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Niagara Falls
Saturday, June 22, 2024
Ross’s Ramblings: Remembering the historic scents of our beautiful town
The smell of chili sauce used to waft across Queen Street when it was still made at Greaves. ROSS ROBINSON

Back on July 6, I rambled about the situation in our pretty town, after a particularly busy weekend when we had welcomed an amazing number of happy tourists. Visitors are blown away by our flower displays, set in well-weeded and fresh flower beds.

And so many visitors are in awe of the private gardens in NOTL. “Does the town do the landscaping?” No, our residents just enjoy gardening and tend their properties as if they own them.

After that ramble encouraged a lot of conversation around town, I happened to sit at a booth at the venerable Stagecoach with longtime NOTLer Dave Greaves, of the Greaves Jams family.

My rambling in The Lake Report had taken him back to the 1950s and 60s, and the sensory overload that was downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Today we are treated to the scents from NEOB Lavender and Budapest Bakeshop and Chimney Cakes, and the tantalizing aroma of bacon sizzling at the Stagecoach. Walking on Queen Street (should we consider renaming our main street Carnochan Street?) our nostrils are tickled by the smells of canna lillies, begonias, hydrangeas, petunias … and so many other flower varietals, as the seasons come and go on their annual schedule.

The town was really unique then, according to Dave. He recalled Jack Greene’s Livery on King Street, where the Aura on the Lake Indian restaurant is now, with all the strong scents that come with horses.

The livery rented horses for riding on the Commons and occasionally one returned without its renter rider. A search partyquickly would be organized and usually they found the rider walking back to town.

Nobody complained about the smells, as it was just an accepted part of living in NOTL.

And how about the strong and irresistible smells every fall from Greaves Jams when they were making chili sauce and relish. It was the drawing card, and even people from Fort Niagara and Youngstown would drive across the bridge and down “the River Road” to buy some sauces.

Every fall, there were the pungent odors from Gertrude Eckersley’s backyard, as she burned leaves and horse chestnuts. “Nobody complained and we all got along. Everybody knew everybody,” recalled Dave.

Niagara Home Bakery teased folks with fresh breads baking every day. With no preservatives, it only lasted for a day.

And we think the ice cream-licking phenomenon is new? In the ’50s and ’60s, right in Simcoe Park, there was a dance hall and refreshment stand. Lots of ice cream was sold, especially to soldiers staying out at Fort George.

Apparently a good number of local women married soldiers, as would be expected.

There was a large and very loud fog horn to help boaters, and it was a lot noisier than the jetboats. Nobody complained then and the fishermen were happy for the navigational assistance.

When the huge ship Cayuga was coming in to dock, lots of people drove down to see who was getting off. A pretty exciting time, eh?

When the Cayuga landed at the Queenston dock, diesel-powered buses met it to take passengers by the hundred up to the park at Queenston Heights. Lots of diesel fumes, but again, nobody complained. Everybody just got along.

On the 24th of May, local people all got a free ride on the Cayuga from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Queenston. What a treat. And hopefully a ride back.

Connolly’s store at King and Queen, where Hatley’s is now, sold everything from fine bone china to ice cream cones. Lots and lots of ice cream cones. By the way, I always wonder who buys a cup of ice cream. Ice cream is meant to be licked, not spooned from a cup.

So, things change in our town. But there is still lots of smells and noises and ice cream cones and good friendly feelings between people who live here and those who come for a visit.

The crowds are more cosmopolitan now, as is the population of our Canada.

We live in an increasingly mobile world. With more and more immigration to enrich our lives.

People still need a break from city life and the asphalt. A day trip to Niagara and a drive past our fruit orchards and vineyards. A family picnic in one of our parks or along the Parkway.

Go ahead, feel free to pull over and park on the grass along the Parkway. Kinda weird, but that’s just the way it has always been.

We somehow manage to get along with each other, don’t we?

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