The park took most of the block consisting of Ottawa street, Booth street, Wellington street and, Broad street. The aqueduct separated the park, so that at the north end of the park was the smaller kids end, while the south end of the park was for the older kids and teens.
I spent most of my free time at the park. It was where the gang hung out. I learned to skate, play hockey, baseball, horse shoes in that park.
The small kid area had a sand box, 12 kiddy swings, a kids pool, merry go around and monkey bars. As a kid, I used all of the facilities. In the winter however everyone went to the other side of the aqueduct to skate and play hockey.
The pool was to shallow to be able to swim in it, but on a hot summer’s day it was a great place to splash and cool off. The water was always refreshing, since the pool would overflow with all the kids in it, that the park supervisor would have to add more city water on a regular basis. The pool was emptied at night, before the supervisors left for the day.
The sand box was used quite a bit by the smaller children, but on occasion you would get a creative teenager or parent, who would construct a large castle. Of course this meant getting water from the pool, which resulted in several volunteers to get pail after pails of water.
There were 12 kiddy swings made of wood and hung up on chains. The type of chair that had three sides with an opening at the front and a bar that raise up and down to set the child in. As I got too big to sit in the seat part, I would sit atop of the seat itself and swing for hours. By the time I was 12, they had set up larger swing on the south side of the park.
The merry go round consisted of 5 long boards you sat on, facing inwards and someone would volunteer to push it around. Now if you pushed it from the outside, it would turn nice and slow. However if someone got inside and began to push, it would go a lot faster. It was a ride that could be a lot of fun and scary at the same time, as you held on for dear life, when you got someone to push it real fast. I don’t recall anyone falling from the merry go round, but I must admit it came close at times. Then again, whoever was push it, took in consideration who was sitting on it.
The monkey bars was my favourite activity in the spring. Going hand over hand from one end to the other, seemed always to be a lot of fun. As I grew older, hanging upside down from it was one of the tricks everyone did. Every spring a new set of blisters would appear on my hands from moving on the monkey bars.
It was also a great place to bring my younger brothers, when I was old enough to baby sit. Strangely, I don’t recall seeing many parents there.
By the time I was 12 years old, I began to spend more time on the south side of the park, with the older kids. It consisted of 6 swings, with boards as a seat. I’m sure there is a good reason for the webbing they use now, which becomes very uncomfortable as you swing. Then again, I can’t recall anyone getting hit in the head with the wooden seats.
The ground was covered in crushed stone, so playing football, other than tag football wasn’t done. Almost daily, during the summer school break you could see a baseball game going on. This by all means was not organized, just a bunch of kids and teens playing a game.
As for horse shoes, I got many a blister playing that game also.
There were a few tables, where you could play checkers.
As the weather got cooler in the fall, each day I would look to see if the boards for the rink were being put up. Tall polls were erected from which hung the lights and speakers and, then the boards were set up. Soon it would be cold enough for the ice to be formed. In the winter months there was one man, who flooded the rink and supervised the park. There was the shack where you could change from your boots to your skates, which had a coal stove to keep it warm. The speakers blared out music during the periods of time where only skating was aloud. If the nets were on the rink, you could play hockey, if not it was just skating time.
Clearing the snow from the ice, was done by the kids. There was no problem with finding volunteers to remove the snow, to get a game of hockey started. Again this was not organized, just a bunch of kids divided into two teams to play a game. I must admit it could be very confusing for someone watching as there were no team sweaters. And yes, not only did I wear magazines wrapped around my shins as shin pads, but so did a lot of my friends. I don’t recall ever wearing shoulder pad. The only players who wore pads supplied by the park, were the goalies. One size does not fit all, when it comes to goalie pads, I know from experience. Of course there was little body check and the puck remained mostly on the ice surface, but then you played the puck, not the man.
Although I really enjoyed playing hockey, my favourite time on the ice, was when the music played for skating. I still enjoy just taking my time and skating.
The lights would flicker, meaning it was time to leave the rink, get your boots as the park closed at nine PM. There were many of Friday nights, we would stay around, waiting for the supervisor to leave and get back onto the ice for another hour of skating in the dark.
There is nothing left of the park, as the transit way runs through the south end of the park and a bicycle path runs through the north side, but each time I pass by the aqueduct, I can’t help but remember the park, the friends I played with and the fun we all had.
Can you imagine a bunch of teens standing by a small transistor radio and singing away the new song. Or one of them telling a joke, causing all the others to laugh out loud. Listening to the dreams of each of your friends, as to what they want to be when they grow up. Is that what kids do at the malls.
I do have to tell you a funny story that took place in the park. You must understand, that I’m part of a very large family, with many cousins. Some I knew well and some I got to meet first when I was 12. Richard is one cousin, I first met, when his parents move in the neighbourhood. Jean-Marc is a cousin I knew most of my life. One day, while at the park, Richard asked to borrow my bike. Of course I let him have it. Just as Richard was getting on the bike, Jean-Marc came into the park at the far end. Thinking Richard was stealing my bike, Jean-Marc pulled him off the bike and pushed Richard to the ground. I was able to pulled them apart from each other, before either got to badly injured. We all had to laugh when I introduced them as cousins.
Story Note – All stories will have a title for easy finding and which family it is about in brackets. Stories take place from the beginning of the 1900s to present and therefore there will be things that may not go over well in a present day mind. Spankings were only a couple of swats on the bottom. Pets were not the fluffy pampered animals of today but working animals who earned their keep as well as being loved by the children. Smoking and drinking was a normal part of life even if Moms were pregnant or kids were present in the car or room, especially smoking.