Ice fishing on the old Welland Canal (International Flatwater Centre north course) Saturday afternoon. A small community had grown despite the cold that was biting at times. Vantage point for the photo at top left and the one adjacent to it was the Woodlawn Bridge. The others were taken from the west-side canal trail. The south course (Dain City area) also is popular with these cold-weather anglers. The sport has ardent followers despite advisories from local officials who caution that no ice should be considered safe ice. /Photos by Joe Barkovich.
Canada geese chill on the Welland River in this view from the Woodlawn Bridge, Saturday afternoon, January 29. Temperature was -14C at the time photo was taken.(View From The Bridge is a recurring feature on the blog. Photo by Joe Barkovich.)
By Terry Hughes
While heading out to do some shopping with Carolyn recently, I spotted a car in a parking lot that bowled me over! It was a 1950 Mercury/Monarch sitting low with fender skirts, dual exhausts, shaved trim and waterever under the hood.
“Wow,” I yelled and the owner acknowledged me with a “Thanks.” That got me thinking about our first encounter as a couple because it was in a 1950 metallic blue Monarch with seven coats of lacquer, dual exhausts and a four barrel “carb”, fender skirts and lowered at the back end that we went out on our first date. And that served as a flashback to what it was like growing up in the 1950s.
Included in this piece is a picture of a 1954 Mercury that was more typical of modified cars with a lowered backend, fender skirts and extra carburation that most guys could afford to add to their cars. Ford Motor Co. cars were the favourite vehicle to modify because of their V-8 engines from 1940 through 1956.
But….before moving on, can you name the five rock stars shown in the accompanying image, and second – which two artists preceded Elvis Presley?
The decade of the 1950s can be described as a time of transition and change that affected kids growing up into their teens. For those people who entered this decade as teenagers, they were influenced by parental mores and interests such as music, clothing, sports, etc. But as the decade moved on, there was a subtle change in the air that exploded as the 1950s came to a close. So what happened?
When you are 15 you are looking for something that distinguishes you from everyone else. Getting a job and your licence was important, but for me it was swimming. Having achieved all of the levels in the Red Cross program, Royal Life Saving was the next challenge. It would bring me job opportunities and respect that goes along with being a lifeguard. By 1958, Centennial Year for Welland, I got a temporary job teaching and guarding at Cross Street pool. The week of the city-wide celebration, the staff were given old fashioned bathing suits compliments of Ross Stores to wear while on duty. We were trained to swim in clothing but for the girls, the layered suits were uncomfortable. In 1959, I was employed at Nickel Beach and 1960 found me at the opening of the Memorial Park Pool.
By the time you are in Grade 10 checking out the girls became the thing. At WHVS, waiting to go to the next class after visiting your locker provided such an opportunity. But checking out the girls occurred most often when attending dances. The local high schools sponsored them but we found Notre Dame more accommodating. With a car, it provided you with plenty of out of town dances to attend. Bethel Hall and Morgan’s Point were places in Port Colborne. Afterwards, taking a girl to the La Jolla, Walters Restaurant or the Kopper Kettle often happened.
Attending record hops at Merritton Community Centre enabled you to see, in person, Paul Anka, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers and others thanks to Buffalo-based deejays. Buffalo radio promoting personalities such as Guy King, Lucky Pierre and the infamous George Lorenz, THE HOUND, played rock and roll before any of our Canadian stations. Wolf Man Jack claimed he listened to the Hound as a teenager! This happened before WKBW went to their popular Top 40 format.
Music was in transition from the artists of the big band era such as Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Kay Star, etc. to something that was originally called Cowboy Jive; a mix of country and rhythm and blues. In 1953 a song titled, Crazy Man Crazy reached number 20 on the charts done by a group called Bill Haley and His Comets. Along with other hits in 1954, Rock Around The Clock would become the most famous song by a group, selling over 25 million copies second only to Bing Crosby’s White Christmas.
Fats Domino followed in 1955 with Ain’t That A Shame a year before the appearance of Presley. Doo-wop normally done by a group offered songs like In The Still Of The Night by the Five Satins, Deep Purple by Billy Ward and His Dominos and I Only Have Eyes For You by the Flamingos. Instrumentals like Honky Tonk by Bill Dogget, Raunchy by Bill Justis, Rebel Rouser by Duane Eddy and Sleep Walk by Santo and Johnny were popular. And how can we forget the Platters? By 1957, teenagers surpassed adults as the main purchasers of records.
Hanging out was most popular when you started to go steady with your girl. That meant that the two of you enjoyed each other so much that you would spend as much time together and with no one else. Going to local restaurants became the thing although the owners were not happy with your presence if you were not spending money! Ordering a “pine float” – a toothpick floating on a glass of water – was not funny. A plate of fries or a burger and a coke while you lit up a cigarette was the routine. Placing a dime in the jukebox capped the meeting. Places such as the Normandy, Olympia, the Majestic and the Terminal restaurants come to mind. We frequented the Terminal on Cross Street next door to the Song Shop record shop where the latest songs came in as 78 or 45 rpm records. My sister claims that she was the third person in Welland to have purchased Love Me Tender by Elvis Presley! Locally, dances sponsored by the CYO and held on Sunday nights were popular. Holy Ghost church hall, St. Kevin’s and Our Lady of Hungary are remembered as popular dance venues.
