not: Oh well.


Hamilton Magazine’s
Silver Anniversary
25 Years to Remember & Forget

It’s been a wild ride.

From good to bad and back again, Hamilton
Magazine has been there.
It’s not been all Sterling Silver. Some of
it has been merely Silver-Plated. A lot of it was steel. From polluted air and
harbours to the comeback of Cootes Paradise. From Opening
Nights to Closing Days. From Mayor Jack MacDonald to
the dawn of Morrow to Mayor Rob Wade. Disasters.
Parks. Eateries.
When an anniversary rolls around, it’s hard
not to get a little nostalgic and want to look back. So indulge and forgive
Hamilton Magazine if we reminisce on the last two and a half decades and
commemorate moments worthy of distinction – and some we would just as soon
forget. Which we plan to do, as soon as we get it out of our
Your own mileage may vary.

OUR COPPS IS TOPPS: There may be no
bigger booster of Hamilton
than Sheila Copps, Liberal MP for Hamilton East and daughter to the city’s
second longest-serving mayor Victor. Sitting in cabinet in Ottawa variously as Deputy Prime Minister,
Environment Minister, and of late, Heritage Minister, she has been quick to
find and send federal money our way. Her defenders say that because she’s a
smart, confident and outspoken woman, she threatens the male power structure
and that’s the reason she gets a bad rap. From the first Copps hasn’t allowed
the sexist baiting to get the best of her. When, as new MPP at Queen’s Park
she was directed to “go back to the kitchen” she responded by presenting the
offender an autographed Liberal cookbook. She’s thrown her hat in the ring to
be the next Leader of the Liberal party and, if something happens to the Paul
Martin juggernaut, the former Rat Packer could become our next Prime

  1. COPPS AN ATTITUDE: Sheila Copps has not always brought welcome press and been a
    positive ambassador for Hamilton.
    In her various squabbles at Queens
    Park and
    Parliament, she has variously been described as “the Princess of
    Innuendo,” “yattering,” “Goddamn ignorant
    bitch” (by former-Burlington Tory MP Bill Kempling),
    “baby,” and “slut” (again by Kempling). A
    constant knock against “Tequila Sheila” is that she’s shrill. And, no,
    it’s not just a gender thing. Women feel that way too. Even Sheila. In
    January of ’73, she admitted “Because I am a woman, my vocal cords
    tighten up when I get excited and I sound shrill.”

    Her defenders say a male politician would never be subjected to scrutiny
    by Blackwell, but that didn’t stop the fashion maven from declaring,
    “Her hair would look good on a man” and “As a fashion statement, she’s

    Sheila Copps with the recently
    deceased Lincoln Alexander.

    For better or worse, she’s our Sheila Copps.

Hamiltonians celebrate as the Tiger Cats humiliate the Edmonton Eskimos, by a
score of 39-15, to take home the Grey Cup.

Thirteen years later: The Ti-Cats do it all over again, trouncing the Calgary
Stampeders 32-21 to the delight of 1999 fans.

    Could the worst Ti-Cat season be 1989
    when, at the end of their best season on record (12 wins), they lost the
    Grey Cup to Saskatchewan by  a
    field goal in a 43 to 40 game (which, incidentally, still holds the
    record for the most points ever scored in a Grey Cup game)? Or, could it
    be the 1998 season, when the Ti-Cats lost another Grey Cup to Calgary by the
    narrower margin of 26 to 24? Was it possibly the dismal ‘97 season, when
    the Ti-Cats finished the year with only 2 wins and a whopping 16 losses?
    Or, could it be the entirety of The Ballard Years (1978 -1989), when King
    Harold of Hockey ruled the team? You decide.
Martin Short (on the right) with Eugene Levy

HAMMER & NAILS: There’s a game Hamiltonians
love to play. With great pride we will point to those local guys and gals who
have made good on the world stage. At the drop of a hat we will list their
accomplishments and their entire CVs.

