How did we lose it?


Ronnie Mac writes: Bells Corners was something to marvel at for those who visited in the Sixties. Streets were always busy, business was most probably booming and Rick Chiarelli had just been voted in as a school board trustee. We are talking ancient history. I, on the other hand, had just returned from Montreal, QC (1 Rue Notre-Dame is the Montreal Courthouse).

I see progress in Bell’s Corners, but then I know we can ALWAYS do better with a little more interest and involvement from the community. I see community associations as becoming a thing of the past, as it seems to have become an inconvenience for residents to get involved, with the exception of a dedicated few.

What led to the degradation, lack of understanding and appreciation of the word community? I recall closing down a street for community days and it was an awe-inspiring sight. My father, and in fact many fathers in the neighborhood, would roll out the hibachi grills. Mothers would gather together to gossip, adjust their girdles and discuss the men, and, with the exception of an overwhelmingly thick cloud of cigarette smoke and glass ashtrays scattered about (remember, this is 1964), it was the very definition of community.

How did we lose it?

Fast-forward to 2011 – I can tell you the name of my neighbor to my immediate left and right but nothing more. Frankly, in many cases, I’m not too sure I would like to know them.

Oddly enough, these things have come full circle many a time and I believe that Bells Corners as a whole is heading in the right direction. Residents may not hold our captains in the highest esteem but we’re not taking on too much water just yet.

– Your nostalgia for the Bells Corners of the Sixties resonates with me. Watch an episode of Mad Men if you want to relive the era.

Closing the street for block parties sounds like fun. They still do it all the time in Montreal and probably in a lot of other places too. It’s the type of thing that Bells Corners desperately needs, as I agree with you that the concept of community, while on the run everywhere, is especially weak in Bells Corners. It was the first thing that struck me when I moved here from the Crystal Beach area and it’s why I revived the dormant Lynwood Village Community Association.

During my reign as president/rink operator/community building manager (before Rick fired me) I was always looking for opportunities to build community spirit. Events like community beautification projects, the Earth Day celebrations, the litter-picking parades, the bicycle coop in Lynwood Park and Fun Days 2010, 2009 were steps in the right direction.

P.S. Ronny, I cleaned up your comment, just correcting a few typos, and editing for brevity and clarity. I do it to encourage people to comment – readers would be less likely to weigh in if they have to spend a lot of time proofreading and editing, for fear someone will mock their spelling. It’s the thought that counts, not the grammar, so I hope the rough ride you got here doesn’t discourage others from participating.

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9 Responses to How did we lose it?

  1. Rich Littleton says:

    Double income families killed community. Back in the ’60s in Nepean most wives were homemakers and socialized with other homemakers in the neighbourhood. Preschool-aged kids were at home with mom and played with neighbourhood kids instead of being shipped off to daycare as soon as they’re off the tit, or even before.

    Kids walked home from school for lunch with their local buddies. Neighbourhood house parties (cocktail and fondue were popular) – no big stretch. After all, the wives were hanging out playing bridge during the day. Stay-at-home moms were the roots of community. Now everyone is running in the rat race to buy the oversized house on the undersized lot, with all the toys, and is too tired to care about much else.

    – You’re making me feel nostalgic for my childhood – your description of life in the Sixties in a neighbourhood like Bells Corners sure rings true with me. The local parks were always teeming with kids playing pick-up games of baseball, hockey or touch football – no need for expensive equipment or parents to organize everything and drive us everywhere.

    Things were very different for the baby boomers growing up in the Sixties, when it seemed that anything was possible, that there no limits to growth and that all technological progress was good. Everyone believed in the American Dream then, at least until Kennedy was assassinated and the Vietnam War shattered our illusions.

    Your description of modern day life in Bells Corners is also, sadly, on the mark for many people. Maybe it explains why voter turnout is low, community associations are mere shells, neighbours are often complete strangers, teenagers often feel alienated and the important decisions are in the hands of a small clique of professional politicians and developers.

  2. margaret says:

    Some streets do still have block parties. Think there has to be a permit. Nepean frowned upon them, but unofficial ones took place, and possibly still do. It was certainly a good way to meet neighbours, even more so than the big community fun days.

    Community involvement was not just in the ’60s. Bells Corners in the ’70s and ’80s, and maybe even the ’90s, was still ‘family-oriented’ – mothers at home with time to volunteer in schools and other places.