Each generation makes a statement about their identity through their clothes. Depending on which side of town from which you came, blue jeans made from denim were preferred by the guys going to school. There were those people who considered denim clothing as outfits you wore to work. They preferred Ivy League styles. For girls, slacks and jeans were not allowed at school. But some of them as shown in the accompanying picture did wear them. Bobby socks were in but saddle shoes were being replaced with runners. Tight skirts and sweaters became the outfits for the day accented with a colourful scarf or a false collar inserted into the neckline of the sweater.
From where I came, there was a process on how you wore your jeans. They rode two inches below the belly button and rolled up at the bottom of the legs, one inch. You wore your belt buckle on the left if you were looking for a girl or on the right if you were going steady. I still wear mine on the right! Wellington boots or solid black shoes were common but running shoes were the shoes for the day. Slacks called drape pants were worn for special occasions.
There were occasions when you liked to play a joke on your girlfriend and one comes to mind, from a long ago Christmas. When I told my wife about this story, she couldn’t believe it. Three of us guys had been mulling over what we should buy for them. At the time black lace panties were popular so we thought that would be a nice surprise. What we hadn’t considered was how we were going to go about it. The purchase had to be made in person so we headed to Rossman’s on East Main Street and the lingerie department. The sales lady asked. “Can I help you?” and we told her straight out, “Black lace panties for our girlfriends!” After the shock of our request settled in, her reply took us aback! “What size do you need?” she inquired. Now, this issue was in a day when the term “keep your hands to yourself” prevailed so you might say we did not have first-hand knowledge on the subject. Only the image of our girlfriends’ figures could be conjured up so I raised my hands and said, “Like this!” As each guy’s turn came up, they did the same thing. When presented with their gifts the girls giggled and laughed and then things settled down. I can’t recall if we got the right sizes.
Social experiences would come and go but the need to find someone that you might some day wish to spend the rest of your life with was on your mind. While attending the Tribune Tournament dance in 1959, I spotted a girl who was talking to a friend and asked through her if she would like to dance? Well, she said yes and that led to that first date going out in the 1950 Monarch and after almost four years of going steady, Carolyn and I tied the knot in 1963.
Next column: Visiting a local historical icon.
(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)
Yummy! Dinner at a bird feeder station on Welland’s Merritt Island earlier this week. Eat in or takeout, whatever the diner prefers! /Photos by Joe Barkovich.
WELLAND – As the current provincial order, which has seen the province return to a modified stage 2 set of restrictions, is set to expire, the City of Welland’s recreation and programming services are preparing to reopen.
On Jan. 31, recreation facilities will reopen with a 50 per cent occupancy level as per Provincial directives. Any indoor social gathering rental in city of Welland facilities will have a further indoor gathering limit of 10 people.
All indoor environments require proof of vaccination. As per the provincial mandate, Welland facilities only accept QR code proof (printed copy or digital).
“City staff have been preparing to reopen since the day we had to shut down,” said Rob Axiak, director of community services. “We are ready to welcome residents back to our facilities and provide the same great services and programs we were before the shutdown.”
The Welland Community Wellness Complex (WCWC) welcomes back drop-in programs and swimming lessons the week of Jan. 31 and paid programs and classes the week of Feb. 13:
- Drop-in programs – register online or call the WCWC
- Swimming lessons – ensure you know the modified dates and times for classes.
- Paid programs and classes – register online or call the WCWC
Ice at the Main and Jack Ballantyne Memorial Arenas reopen on Jan. 31 with an on-ice capacity of 80 people. Spectators are limited to 500 in the main arena and 112 in the youth arena. Face coverings and physical distancing requirements remain in effect. Public skating returns beginning Feb. 5.
The Welland International Flatwater Centre also reopens on Jan. 31
The province has outlined future dates of Feb. 21 and March 14 as potential markers to lift restrictions further. As restrictions lift, the City will amend its offerings.
(Source: City of Welland news release)
Enjoyable experiences watching birds on Welland’s Merritt Island this week! Top: Black-capped Chickadee; centre: female Downy Woodpecker; and bottom: northern Blue Jay. I tapped into birder Brad Clements’ expertise for the woodpecker identification. He pegged it as a female Downy because it lacks a red patch at the top of its head. One of these days, hope to eyeball an eagle reportedly spotted on the island, in the area of the Woodlawn Bridge. Haven’t yet seen it, but that’s what folks say. /Photos by Joe Barkovich.
Answer: Walking the spectacular trails on Welland’s Merritt Island, where this sign was photographed Wednesday morning. (Sign Language is a recurring feature on the blog./Photo by Joe Barkovich)
My early morning walk companion Ron Lemon and I set out along Merritt Island’s upper trail before the biting, numbing cold convinced us to stop in our tracks and head back. But the beauty that had unfolded with each step we made left lingering memories of nature’s artistry./ Photos by Joe Barkovich.