Reaction to Ken Wiwa's piece
Tuesday, August 7, 2001
Great article. It's too bad that many people born in Canada can't appreciate what we have the way many people who immigrate to Canada do. We truly have a lot to be proud of.
What a great story, Ken. It really tugged at something deep. I'm from Thunder Bay and have driven most of Yonge Street many times, not all in a stretch, but in bits and pieces. Except for Rainy River. I never found a good reason to go to Rainy River, although my father knew a lot of good fishing spots nearby.
My father worked for the government on the northern highways. In my lifetime, he built large stretches of the roads you drove. We didn't see him much in the summer. Too bad you didn't call before you left. I would have pointed you to the Hoito Restaurant in Thunder Bay, centre of the local Finnish community. At one time Thunder Bay was one of the largest community of Finns in the world (may still be). They came to log the forests, which looked a lot like their homeland to them. Finnish pancakes are worth a detour to the Hoito. Or Kangas sauna, home to dozens of clean private saunas, where Finnish families (and others) go for quasi-ritualistic cleansing ceremonies, and top it off with home-made soups and layered chocolate cake at the lunch counter.
I worked as a surveyor on Yonge Street, outside of Jellico. I put on about 10 pounds that summer, from drinking way too much beer at the only restaurant within 50 miles. I think of the blackflies around there and pray I do nothing wicked enough in this life to cause me to be reborn as a moose in the north. And I lived in London last year, and came back to Toronto, missing the big city but finding some peace in the comfortable scale and relative calm at Yonge and Dundas.
Hi Ken, very comprehensive article. But only in The Globe and Mail would Yawn street be considered the most famous street in Canada! From Barrington Street in Halifax, to Douglas Street in Victoria each city, town and hamlet has the most famous street...that's what makes Canada great!
Fascinating! Growing up in BC I have heard virtually nothing of Yonge Street. Whether that's because we like to pretend Toronto doesn't exist or the fact that i have forgotten most of my high school education, I am not sure. Thank-you for an enlightening journey!
Several years ago, I rented a car with a friend Brent to take a visitor from Germany to see the vast emptiness of Northern Ontario. We were headed for Timmins, Ontario, about 60 km from Hwy 11. The trip was accessible in a long weekend from Waterloo, as it was only 8 to 9 hours long. Growing up in Timmins, we were used to driving at least 4 to 5 hours to get to the "big" cities of North Bay or Sudbury. Brent and I had left the North looking for better things in Southern Ontario, but occasionally we drove north together to visit family and friends. Jens, our guest, was thrilled to jump into the car and begin the journey. Shortly after reaching Barrie, he asked, "How much further is it?" "Seven hours," we replied. I will never forget the look on his face. He looked numb and disillusioned. I suppose this is the time needed to cross a large part of Germany. On top on that, at least you see villages and people on most German roadways. We were in the dark, blinded occasionally by a car coming from the other direction. Then came the surprise. About 6 hours into the journey we hit a snowstorm.
For the two Northerners in the car it was a shock. It was only late October! After sliding and skidding the rental car for a couple of hours, we reached the Cobalt Truck Stop in Cobalt, Ontario. The snowplow driver, arriving southbound along Hwy 11, told us the road was closed. We were reduced to staying in the truck stop for the rest of the night.
We waited for the snowplow driver to push on so that we could continue north for the remaining 300 km. Jens at this point seemed to be more chipper than in the truck stop. The rest of the drive was nerve-wracking as falling snow blinded the view and created a hypnotic effect for Brent the driver. We were driving at 30 km/h, sliding laterally, and there was nobody in sight. At our pace we would reach Timmins by 6 AM, I calculated, approximately 16 hours after we left Waterloo, Ontario. Fortunately we reached the junction of Hwy 11 with the Kirkland Lake turnoff. The road had been cleared and we resumed the rest of the trip almost normally, except for Jens's pit stops. We reached our final frigid destination after 1 AM. Fortunately, Jens is still our friend and now enjoys the drive in the summer when he gets the chance to visit Canada.
A great read...brings back memories of the trips to Huntsville in the fifties... and we thought that was a long haul.
I was somewhat disappointed that Mr. Wiwa did not make any mention of 'Webers Hamburgers' restaurant on Highway 11 just north of Orillia, Ontario. This burger shack, which began in the 1960s as a family run, one-room burger house, has become an institution for ANYONE who travels the route north, on their way to camp, cottage or perhaps Algonquin Park.
The restaurant is in prime location, about two hours north of Toronto, and is adorned with old CN railway cars which house everything from dining areas to storage to an on-site butcher!
In the 1970s, due to concerns over southbound burger-hunters crossing the ever dangerous highway, Webers arranged for a section of the CN Tower skywalk to be flown up by helicopter and installed over the highway as a bridge so that southbound traffic could stop and eat without having to dodge 120km/hr traffic just to grab a burger! The bridge now sits over the highway as a landmark, and the restaurant is packed without fail during the summer months. There is even one chef there- the Keyman- who makes special guest appearances at the grill on Friday nights, to the delight of veteran cottage goers who have travelled the route since the restaurant's inception. I suggest Mr. Wiwa make the journey back up to Webers; the gem of Yonge Street.