I went for lunch today with my old pal Bruce Miller. I chose the Original Joe’s on 102 Avenue because a) it’s relatively cheap and good (I always have a wrap, which is enough food for today’s AND tomorrow’s lunch), and b) I wanted to see the gaping hole where the old metal bridge used to be.
If you’ve lived in Edmonton for any time, chances are you went over the 102 Avenue bridge. I can’t imagine how many thousands of times I went over that bridge, mostly as a kid. It was sort of my gateway to the world, or at least to downtown Edmonton. Some world, eh?
I grew up on 102nd Avenue, in a big red brick house that was big enough for me and my 10 siblings. Traversing that weird metal bridge was something I did thousands of times, but it always gave me a tiny frisson of excitement. In a car, the wheels hummed their own unique tune; you don’t get many chances to hear rubber on metal, so it was always briefly entertaining. Going across the bridge on a bike was a whole different experience — scary, actually. I always felt that you could lose control easily, which was probably untrue, but it was still thrilling. The option was to ride on the sidewalk, which, as I recall, was made out of wooden planks. But that presented its own problems, as it always seemed that one could topple off their bike, over the railing, and — splat! — onto Groat Road below. OK, not very likely, but hey. I was a kid.
On one side of the bridge were the homes of the Glenora area. On the other side were the businesses of Glenora. As a young consumer, they were the establishments where I would spend my hard-earned allowance money on Saturday morning. The focal point of my universe was the intersection of 124th Street and 102 Avenue. On the corner where an upscale restaurant and the Glenora bed-and-breakfast sits was Carrington Drugstore. This is where I would go to buy my Mad magazine once a month (15 cents originally, then 25, then 40, etc.) or my pocketbooks of compilations of Peanuts cartoons (which I still have). It was also a popular spot to buy Mother’s Day gifts of pocketbooks of mom’s favourites, Agatha Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart (known as the American Christie), and the occasional collection of Erma Bombeck columns. It was also where we would go to buy smokes for mom. Seriously. It was a different world.
Next door was a tiny grocery store where I would buy my Saturday candy. I don’t know the name of it, but since it was run by a couple of little old ladies, we called it the old ladies’ store. One of the ladies was a nice old British dame, the other was a kind of crabby old broad who got very impatient if you took too long to pick out your candy. If for whatever reason the old ladies’ store wasn’t open, or you wanted something different, you could cross 124th Street and go to the diner, which also had a supply of candy and some terrible ‘humor’ magazines called Broadway Laffs, or something like that. I don’t know the name of that place either, but since it was owned by some Chinese people, it was, or course, the Chinamen’s. The only remnant of the area that survives today is the Esso station, where dad would stop for a fill and maybe some NHL Power Players stickers, or a stuffed ‘tiger tail’ (Esso’s slogan being ‘put a tiger in your tank’).
Closer to the bridge was a small grocery store called Fong’s Food Market, which I didn’t much care for. It had a lunch counter of sorts, which my brother Gary frequented. I have no idea why. Closer to the bridge was a small office building which still exists today, but it was not the kind of place I went to willingly. On the main floor was my barber — first it was Fred, and Fred’s Barber Shop, then when Fred retired or died or whatever old barber’s do, it was taken over by a guy named John, who called it John’s Barber Shop. I remember getting my hair cut there once, plunking myself down in a chair in a room full of old people who like to hand around in barber shops. I got some nasty looks from the old coots because I sat on one of their hats. Who puts their hat on a chair?
Upstairs, however, was a fate worse than Fred’s — the dentist. His name was something like Lindskoog, and I suspect he retired early or bought a boat or something based entirely on the money earned from Tougas family teeth. In the days before fluoride, our teeth were cesspools of decay, which Dr. Lindskoog happily drilled and filled. My sons barely have a half-dozen cavities between the three of them; when we were kids, if we only had a half-dozen cavities to fill on a visit, we considered that a pretty good check-up.
And as for the building where Original Joe’s sits today — I don’t know what was there. it was some kind of manufacturing facility, or a garage, or something. Whatever it was, it held no interest to a kid and his allowance.
It’s weird to see nothing where that old metal bridge once stood. Pretty much everything else on 102 Avenue has changed, so I guess losing the bridge is hardly surprising. But still, I kind of miss that old humming sound.