The Orillia Stroll (Before Niagara)


Wow, it was busy on the notorious Highway 401 in Toronto and then the QEW that took us to Niagara Falls.

Busy, busy, busy.

It’s a good thing I’m from Orillia, where men drive cars well and women crazy.

It’s so busy it reminds me of Joyce Ave. in Powell River on a Friday night.

It’ll be a fine day and evening here in Niagara. Warm, with a clear blue sky. I thought I could hear the roar of the falls from our hotel room but it’s possible it’s just my stomach.


I can’t stop thinking about Orillia.

I walked the main drag past the pool hall, which unfortunately burned down years ago, and past the Shangri-La, which is no longer the Shangri-La.

I rounded the corner and looked at the Geneva Theatre, where I saw The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur, and which is now a bingo hall, just across from the Top Hat pool hall, which was condemned decades ago.

I headed up to the arena, which was locked and is about to be torn down, and across the way, the Oval ballpark, where my peewee team shone, and is now a school.

Up the hill to my high school, which is closed and will be torn down this summer. The lady in the office let us walk around, and I wondered where my locker, where I kept all my cheat sheets, used to be.

Over to the church, which was locked, but which brought back fond memories of when I was an altar boy and set the back of my clothes on fire while lighting candles.

Down at the park, another ballpark where I probably almost hit several triples, has vanished, replaced by nothing. And I couldn’t bear to see the empty lot that was once the Club Pavalon dance hall.

The dock where I fished must have sunk. The change room where I stood on my bike and saw my first set of boobs is now a big fancy deal that you can’t see in, even on a bicycle.

Down I walked to the West Ward, where I grew up, and I gazed at the ballpark where one of future Maple Leaf Rick Ley’s fastballs knocked my front tooth out, and I wondered why home plate is now in the outfield and vice versa. And the outdoor rink with the wood stove in the old shack is now an old field with too many weeds.

Onward to the Moose Lodge, which is now an old folk’s home. Over to my house, which was bought by someone who decided to leave my dad’s artwork on the garage door, which isn’t far from the Dominion store where I played ball hockey and is now a medical centre.

Up to the hospital where I was born, and it’s still there. I didn’t recognize it, but it’s where my hospital was so it must be it. Across the street, West Ward school, where I went from grades one to three, is now  the hospital parking lot. My catholic school was torn down and replaced by another, although they kept the same name.

Down West St. to Otaco, the factory I worked in, and it’s now a field, and back up to P&M, another factory where I assembled toilet doors and Gulf signs, and I see it’s now a building full of offices.

I’ve missed Orillia. And other than a few things, it’s still the same old place.


9 thoughts on “The Orillia Stroll (Before Niagara)”

  1. Dennis, so let me get this right. Rick Ley knocked out your tooth and stole your hockey equipment? I might not like him as much if true.

  2. Don, yes. He borrowed my gloves and never gave them back, and I took one of his pitches in the mouth at McKinnel Square and lost my tooth.

  3. Hey Dennis

    Here on the ‘Sunshine’ Coast there is a definite lack of sunshine.Back in the day I worked for a large petrochemical company based in Sarnia. A company visitor from Europe was given a choice to see a Leafs game or to visit Niagara Falls.I was to accompany,as in drive, the visitor to his desired location.I was praying for a Leafs game … but darn the guy wants to see Niagara Falls!Damn!Soon after my first visit to Maple Leaf Gardens was a game between the Marlies and St. Catherines.

    I have driven across North America three times.I once took the long route over Lake Superior.

    No speeding tickets!I have been stopped 4 times in the USA for going a little too fast but never got a speeding ticket.Once in Minnesota the trooper wanted to talk about his recent BC vacation.I was only doing 70 mph but those were the 55 mph days.

    I am a big Gordon Lightfoot fan but Gordo has always had the reputation of being a jerk.

    Your wife is from a big city so Powell River may have been a culture shock in more ways than one.Montreal may be more like home in a way.

    Enjoy the big city life … those days are past for me.I like quiet …



  4. Sounds a bit like Bruce Springstein’s MY HOMETOWN!! Bring’s a tear to my eye every time I crank it up. John Prine says–“THEY WROTE IT ALL UP AS THE PROGRESS OF MAN” only I don’t always see the progress. Life is good though– D & L had a good ride ouer the mountains, ‘cross the Prarries ‘en thru the hills of Northern Ont, and my money says he’ll introduce himself to Marc Bergevin before the next snowfall outside THE BELL.

  5. Doug, Lightfoot had his bad days but he wasn’t a jerk all the time. A very nice person in fact. The Melody Maker writer seemed to be out for him. I never understood why you didn’t get a hold of me in Powell River. We seem to have similar pasts.

  6. Hey Peter Hab. What a great rip it’s been. Awesome in fact. Bergevin? I’ll wait till he calls me about that stick boy job.

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