It is always with great pride we note Martin Short and Eugene Levy are from
Hamilton, both graduates of Westdale
High School. Working
together, they gave us the brilliant SCTV Comedy Network and a hilarious mockumentary
called The Canadian Conspiracy, about how Canadian comedians are taking over
the United States.
This duo also appears together in Father of the Bride, Parts I and II, both
box office bonanzas.  Separately they have
appeared in such masterful comedic fare as “Primetime Glick”,
Mumford, Mars Attacks!, ¡Three Amigos!, “Saturday Night Live”, Best
in Show, American Pie, Waiting for Guffman, The
Last Polka, Splash, and Tears Are Not Enough.

If it were just these two Distinguished Canadians, Hamilton could simply rest on those
laurels. However, we also want to claim Ivan Reitman, who discovered his
ability to direct movies while at McMaster

Two pairs of sibs are also embraced by The Hammer: Gema Zamprogna (Felicity, Road to Avonlea) and Dominic Zamprogna (Edgemont, The Boy’s Club) F/x2) are making
inroads in the acting profession, while Ian and Dave Thomas took separate
roads; one a musician/songwriter, the other a comedian also coming out of

If that were not enough we can also lay claim to Roberta Bondar
(another McMaster grad), who has explored Outer Space and Daniel Lanois who has probed the Inner Spaces of music.

Still on the musical front, Hamilton
also claims Lorraine Segato (Parachute Club), who
grew up on the Mountain and Tom Wilson (Junkhouse
and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings), who may never grow up, hopefully.

Ivan Reitman (on the right) with Raffi?
Do parents hold it against Daniel Lanois for Raffi?
  1. SCREWS:  Do we really want to
    claim Reitman? As a director he helped Eugene Levy perpetrate Cannibal
    Girls and also brought us such disasters as Kindergarten Cop and the more
    recent Evolution.

    Or even Short and Levy for that matter. They’ve given us such turkeys as
    Clifford, Pure Luck, Josie and the Pussycats, Holy Man, Speed Zone!,
    Armed and Dangerous, and Going Berserk.

    Even Lanois is suspect. To all those parents
    who were tortured by hours of Raffi, it is
    only fair to point out that Lanois was both
    engineer and musician on many of those releases.

    [Writer’s note: It’s always fun when one
    can work a friend into an article. I’ve
    known Lorraine Segato for what seems
    like centuries. We were in college together
    and, as station manager, I gave her a radio show on Radio Sheridan at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. I have followed her career ever since.]

FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: To celebrate Hamilton’s 1996 Sesquicentennial, the city decides to
restore the beautiful old Victorian fountain – condemned and removed in the
‘50s – to Gore Park. The spire and top bowl of the
original fountain were slated to be installed in Sam Laurence
Park at the top of the
Jolley Cut, until the new proposal is passed. As with anything involving Gore Park
after the Chainsaw Massacre [see # 4 to the right] the plan was mired in
controversy. Eventually, the more favoured spot, both politically and
architecturally, in the middle of Hughson
Street, intersecting the park, was rejected by
the public in favour of putting the fountain right back where it had been 40
years earlier.

  1. THEY PAVED PARADISE: The darkest
    day in downtown is, without a doubt, June 18, 1983 in what has thereafter
    been known as The Gore Park Chainsaw Massacre. Century old trees are
    hacked to the ground to make way for a snack bar, amphitheatre, and
    other projects. By the time the construction dust settled in October
    (and only after the city issued a Stop Work Order), it was decided to
    tear down the half-finished new structures and re-landscape the park
    under a brand new master plan. In the interim, we were left with little
    more than a construction site in the downtown core for well over a year.
    After the usual calls to fire city employees, and a decision not to hold
    a Public Inquiry, it turns out city politicians had been asleep at the
    switch and no one knew what the plan had been before the Parks
    Department ordered in the chainsaws. Taxpayers were on the hook for all
    the changes – and the changes to the changes – but no amount of money –
    only time –will bring back the old growth in the park.
last of its kind in Hamilton,
but when the Westdale Theatre opened in September of 1935 the printed program
proudly proclaimed it had been built with local labour and local materials. By
today’s standards its one, large screen – and 490 seats – harkens back to a
simpler time – a time when an evening out began with a boisterous rendition
of God Save the King and closed the same way.

