~ St. Catharines' Wartime Neighbourhoods

The Rosses – 248 Oakdale Ave.

~ From Ann (Ross) Martin

I grew up in 248 Oakdale Ave, which was a wartime house.  Our family moved from it in 1966.

There were 3 in a row from Capner St. to an empty lot and farm house next door to 248. It was owned by the Chadwick family who had originally owned all the land that the 3 wartime houses were built on (it had been a farm and they still kept chickens in the empty lot beside our house when I was small).

There were more wartime houses further down Oakdale (originally called Thorold Rd.) between Marren St. and Lincoln Ave. There was a whole neighbourhood of these houses one block down from there—- Barley Drive, Beverley St., Philip St.

Our house was covered with asbestos shingles originally and we were forbidden to bounce a ball against it as the shingles were very brittle.  The house was later pebble dashed and remains so now.  In 1960 my parents added a basement, changed the upstairs windows and redid the interior.  They plastered the walls which had originally been some form of dry wall (that was quite thin–not like today’s drywall).

We moved into the house which at the time was 137 Thorold Rd. in 1946.  My Dad was a Canadian soldier and my Mum was a British war bride.  I was born in England  so came to Canada with her.  Most of my childhood was spent in that house.

I have been thinking about some of the things I remember and some of the things my mother told me of our life when we first came to Canada.

We came out on the Aquitania in May of 1946.  My dad had come out several months earlier with the troops on the Isle de France.  I believe there were about 5 families an all arriving in St. Catharines with us.

In the St.Catharines – Canada’s Canal City, it mentioned rationing in England and implied there was none in Canada.  When we first arrived in 1946, there was still rationing here.  I have 2 ration books–mine and my mother’s, with a lot of the coupons still unused so it may not have lasted too long.  I also have a cookbook that all the war brides were given—-“Canadian Cook Book for British Brides“.  It is full of information about the differences between the 2 countries as far as shopping and cooking.

I remember as a very young child having an ice box in the shed that was attached to the back of the house.  It was much later that we got our first fridge.  Also in the shed was an area for coal that would be delivered by the coal truck.  The house was heated by a coal stove in the living room.  The heat came up to the 2 upstairs bedrooms through a wooden grate in the floor of each room.  I remember my brother and I playing marbles and the marbles dropping down through the grate onto my parents’ heads as they did the dishes in the kitchen below!

The kitchen originally had no cupboards, just metal shelves.  I remember my Dad and a neighbour making cabinets and closing in the archway between the kitchen and the living room.

A couple more memories:  riding in the ice truck down to the end of Capner St.  The driver would let us have a small chunk of ice to suck on—not sure now how sanitary that was!  I also remember the milk truck pulled by a horse.  Horses were often used still in those days and they would leave their manure on the road in front of our house. My mother was an avid gardener so she would happily go out and collect it for fertilizer.