The Highlands, Barb Izzio Remembers …
It is now 57 years since I lived in the Highlands. I know that without hesitation because Joe and I have been married for 57 years. I left the Highlands as Barbara Chalmers and remember so clearly the seventeen years that I lived at 6121 – 111 Avenue, with my parents, Fred & Ev Chalmers, my sister Lassie (Frances) and brother Dennis.
It was like Fantasy Island … we were free to do just about anything we wanted if it didn’t affect others in a negative way. So, if I wanted to climb a tree, no problem; as long as I didn’t step on someone’s garden to do it; as long as I didn’t break the branches of the tree. Do kids climb trees anymore?
Those beautiful trees were my outdoor playground. Apparently, Mom often picked me down out of them, or off the ground from under them, until she got fed up and had a plumber friend weld me my own monkey bars. Most of the trees were Lindens I think, and my friend Karen Vollan and I could climb every one of them between our house and hers, at 5509 – 111 Ave. Billy Agnew (picture) could too!
But it’s the people in the Highlands that make up the strongest memories of Highlands for me, not the trees, the houses or the lush lawns we played on. Billy is the first one I think of. He was my age, cute as could possibly be, lived right next door, and he had a lovely black cocker spaniel named Joe.
One of my favorite memories of Billy is: When our home was “posted” with a quarantine sign for measles or scarlet fever, we were not allowed off our property and no one was allowed on it. So, Billy and I would play games that allowed him to be on his lawn and I on mine. Joe couldn’t read the notice, so he went back and forth. I am so pleased to have reconnected recently with Billy on FaceTime.
In the Good Olde Days, the milkman came down the back lane in his horse drawn milk truck to deliver our milk, cream and butter. During one of our quarantines, the milkman wouldn’t take empty bottles away or receive money – after two weeks, there were many empties in the garage and a big bill to pay. Blocks of ice were also delivered by horse drawn cart, for the bottom of our “ice box”, before refrigerators were affordable or totally dependable. Those delivery men were always happy to speak to us or wave at us little children, just like the trainmen in cabooses. I guess Fed Ex delivery guys do that now.?? Sure wish I had been taking more pictures!
Fall and the leaves on our streets made for more work for the adults, more fun for us kids. Leaves were raked up and we used them to make houses on the boulevards. We would make long, neat piles of leaves, as outlines of rooms for our houses, leaving spaces for doorways of course! Some houses were fancy with deep piles of leaves for sofas and beds and chairs. It depended on how competitive you were – my sister Lassie and Betty Barr who lived directly across the street (picture) would compete like crazy to make fancy “houses”. The complication of the finished product also depended on how much time there was before our parents would rake the leaves onto the curbside fires. Then the whole neighborhood smelled wonderful so it was OK.
Fireworks nights were very exciting: We would sit quietly and expectantly, lined up along the curbs. Parents would bring out their contributions for the show, and the whole neighborhood would cheer for every single burst of noise and flame. Of course the Burning Schoolhouse was always the final firework to go, and we thought it was fabulous! As an adult, I purchased the Burning Schoolhouse and was sad to see the makers had reduced its size & brightness … or was I just disremembering?
Sometimes I babysat for the Paynes in the Holgate Residence and when the furnace “kicked in” it scared the heck out of me. I was glad when Tommy was old enough to stay by himself. We mistakenly used to call it the Magrath Mansion. We called the actual Magrath Residence “The Bishops Palace” and used to sneak into the basement to the former swimming pool through an old coal chute. We didn’t do anything but look and were appalled to see the swimming pool had been lined with bookcases and was basically a library. Maybe that was just storage, but as a kid, I thought “What a Waste”!
The baseball field between & behind the Holgate and Magrath residences was fabulous. Someone always had a bat and there were usually enough gloves to go around to get a game going. Even little ones could play, usually as extra fielders. Dusk was the time for going home – obviously the long evenings in the summer were wonderful, but Moms called from their front doorsteps for the little ones to be escorted home, and we’d take a break while the older ones did their duty! We played soccer with a basketball, “kicked the can”, another NoNo, and generally acted like a litter of happy puppies.
In reality, all of the Highlands was our playground. We climbed in and out, up, down and across the boards of new build homes. We played hide and seek, raced in and out and were so confident and agile. There were no guard dogs, no fences, not even a Keep Out sign, so we used them as our own personal gyms. I remember only one broken arm and I think that was Rusty Barr’s.
In the summer we climbed up and down the river valley, made forts and lit fires down by the slow-moving North Saskatchewan River. We tobogganed in the winter and once in a while Whitey Watts would take us down the “S Turn” on his authentic Olympic bobsled.
From age six, we were allowed to roam the neighborhood and go to Jamison’s for ice cream, to the hardware or the drugstore with a chum, but NEVER to the Blue Bird Café. Teenagers smoked in there! Mrs. Grierson saw me in there when I was about 15, said she’d tell my Mom. Wonder what She was doing in there?
The skating rink was another great place to be, although I personally preferred to stay inside the skating hut with my feet near the pot bellied stove. We were allowed to play Crack the Whip which is almost indictable these days. And boys were always zooming in and out showing off to their girlfriends – more people got knocked down on the ice than ever fell out of a tree! In the summer we shared the wading pool in The Field where the rink had been with young & old, dogs and whatever other animal wandered by.
Stardust was special entertainment for teenagers at the Highlands Community Hall. During my high school years, I spent many hours dancing to “live” bands, dancing with good & bad dancers, some fantastic dancers! It was just a fabulous place to go. Other weekend nights would find a motley group at our place, playing “Stop the Music, and put on whatever you pull from a pillow case”. You can see the boys were Good Sports too. Can you find yourself in either of these pictures?