Opening night at the Westdale was no different. In between was a speech by
city controller F. F. Trealeven, followed by a
colour travelogue of Los Angeles.
Before the Intermission the audience was treated to a Charlie Chase comedy
short. After the intermission came the main feature: “Dance Band,” starring
Charles “Buddy” Rogers.
(Rogers was known as “America’s Boyfriend,” and the following year, would
marry Mary Pickford, a former-Torontonian called “America’s Sweetheart.” They would
remain devoted to each other until her death in 1979. See? A much simpler

During the last 25 years, when other movie palaces were bulldozed to make way
for today’s Multi-Plex Modernity, the Westdale has
stood proudly, if a little threadbare, as one of the great examples of the
intersection between Art and Commerce.

    The Great Flood of January 2003
    can be looked at as a cautionary tale of how budget cuts due to
    amalgamation could turn around and bite us when we least expect it.
    Residents along Herkimer and Charlton West were rudely awakened by the
    sound of rushing water, in many cases rushing right into their basements
    by the force of the raging water blowing in the windows. As water always
    does, it worked its way to low ground, mirroring the path of an ancient
    streambed, which had long since been covered over by development.

    When the waters finally receded untold dollars of damage were being
    added up, home owners fought with insurance companies and no one would
    ever look at Hamilton’s crumbling infrastructure the same way again.

    [Writer’s note: I lived on Charlton West during the Great Flood of Oh Three.]

CHILD’S PLAY: The opening of the
Hamilton Children’s Museum on July
22, 1978 created a world-class retreat for families and
classrooms in the heart of Gage
Park. Which is ironic
considering the original name of the house was The Retreat. The Gage Family
left Jubilee Farm to the city and the red brick house they built about 1875
was always called The Retreat. The Hamilton Children’s Museum is second only
to Dundurn Castle for the number of yearly visitors.

  1. NO MORE RAIN: The Earthsong Festival banner
    waived for a magical decade over Princess Point in picturesque Cootes
    Paradise. The official reason for the failure of Earthsong
    was reduced funding. However, there was also some talk the festival was
    hard on the fragile environment of Cootes Paradise and Westdale
    residents complained long and loud about congestion and litter. No
    matter what the reasons, when Earthsong ended Hamilton lost a
    wonderful multi-ethnic celebration, but many people remember the smells
    of the ethnic food wafting over Princess Point.
SUBURBAN RENEWAL: The first shovel of
dirt should be turned any day now on what will become the Red Hill Expressway.
Mountaineers have long complained how hard it is to get on and off the
escarpment and this roadway will ease the pain. When it will be finished is
anyone’s guess.
  1. SUBURBAN RUIN: A highway rammed through the pastoral Red Hill
    Valley is
    something environmentalists want to stop at any cost. They say the Red
    Hill Expressway is a mistake still on the drawing board that’s not too
    late to cancel.

PARADISE FOUND: Cootes Paradise, which
straddles Hamilton and Burlington,
is as beautiful a spot as anywhere in Canada. All through its long
history, it has remained undeveloped by either housing or commerce, but that
didn’t stop it from becoming polluted. In the last 25 years, Cootes Paradise
has been brought back from the brink by many projects, spearheaded by the
RBG, the Bay Area Restoration Council (BARC), and various local environment
groups. Now one can see rare egrets in the bay. The blue heron are back.
Swans regularly use the inner bay for nesting. An estimated 14-16 million
fish can be found in the western end of Cootes. Pollution is down, although
not out, and the system of trails criss-crossing Cootes Paradise makes for
one of the nicest walks anywhere in Hamilton.
When in the thick of Cootes it’s easy to forget you are surrounded by two
major cities. It just feels so remote.

  1. DOWNTOWN IN DECLINE: The collapse of downtown Hamilton happened over a period of
    time and came in stages. Among the contributing factors:

    When Jackson Square opened it pulled people off King Street, which hurt area

    In the economic downturn of the ‘80s, businesses closed their downtown
    offices, leading to fewer customers, leading to more storefronts being

    Eaton’s, the anchor store in City Centre closed.

    Still fewer customers at Jackson
    Square so most of the chains started
    closing in the downtown mall.

