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Niagara Falls
Sunday, March 3, 2024
Ross’s Ramblings: Of historic buildings, colourful celebrations and sad sports
As the baby shower celebration rages on at the community centre, Keta Patel proudly carries young Rudra. ROSS ROBINSON

Do Ross’s Ramblings focus too often on Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Old Town? At the risk of over-rambling, this week I will touch on three diverse subjects.

Firstly, a somewhat high level (for me) discussion of housing types and variety in our beloved Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Then, observations on a colourful cultural event at the NOTL Community Centre last Sunday, and ending with a brief note on the TV news.

Full disclosure: My late sister Pat Malicki of Windsor was the president of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario for five years and was an early promoter of Open Doors Ontario. A passionate building-hugger, without a doubt.

It is obvious that certain historical types of housing are loved and valued by both residents and visitors. They are most often in our heritage district and often built right to the sidewalk.

Look at the three historic attached dwellings at 155-119 Johnson St: more than enough square footage and within a short walk of Queen Street and the shops.

Perfect and so cozy for our town and so many people stop to admire this building and other buildings that cuddle up to the sidewalks.

I find it quite sad that this type of housing would not be allowed to be built under our current zoning regulations.

Our ancestors didn’t need a front lawn to cut on Saturday morning. Rather, they needed an area behind the house for a garden. Not petunias and gladiolas, but vegetables and fruits.

A chicken or two to lay eggs, a cow tied up for milk and, for the fortunate, a horse to get them to work, church and school.

And let’s not forget the very necessary outhouse, as indoor plumbing was not available to the masses until about 100 years ago.

A rope between the house and the outhouse, so we wouldn’t get lost and freeze to death during a blizzard in winter: Brrrrr. It happened more than once in my hometown of Virginiatown, just east of Kirkland Lake.

For municipal governments today, land is a finite resource. NOTL’s 139.2 square kilometres must be planned and developed to be as productive and valuable as possible.

Most modern towns enforce zoning that only allows the building of car-centric suburban sprawl. Houses are spread out from each other, with large front and back yards, wide driveways and wide streets.

This zoning separates residential homes from commercial businesses, schools and churches.

Minimum front yard setback, maximum lot coverage, maximum width of garage face. Riveting reading, to be sure.

What will the near future hold for us? Intensification, townhouses, condos and apartments. More residents to share the expenses of infrastructure and amenities.

How exciting, and not new stuff. We will be returning to old stuff. Exciting times indeed, for the open-minded and forward-thinking.

And just last Sunday at our wonderful and well-used community centre, I happened upon a baby shower organized by the Patel family. Who has all the fun?

They brought their own excellent sound system, colourful lights and balloon decorations.

Beautiful ladies in sarees, handsome men in multi-floral printed kurtas and kids of all ages in colourful clothing. Flowers, elegantly prepared food dishes and so many proud and beaming smiles.

Families from Niagara and the Greater Toronto Area celebrating the arrival of a new Canadian, catching up on the news and enthusiastically enjoying each other’s company.

They were genuinely happy to welcome me as a guest, just passing by on my way to our awesome public library to grab a book or two from the book sale.

And now, let’s return to our current lives in North America. Kind of weird and sad in some ways.

I flicked through the TV channels and watched a stop-and-start, chemically enhanced NFL game. The Buffalo Bills versus the Philadelphia Eagles.

I didn’t understand all the gibberish about “over under” and “prop bets” and I find it sad that blinking electronic signage has to instruct fans to “make some noise.”

Just a question, but if the Buffalo Bills ever left Buffalo, what would everybody in western New York state wear?

Where is our culture heading? NASCAR, WWF in the bloody octagon, and in 2028, Olympic Games, mixed offshore rowing, at a 1,500-metre distance?

As my day wound down, the evening news featured three consecutive segments where the Global TV anchor warned us: “This next story may contain images that are distressing to some viewers.”

What are we going to do to right this sad and sinking ship we call our society?

We are so fortunate to live in Canada … in 2023.

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