    Parents did things with their kids. As Rich said – they do not have much free time now, both parents working, and everything has to be ‘organized’ to keep some form of structure within the family. Nothing is spontaneous – sad.

    The community pulls together when there’s some new development, ensuring that parks, schools and infrastructure are there, or when there’s a big problem that will impact upon property values. This was BC in the 60s – 90s. It was developing and constantly changing. There were planning issues and traffic issues. Then in the 2000s it had all been developed, things slowed down and all was calm apart from smaller local issues.

    I was involved with my community association for years, until 10 years ago when I was informed that the CA was there for ‘fun things only’ and not working for or representing the general community. I just pulled out of all involvement in the community. I hear that the CA is evolving again. That is good. Maybe it’s that cycle thing.

    Talking of cycling, Owl – keep up the good work with your community spirit and bike-taxi. This is the kind of neighbourhood spirit we need – impromptu local stuff, not the organized photo-ops like Stanley Cup visits or Piping in the Tulips pseudo-events.

    Now that would’ve been great … you and the bike-taxi and the Cup, doing a free “Ride with Stanley” – and how about a ‘fee’ per ride (a donation of cans for the foodbank).

    Maybe it’s time for BC to become something different. The basics are there. We ‘old-timers’ want it better than it is, and remember how it used to be. But the community needs new blood to reinvent itself. Some things are worth keeping, some things need changing – we just have to make sure that we change the right things along the way. To ensure that, the community itself needs to be a key player.

    Maybe it’s time for the ‘old-timers’ to start getting involved again – in fact I’ve just started doing that. We can become complaisant and sit back ( isn’t that what retirement is all about?)

    That is what I did, locally, though I still volunteered elsewhere, until ….. there was a local issue. Didn’t like what I was seeing so decided to do something. I came back.

    Grey Power is something else! Long may we live!

    – At least until the 2014 elections please. I like to call it Silver Power – like my dad I started to go gray in my twenties.

    I would have LOVED to escort Stanley around Bells Corners on the bike-taxi – now THAT’S a photo op, much better than what the Citizen went with – blonde Hooters-style waitresses kissing the cup in Rick’s Bells Corners Local Heroes (where the councillor and the other political/development industry/big businessmen/City bureaucrats gather weekly for taxpayer-funded “breakfast strategy meetings.” (Alex and Jay have to sit at a separate kids’ table.)

    Community associations should NOT be just for “fun things” – to deny their political role may suit the current appointed LVCA executive, the City managers and our local career politician just fine, but it’s a perversion of our democratic model.

    A couple of Team Chiarelli supporters, with support from Rick’s minions and City bureaucrats, used this “community-associations-must-not-be-political” idea as leverage to ban me from the Lynwood Village Community Association and bring it under the councillor’s wing.

    Mistake! I bet Rick wishes he could put the genie back in the bottle – his heavy-handed blundering and bullying has awoken the community, even the old-timers!

  3. margaret says:

    The picture of BC … when was this ? The late ’70s early ’80s?

    Looks like one from the old ‘Clarion’ paper.

    Bel Air (was this the one with the pool?) … Consumers Distributing …. Alexanians … Midas …. McDs and the caboose

    Ought to have a competition to see who can remember all the names of what used to be the Vox … for old times sake 🙂

    Times have changed ….

    – The photo is from Dr. Bruce S. Elliott’s book, The City Beyond, A History Of Nepean. He was the historian who opposed Rick at the Apr. 12 Planning Committee meeting.

    The commenters on this post mention many of the Vox’s former names.

  4. TonyL says:

    Other long forgotten businesses from Lynhar Plaza: Leo’s Barbershop/hobbystore, Mother’s Restaurant (which is now Cock N Bull, I think?), Arby’s (it was in the Loblaws parking lot, torn down 1993-ish), Re-Runs Consignment Shop, and Duffy’s Smorgasbord.

    I think in the late ’70s, beside or near the Mini Mart, there was a pet store of some sort. Remember Big Al’s Aquarium store in the Classixxx mall? It was there for years. And who can forget K-Mart?

    – I loved Big Al’s – it was one of Bells Corners biggest tourist attractions at the time.

    “Look for the K and you save more!” Was that part of the K-Mart jingle?