    Shopping habits moved to the new suburbs and the Big Box Stores. What
    was once a burgeoning downtown is now just an economic shadow of its
    former self.

GOING TO POT?: Marijuana activists
Michael Baldarsaro, 53, and Walter Tucker, 69, have
been battling the marijuana laws of the country since founding the Church of the Universe on September 11, 1982. Their nascent religion claims marijuana
as a sacrament and it’s been getting those wacky boys in trouble ever since.
With the Feds promising to decriminalize the country’s marijuana laws, it
appears Baldarsaro and Tucker were way ahead of
their time. As prescient as they may have been, it’s hard not to laugh at
their antics. Like the time they were busted for sending Health Minister Alan
Rock a baggie of their best to test for medical marijuana trials or the
various times one of them has run for mayor. In fact, in the next municipal
election Baldarsaro was first at the gate to
register to run. That’s dedication. Whether you are outraged or just think
they are simply outrageous, darling, there’s no denying The Church of the
Universe is always good for a laugh.

    a misguided attempt to create an entrance corridor into Hamilton, the city
    expropriated businesses and homes along York Street, stretching from
    Dundurn to Bay, including historic homes at 518 and 555-7 York Street. More than 210
    business owners and residents – incorporating 111 properties – are
    relocated. Those businesses that could not afford to relocate closed
    outright. Widening York
    Street did create a corridor into the city,
    but the grand urban renewal projects slated for along the boulevard
    never materialized and a local neighbourhood is decimated by the
    wrecker’s ball.
10.  A BLOOMING GOOD TIME: Small thing also serve to beautify a city. The Keep Hamilton
Blooming campaign, run by Hamilton City Parks and Recreation Department,
matches companies and individuals to streetscapes and medians. This match
results in annuals and perennials being planted along Hamilton streets, which bloom throughout
the warm season. A beautiful thing indeed.

Alas, this program is being threatened by the budget cuts forced by
amalgamation. In another 25 years, we may see this topic on the other side of
the ledger.

  1. URBAN URINE: Another dark day for downtown came when the Comfort Station
    below Gore
    Park was flushed
    away, despite it having received 1981’s coveted “Best Public Washroom”
    award from Today Magazine. The decision to wash our hands of the
    facilities came in May of 1984, a year after The Rape of Gore Park [see
    above]. By the time the Gore’s redesign of the redesign went ahead, the
    entire project was so far over budget that something had to be cut and
    it was decided it would be the lovely tiled, well-kept, and
    well-remembered washrooms under The Gore.

11.  COPPS OUT?: Although we now rent it out as a movie set, the Victor Copps
Trade Centre Arena, or Copps as it is more commonly known was a big deal when
it opened on November 30, 1985. Opening ceremonies began at 11:30 a.m. followed by an
old-timers hockey game pitting the former Hamilton Red Wings against the St. Catharines Black Hawks and Teepees.
The first wrestling match at Copps, Mosca Mania,
was held just two months later, on February 2, 1986. It’s been downhill ever since.

    11, 1997, a black cloud rose over Hamilton, both literally and
    figuratively. By the time firefighters finally knocked down the Plastimet inferno on the 12th, the city
    had declared a state of emergency and about 650 people had been
    evacuated. The dense, black, toxic plume put Hamilton on the map for hundreds of
    miles in every direction. While Public Health Department officials say
    there should be no long-term effects, residents, firefighters, and
    police officers all report troubling symptoms.

    In an odd twist, Hamilton’s
    previous state of emergency concerned the same property. Early in the
    ‘90s, a metal recycling plant on the site had closed. In 1993 some teems
    broke into the abandoned factory and made off with a quantity of deadly

12.  IT TAKES A VILLAGE: In the last 25 years, Hess Village has become the most vibrant
place in Hamilton
for Night Life. Yet, year after year its existence is threatened and
activities curtailed by ongoing complaints from area residents.

Hamilton Magazine humbly makes two suggestions for keeping Hess Village
thriving for another 25 years: a). Local residents with noise complaints
should do it quietly; b). those who go to Hess Village
to party should make less noise than the residents.

