Thursday, March 09, 2017

Those Places Thursday: Our Maple Street Home

296 Maple Street North – the only home my parents owned.

When I was growing up, my parents lived in various rented apartments or duplexes in the town where I was born, Timmins, Ontario. Some of these places were small like the upstairs apartment on Lincoln Avenue when I was a few months old and where Mom had to share the clothes washer in the basement. Other places were spacious like the three-bedroom duplex on Main Street when I was a young teenager. This house had a main floor, an upstairs, and a nice, cool basement, where I used to listen to my collection of 45s during the summers.

One evening in late winter of 1972, my parents and I went to see a house they were thinking of buying. It was newly built, awaiting its first buyers. We walked in the front door into a large living room with a roomy kitchen beyond it. There were three bedrooms and a bathroom on the main floor and a small back entrance with stairs that led to an unfinished basement. From the back bedroom window, I saw a large yard. To my amazement, I realized that the snow in the yard was almost as high as the window!

My parents bought this house at 296 Maple Street North and we moved in March 1972, 45 years ago this month. Since it was winter, Dad asked one of his friends who had a front-end loader to ‘shovel’ our backyard. Mom and Dad got the front bedroom, I got the middle bedroom (but no view because my window faced the house next door) and my sister and baby brother shared the back bedroom.

Maurice and Jacqueline Belair
Mom and Dad in our living room, New Year's Eve, 1973

It was exciting to move to a brand new house that was all ours, but there were some adjustments to make. For example, instead of belonging to our parish church on Commercial Avenue, we were now parishioners of the Cathedral in downtown. My sister Marianne changed elementary schools, but I opted to stay at my old school, St-Gérard. However, that decision meant I needed to take a city bus to get to the other side of town for school. There were only three months left in my Grade 8, so it was a small price to pay, and I got to be with my friends and teachers until the end of the school year.

Marianne Belair and Raymond Belair
Marianne and Raymond in our kitchen, ca 1974

In time, Dad made improvements to our house. He and friends built a one-car garage in the backyard (it was handy to the back lane) one summer. He also finished the basement with a family room (panelled in fake knotty pine, no less) and a workshop for himself.

Raymond Belair
Raymond in the front yard next to the evergreen Dad planted, 1974

Other improvements included putting up a white picket fence around the front yard and planting a small evergreen tree in the yard. (Mom used to say, “We planted that tree when Raymond was three.”) For her part, Mom, who loved wallpaper, papered the kitchen (her favorite patterns included ivy), parts of the living room and our bedrooms. She also put in green-patterned wall-to-wall carpeting in the kitchen, because Dad didn’t like the cold linoleum floor when he got up early in the mornings.

Cementing part of the backyard
Cementing part of the backyard, summer of 1977

One winter, Dad decided he had enough of paying high costs in heating, so he got a back issue of Popular Mechanics (Dad was a big reader of Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazines) from the public library. From the instructions in the magazine article, Dad fabricated a wood-burning stove using sheet steel. Since he was a welder by trade, it was a do-able project for him. He ran a line through the stove that fed the water heater, which heated our home’s hot water. In fact, that wood stove heated our house so efficiently that Ontario Hydro came to our house one day to see if something was wrong, because our bills were so low. One look at that wood stove convinced the hydro fellow that we had a legitimate heat source for our home.

Front yard winter 1978
Front yard, winter 1978. Dad was a CB enthusiast and he
installed a tower in the backyard (seen above the roof). 

We lived on Maple Street from 1972 until the summer of 1979. That year, we moved to British Columbia when Dad decided to give up working as a welder and start a road-building business with his younger brother Ray.

In May 2014, my husband, our son and I visited Timmins. I wanted to see the places where I lived, so one day we drove to as many of the homes that I could remember. The first house we drove by was 296 Maple Street North. It looked about the same as it did when I lived there.

Our old house (front yard), 2014

The fence in the front yard was gone, though, and there was brick siding on the house and a new living room window. The backyard had a fence, but Dad’s garage was still there. By the way, that little evergreen sure grew, didn’t it?

Back yard 2014
Our old house (back yard), 2014

Copyright © 2017, Yvonne Demoskoff.

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