I started school in Highlands School in 1950; then to Mount Royal on 55th street & 113 Avenue for Grades 4, 5 and 6: back to Highlands for grades 7, 8 and 9, and to Eastglen for high school. I loved school so was probably not late more than once in my school life and I remember that day! It was in Grade one in Miss Ossington’s class. She stood me in front of the class and made me an example of disrespect to my teacher and classmates. Wouldn’t happen now!
Funny how I remember the earliest years the clearest – I think my teenage brain was fogged up with boys, school, boys, clothes, boys and learning to drive. My Mom had a 1957 Studebaker Silverhawk with a V-8 engine. All cars were manual transmission so we practiced a lot before our tests, and I was allowed to drive it legally, after September 1, 1960. Lassie and I were allowed to take it to school a couple times a month and were surrounded by boys asking to take it for a spin. THAT wasn’t worth our lives, so we just told the truth … Our Mom would kill us!
We had great neighbors around us. Fred Mitchell lived by himself on the southeast corner of 62nd & Ada Blvd. He spent a lot of time at our house because he loved my Mom’s food, was lonely and always had tickets for hockey games. He would take either Lassie or I to the Oil Kings games & he had terrific seats. We called him Alda Mitch which he liked: it identified him as a better friend than a Mister Mitchell would have been, was a very long time Alderman for the City of Edmonton, and Fred was also my Dad’s name.
The house east of Fred Mitchell’s home that now has a new second story, was owned by Tom Campbell and his wife. Tom owned Campbell’s Furniture and was a fierce Scotsman who held children’s parties for the neighborhood kids in his back yard each summer. He had The Palace of Sweets make Candy White Mice with string tails. Mr. Campbell walked around with a tail hanging out of his pocket. If you asked for a mouse, you wouldn’t get it. If you were patient & quiet, you would. That’s how some lessons were learned in those days. He was an incredible Highland dancer, and sadly, died in Scotland dancing at his niece’s wedding. Mrs. Campbell lived in that home until she died just before we moved in June 1965. Clockwise from left: Rusty Barr, Johnny Ward, X, Jimmy Barr(standing), Peter Ward, Eldon Hayworth.
Our old home looks so different with the lovely new front porch. When we lived there, the front was flat and the porch was just three (or four?) steps. We thought they were fancy steps because you could walk down them on all three sides, and there were no handrails. Very clean, very crisp, and very chic. (picture: X, Cherilyn Linegar, Lassie, Tom Besse)
A beautiful porch front, as it has now, was too expensive for my parents when they built in 1948. Similarly, so was the back sunroom off the dining room at the back. We always had the lovely French doors…. going nowhere, until 1964, when the back sunroom was built, just before we moved. I see the Agnew home has also been beautified and done just as nicely. (Dad in photo)
Through the power of the internet I have been able to tour the streets of the Highlands and see the vacant lots gone, making room for mostly lovely new homes. I hope there are lots of kids in those homes and they are allowed to be out and about. But I suspect there are no little fires on the river bank, or skiers hurtling down the steep hills with no lifts to bring them back up to Ada. But maybe tree climbing is still an art, bike racing on Ada Blvd is still a healthy exercise, and people in general, are loving the Highlands and its beauty.
I’ve included some extra pictures, mostly group pictures, of that lovely time in The Highlands. I’ve had to put an X for some names that I either never knew or have forgotten. If you know who they are, or if they are YOU, please let me know. Or if I have mistakenly labeled someone, SORRY!! You can let me know that too.
Me, X, Lassie, X, Possibly Teddy Bellamy, Paul Towns, X, Frances Degregoire, Dennis Chalmers
Betty Barr, Joanne Hood, Me, Paul Towns, Billy Agnew, Rusty Barr, Lori Barr
Lassie, X, Billy & Joe, Johnny Ward, Me, X
A great article Barb… so nice to have you write out some of your memories of the Highlands neighbourhood. Thanks to your cousin John Chalmers for putting you in touch with the Highlands Historical Society.
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I was Karen Murray . We lived at 5348-111ave at the same time as you lived in the Highlands . I was in your class at Mt. Royal I believe -or was it your sister ? -and I know several of the people you mention -ie. Karen Vollan , The Barr’s . It was great reading your submission and re-living the memories . .Thanks for the walk down memory lane .
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My name is Ed Guilbault. I am the current owner of your family home—30 years of enjoyment!! We purchased the home from Sharon (Adby) Holmes after she moved to her mother’s home beside the Holgate mansion on Ada Blvd.
Thanks for sharing your memories. I read with enjoyment. My good friend, Len Karran, when he first came to your former home, told me that he had been to parties in the basement when he was a teenager. I have forwarded your story to him for his enjoyment as well.
Thanks and if your ever want to drop in for a tea and a “trip down memory lane” feel free to do so.
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Thank you for such a wondrous walk down memory lane in Highlands. I can relate to a great deal of the exploration we did as kids in Calgary in the 60s too.
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Thank you for sharing those wonderful memories. I was a bit younger and went to school with siblings of your friends. I was also your “paper boy”, delivering the Edmonton Journal, which costs 35cents/week. Bill Elliot
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What lovely golden memories! Thanks so much for sharing. BTW, any relation to Cathy Chalmers???
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Thank you Barb for reminding me of all the great times and memories growing up in such a wonderful part of Edmonton.