Why can’t we all get along?

  1. BOUGHT THE FARM: Upper James, in fact much of the Mountain, was once a place
    where farms flourished. However, like all cities, Hamilton had to expand. In the
    process, all the lovely farms up on the escarpment were bulldozed to
    create the same Shopping
    Theme Park found
    on the outskirts of any city anywhere.

Downtown Dundas is as quaint and perfect an example of small town Ontario still existing among the urban sprawl in the Oshawa – Hamilton
corridor. While other small towns have lost many of their older buildings, Dundas’ storefronts
retain that same nostalgic quality, while serving a vibrant and active local

    Be honest: Who hasn’t called it Slime
    Ridge Mall at one time or another? When Lime Ridge Mall opened, it
    changed forever the shopping patterns of Hamilton residents.

14.  FAVOURITE SON: The Honourable Lincoln “Call me Linc” Alexander has had many accomplishments
in his 80 plus years. He was the first Black Member of Parliament,
representing Hamilton West from 1968 through 1980. Named Ontario’s first Lt. Governor of colour, he
served as the Queen’s representative from 1985 to 1991. In addition, in 1997,
a highway was named after him. How perfect is it that the affectionate nickname
for the roadway that brings Hamiltonians together is The Linc? Making the
irony even more delicious is the fact that Linc has never driven a car in his
life. License or not, at his 80th Birthday Bash then-Premier Mike
Harris presented him with his own provincial vanity plate reading LINC 80.

    With the stroke of midnight January 1st 2001, the city of Hamilton swallowed Stoney Creek, Flamborough, Ancaster,
    and Dundas
    in. Overnight the city’s population jumped from 387,000 to 489,457. Like
    all the other amalgamations across the province it was sold to us as
    revenue neutral, but taxpayers have lost dearly as costs are downloaded
    onto residents.

15.  A BRIDGE TOO FAR: After years of arguments, proposals, studies, cancelled tunnels,
and construction the newly twinned Burlington
Skyway Bridge
is officially reopened on October
10, 1985 and dubbed the Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway at a
cost of $41.8 million. In attendance was James N. Allan himself.

    OPP Constable Paul Brammer has the dubious honour of investigating the
    first fender-bender on the newly opened Burlington Bay James N. Allan
    Skyway, a mere 14 minutes after the official dedication. The crash pits
    Transportation Ministry official Alfred Wittenberg’s 1984 Datsun against an ’85 Mazda, driven by St. Catherines reporter Kevin
    Hodges. The damage? Four-hundred dollars and some bruised egos.

The High
Level Bridge
has always made a grand, if understated, entrance into Hamilton. On July 11, 1988, the High
Level Bridge
was refurbished and rededicated the Thomas
B. McQuesten High
Level Bridge,
honouring both the city’s past and a man crucial to Hamilton’s development. Thomas McQuesten is largely responsible for the RBG and the
province’s system of highways. The High
Level Bridge,
by any name, is an architectural treasure and the best way to enter Hamilton.

  1. DOLLARS TO DONUTS: In October
    1999, Hamilton’s
    World Famous Tim Hortons
    Store Number One re-opened after extensive renovations. However, rather
    than using the opportunity to create a time capsule to reflect its 1964
    origins, the donut shop on Ottawa near Main was redecorated to look like
    any other Timmys anywhere else in the world.
    Gone was the chance to give Hamilton an
    interesting cultural donut Mecca
    to remind the city of its working-class roots. Oh well. At least they
    erected a nice big plaque to commemorate the event.

17.  BORIS AND NATASHA: Despite Boris Brott calling Hamilton Magazine one of his pet
peeves in a 1981 Hamilton Spectator article, we are going to show how
magnanimous we can be by including the Peripatetic Maestro on the To Be
Remembered List. Love him or hate him – there seems to be no middle ground –
Brott has invigorated the Hamilton
music scene since his 1969 arrival to twirl baton for the Hamilton
Philharmonic Orchestra. He wears his Order of Canada with pride and has never
stopped being a booster of the city of Hamilton,
with his Summer Music Festival, despite all the bad press he has received
over the years.