    • margaret says:

      Lynhar …. don’t forget the IGA … the best in the west – friendly staff

      Problem with Lynhar – when it lost IGA and was allowed to go industrial rather than just commercial/retail – it changed the whole feel of the place

      K-Mart … it will always be K-Mart in my mind and never Zellers

      the RBC when it was a hole in the wall at the corner of Loblaws … it is about time something was done with this plaza and its contents

      Arby’s … never could understand why they built that stand-alone and then it disappeared

      there was a discount store – was it Lascals or something like that – where CDC/Chipworks is and then it was a teak store

      and don’t forget we had the IKEA store

      Duffs – tried it once and that was it for me …. did I see in the Vox article where someone said it used to be the Golden Griddle? don’t remember that

      Ponderosa was good and cheap.

      Hooters …. ?? no comment

      Mothers was good

      Corkscrew and the Keg were good
      Bellamys OK for families

      Foody Goody … now that was a new approach and it worked then disappeared only to be copied by others
      Steenbakkers lumber near the old City Hall (Pizza Hut), Bytown and another lumber place on the north side of Robertson where Davis/Henderson and the Fastner place is. Then there was another hardware Do it something / then White Rose where FreshCo is now, which killed off Fines Flowers in the Westcliffe plaza …. changes changes changes

      This is not just the story of Bells Corners – it happens everywhere … demographics change, shops come and go, they either fade away or get bigger than the area can support or move to where the market is and the price is right for better profit

      Thanks for the memories

      Now all we need to do is get rid of all the overhead wires and poles on the strip
      and get Bell Sympatico to move to the area so it can update its ‘service’ to the community …. we’re the island in the greenbelt that Bell forgot – part of the urban area of Canada’s capital and all that we get is essentials + … no high speed …. thanks Ma Bell.

      – From this post: “Al’s Steak House was the home of the Steenbakker family, gas stations were few and far between, LaSalle Factory was the main shopping outlet, and there was lots of vacant land.:

      more nostalgic stuff

  5. TonyL says:

    As for the Hooters building, it was (as Craig mentioned) The Ponderosa Steakhouse and Chevy’s.

    GM didn’t like their name being used without permission, so the owners of Chevy’s had a renaming contest, and the winning name was “Legends” – this was in 1989 and my neighbor won the contest, first prize a Red 1989 Dodge Daytona! The license plate said I1DIS (I won this) in a cool font (typeface?).

    Bells Corners is just so full of trivia and history!

    – A lot of people have it tattooed on their backsides.

  6. margaret says:

    and still on memories … belated Happy 160th Birthday Bell’s Corners

    in 2001 I wrote the ‘history’ of Westcliffe in relation to Bell’s Corners (note the apostrophe)

    “By 1852 there were three licensed taverns, including Hugh Bell’s (present day Bell’s Corners Public School), Malcomson’s (later bought by James Browne and converted to an inn called the ‘British Hotel’), and Robertson’s store and tavern. By 1842 the intersection was known as Bell/Browne’s Corner, with a carpentry shop, a shoemaker, tailor and blacksmith. In the next 10 years, business boomed. There were three taverns, three shoe shops, two smithies, two carpentry shops, a tailors, a new store and post office, a union church and one home. On August 6, 1851, the settlement officially became known as Bell’s Corners.”

    I was asked why it took so long to be named when there had been ‘life’ in the area before then. Think the answer goes back to old English laws – a hamlet was a rural settlement, too small to be considered a village, but when a hamlet became large enough to justify building a church, it was then classified as a village.

    • Al Gardiner says:

      When did Bell’s Corners become Bells Corners. . .was it the Post Office that initiated this?
      Regards, Al

      – For many people it’s STILL Bell’s Corners (and for a smaller number Diefenbaker is still PM).

  7. ottawaowl says:

    I got an invitation to a block party today. Were there block parties in Bells Corners back in the good old days of Nepean? Anyone got a story?

    Hi there Bike-taxi Guy!

    I just wanted to invite you to join us again at this year’s Britannia Block Party. You were such a big hit last year giving kids rides in the park – many folks have asked if you are coming back. No pressure, but if you’d like to come by, we’d all love to see you (and I’d be happy to provide you with the beverage of your choice if you let me know what it is!)

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