Thursday, May 19, 2016

Things I forget to remember

These aren't all from Chatham where I grew up, but these first two are. The point is, I am the last generation on earth to remember milk being delivered by horse and wagon. I loved this as a child. Anything to do with horses was magical. That cloppa-cloppa-cloppa sound is still intoxicating to me.

It's hard to find photos of the era - some of these no doubt go back before my time. It's even harder to find any information at all about the actual practice of delivering milk door-to-door. There's just nothing there, no one who remembers anything. All of them have died, I guess.

This was anti-technology, and Silverwood's Dairy (horse and cart pictured above) in Ontario kept it going until about 1962. I don't know why: did it keep costs down? Eventually it became impractical to keep all those horses, and I would imagine most of them went to the slaughterhouse: Darling's glue factory, where the stench from rendered hoofs and hides was simply sickening in those hot Chatham summers.

With the cicadas buzzing. 

Every so often I go on Chatham historical sites - there are tons of them, Chatham people being preservation-minded and not inclined to rip down old buildings to slap up cardboard condos that go up instead of out. Last night I found a site listing old houses that looked very ordinary to me, but went back to 1850 or so. It honestly made me wonder, not for the first time, how old the house I grew up in was: some say 1920s, but it looked older to me than many of the 1850 ones. It had wrought-iron grates on the heat registers, a dumbwaiter, a weird closet-within-a-closet thing, a working fireplace with a terrazzo hearth (very rare then), a foyer, and ceramic fruit on the ceiling around the base of the old-fashioned glass chandelier.

I know people are living there again, because I got an email from one of them, which is nice because for about forty years it was used as a commercial building, a doctor's office. Now it has been changed back to a house again. A home, with a young couple and children. It has been a long, long time since small children (such as me) ran around in that place.

Anyway, in my late-night historical foraging, I found the house I used to play in with my friend Kim, whose father was a very distinguished, even world-renowned architect (which, by the way, Kim now is too). Who knew?  The houses he designed looked strange to us, with flat roofs and only one floor. Now they are known as "Storey houses" and much-prized. 

I also found the little variety store where I bought penny candy, now up for sale. They even showed the inside of it. Once I played with a little girl who lived up there with her mother and went to (I remember) Pentecostal Holiness Church. She asked me if I'd like to go to her church, and when I told my mother she was shocked that she even asked. I think now that she was afraid my friend might be black.

What's the point of all this? Nothing, except that it's gone forever, those days of organic things like wood and horseflesh. Brick has lasted a little bit longer.

And memory lasts, too. That is, until you die.


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