    The beautiful Birks Building, at the corner of King
    and James streets, was already gone when Hamilton Magazine began
    publishing, but the ornate “Charging Horsemen” clock that
    greeted passers-by remained. However, in 1984 it was taken away and
    reinstalled two years later outside Jackson Square following extensive
    repairs. Only two weeks after the clock was put back into the downtown
    area, the plug was pulled. The charging horsemen were not working
    properly. The clock was beginning to sag, causing the horsemen to run
    into each other. The clock has had many problems and been repaired many
    times since and although the “Charging Horsemen” no longer charge
    the clock still sits outside of Jackson Square.

18.  URBAN RENEWAL #? If you have ever watched Anne of Green Gables, you have seen it.
If you’ve driven past Whitehern, at 41
Jackson Street West, you come to understand why
it’s considered one of the best examples of Victorian life in Canada.
It is also one of Hamilton’s
greatest architectural treasures. In 1991, the Natural Historical Sites and
Monuments Board recognized Whitehern for its historical and architectural
significance and once again an honour was bestowed upon Thomas McQuesten, Whitehern being his former-estate. Future
generations of Hamiltonians will be able to tour a truly beautiful building
and grounds and future movies will be able to film there.

  1. CHOCOLAT: When Laura Secord closed its doors at 113 King Street East in 1984, for
    the last time, they had been in business in the same location for more
    than seven decades. They opened on October 20, 1913 to supply the City of Hamilton with
    Laura’s famous candies.
19.  URBAN RENEWAL # ?: A $125,000 facelift in 1995
saved one of the architectural treasures of downtown Hamilton. The Right House was built between
1890 and 1893, and has watched over the corner of Hughson and King for well
over 100 years. When it was converted into spaces for service oriented
businesses, it gave The Right House, Hamilton’s
first department store, a new lease on life. [DRAFT] William Stewart &
Son architectural wonder that was the Right House is retained on King Street.
    It was a
    sad day indeed when, in January of 1983, The Right House – Hamilton’s first
    large department store – closed its doors for the last time.

20.  CHINA FOOD: The Pagoda Chop Suey House at 85 ½ King Street East
is the oldest established restaurant in Hamilton,
having opened in 1942. At one time, it was the only place to buy ethnic eats
in Hamilton.
However, as Hamilton
has come of age more restaurants, representing every corner of the globe,
have opened. The discerning diner can eat in Thailand one night and taste
Indian curry the next. Typical of this trend is The Roti
Hut on Main Street East.
A Roti is Caribbean
fast food and is singularily delicious. When you
can buy a tasty Roti, you just know a city has come
of age.

  1. CHINA DOLL: For more than six decades, neighbour to Laura Secord was the
    Herbert S. Mills China Shop, with an international reputation. The shop
    originally opened at 11
    King Street in 1924 and was one of the
    first china shops in North America to
    stock fine bone china. Among customers was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s mother,
    who bought china for the White House in the ‘30s. An order for the
    Japanese Embassy in Washington,
    D.C. alarmed the F.B.I.
    and concluded in some cloak and dagger operations. The spooks learned
    the order was placed by a December 6, 1941 telegram demanded the china be
    shipped before the next day, or not at all. This convinced them the
    ambassador must have known about Pearl Harbor since he was too anxious for the
    Mills order. The Herbert S. Mills China Shop closed in 1985.

21.    A DAY AT THE BEACH: The natives called it “Daonasedao,”
meaning “where the sand forms a bar.” Étienne Brûlé may have been
the first European to see when he passed through these parts in 1615. A
strategic site militarily, skirmishes were fought there during the War of
1812. In the mid-‘70s battle lines were drawn again on the Hamilton Beach Strip, as the city bought up properties in order to form a huge park. In the
end 170 houses were razed and the residents were
upset by this plan to turf them out.  Hamilton’s Beach Strip was officially sanctioned as a
residential area in 1983 and it is now a thriving community.

    It was certainly a day worthy
    of forgetting when the sheriff bolted the doors and seized the property
    at The Chicken Roost in 1986. Today it’s the site of Cheapies Record
    Store, but at one time, the lines snaked down the block to get into one
    of Hamilton’s
    most fondly remembered restaurants. The Roost opened at 67-69 King Street East
    on October 1, 1948
    by the Mintz Brothers Max and Benny. The desired
    delicacy was the signature Chicken on a Bun, with BBQ Sauce, a recipe
    smuggled from Toronto.
    For a while CHML’s Meet at the Chicken Roost,
    with Gordie Tapp,
    could be heard on the radio every Saturday night. The original owners
    sold to out-of-town businessmen in 1984, but they could not make a go of
    it. On May 11, 1986,
    interested parties could wander aimlessly in a Frid Street warehouse where the
    former contents would be auctioned, ending an illustrious run as one of Hamilton’s great
22.  THAT’S THE WAY NIAGARA FALLS: It has stood for millions of years, carved out by the glaciers
that scoured the countryside as they advanced and retreated. When the last
Ice Age ended Head of the Lake was left with
its unique geography and geology.

On February 8, 1990
UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)
recognized what Hamiltonians have long known and declared the Niagara
Escarpment as an International Biosphere reserve.

The Bruce Trail
runs through the escarpment for more than 800 kilometres, from Queenston near Niagara to Tobermory
on The Bruce Peninsula, making it the largest footpath in Canada. And, some of its
loveliest sites are right here in Hamilton.

    They tell us it’s not
    as bad as it once was and we are winning the battle against pollution in
    Hamilton Harbour. However, the question
    still begs itself: When will it be safe for our children to swim there?
23.  TO MARKET, TO MARKET: Unlike many cities and even smaller towns, Hamilton has managed to retain its Farmer’s
Market. Now housed under the Main Library (where much of the research for
this article was conducted, incidentally), the market has operated, in one
form or another, since April 14, 1837 when Andrew “Yankee” Miller deeded the
land to the city for 5 shillings in tax arrears. At the ripe old age of 166
years it is still one of the liveliest places in the city to buy fresh
produce and meats and a walk through The Market is like a walk around the
    The Farmer’s Market moved to
    its current location in 1980. At the time Rick Butwick,
    a Waterdown farmer and Market vendor said
    about the new facilities, “It looks more like the inside of a battleship
    than a market.” And it still looks the same way 23 years later. Which
    begs the question: Whose crazy idea was it to put the Farmer’s Market in
    a concrete barn of a space?
24.  WADE INTO DEEP WATERS: Although current-Mayor Rob Wade has stuck with his predecessor’s
decision not to make any more proclamations [See #24 to the right], he has
been more proactive by walking in the Hamilton Gay Pride March and has even
allowed the rainbow flag to fly over city hall. Nary was a protest heard.
Maybe Hamilton
is growing up.
  1. MAYOR McCHEESE: In 1991, former-mayor Rob Morrow gained the ire of Gays and
    Lesbians nationwide when he steadfastly refused to proclaim Gay Pride
    Week in Hamilton.
    Angered at the mayor’s intransigence, Joe Oliver decided to take the
    case to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, arguing he was discriminated
    against based on his sexual orientation. After almost 4 years, the OHRC
    agreed, ordering Mayor Morrow to proclaim Gay Pride Week if asked again.
    He was in 1985, and so he did. That was the last proclamation ever made
    by the Mayor’s Office. In order to avoid having to ever proclaim Gay
    Pride Week again, the mayor promptly went out of the proclamation
    business. Say goodbye to McHappy Day.
25.  HAMILTON GOES INTERNATIONAL: After several years of investigation, followed by a complete
exoneration, John C. Munro gets his final reward from the federal government
when Mount Hope
Airport was renamed the John C.
Munro Hamilton
International Airport
on April 6, 1998.
Munro – like Sheila Copps who took over his seat when he retired – Munro
never forgot his Hamilton roots and always
managed to make sure the city came in for Ottawa’s largess when money was being doled
  1. RETURN TO SENDER: John C. Munro’s “Return to Greatness” mayoralty campaign in
    2000 was a disappointment for his backers and the once mighty federal
    minister who could do no wrong. He spent $206,782 to garner a mere
    14,308 votes, or about $14.50 per vote.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.