(originally printed in the North End Breezes September 2007)
My name is Beverly Hill and I was raised in the “North End” of Hamilton, Ontario. I lived on Simcoe Street West, below Bay Street down by the bay from 1948 until 1960 with my parents Adeline & Spencer Hill. In 1960, we left Simcoe Street because the city bought up all the property to build an incinerator. The incinerator was never built but now there is a new roadway to the bay, which is a harbour today. Today there is a lovely park which they have finished building in the last 2 years. Many times I think of when I lived in the North End because there were many happy moments.
I was about 12 years old when I left the North End with my parents. We moved to the “East End” of Hamilton which I never liked because I wanted to still live in the North End. I ended up spending more time back in the North End. Simcoe Street West was like a little village with about 35 houses. The people that lived in these homes were very friendly. During the summer, people used to sit outside and visit with each other. About halfway down Simcoe Street was a small street called Marsh Street. On Marsh Street there were 4 houses with nice families. My first girlfriend, Jeannie Bromley, and the Dennie Family lived on Marsh Street. We are still good friends to this day. That is over 50 years. At the foot of Simcoe Street down by the bay, there were about 4 boat houses that people actually lived in. Most of the people on Simcoe Street had big families, the Wintemutes had 13 well disciplined and clean children.
On Simcoe Street below Bay Street, there were 3 small businesses. At the top of Simcoe Street hill there was a wood mill and across from the wood mill was an Italian bakery called Palmero Brothers. Everyone enjoyed the smells that came from the bakery when they would bake bread. The smells were wonderful. At the bottom of Simcoe Street was a cotton mill.
On the street was one house that really stood out from all the others. The Nelson Family owned this house. They had a beautiful, well-kept yard. It was landscaped with lovely flowers and trees. The only danger of living on Simcoe Street was being close to the bay. Our parents used to worry a lot because the kids in the neighbourhood would run down the hill to the bay and our parents would have to chase after us. The neighbours would keep a watch out for the kids going to the bay and call the parents to tell them their child is heading that way…down to the bay.
Then there were times that a photographer would come around the neighbourhood with a pony and you could get your picture taken with the pony for $1. Then in the evening, the ice cream truck would come. We called him “The Yummy Man”. He would ring his bell and all the kids would come running. I remember when my parents would be getting me ready for bed and “The Yummy Man” would come about that time. Like all the other kids in the neighbourhood, my parents could not get me to bed until I had my ice cream treat. If we couldn’t get our ice cream, we would be very upset. Every Monday to Saturday the bread man and the milk man would come. I remember when the bread man would bring his basket full of goodies up to our door. I asked my mom to buy cookies or doughnuts from him. The bread men were from Wonder Bread and Jackson Bakery. The milk men were from Bordens, Royal Oak and Silverwoods. None of these milk companies exist today.
Not too far from us were the C.N.R. tracks on Strachan Street West. In the summer, every so often, the trains would stop on Strachan Street and many people from the neighbourhood would run up to the trains because the workers would hand out free watermelon. We really enjoyed this free treat. There were many Italian people in the neighbourhood and they too came down to the trains because along the side of the road on Strachan Street, grew many dandelions. They would pick the dandelions and take them home to cook. Apparently, dandelions are a great source of fibre.
On the corner of Bay Street & Strachan Street was a variety store owned by an Italian family called Mattioli. They were very friendly people. On my way to school when I had a nickel, I would stop in there and buy penny candy. In those days, “honeymooners” and “coconut balls” were good sellers. You also got 3 jujubes for 1 cent.
The public school I went to was McIlwraith School on Murray Street West. It had two floors of classrooms that went from kindergarten to grade 7. It was a nice school. Besides classes, the school offered many activities. Once a year before Christmas, they would have a Fun Fair. They would sell crafts and used items donated by the students and community. My mother bought a plaque for her wall for 25 cents at the fair. It is a lovely scenic picture that I still have to this day. Also at the Fun Fair, they showed cartoons and funny films in the girls’ gym. I remember going downstairs to watch Laurel & Hardy and the L’il Rascals. We got a lot of good laughs out of those films.
Now, on James Street North, about 3 blocks from my house, there were many good memories. There was a very busy and friendly drugstore called Liptons. Going further north on James Street was a popular variety store called Hammy’s run by Hammy and his wife. Many of the “northenders” went into Hammy’s store because they enjoyed talking to him. On day Hammy had a stroke and his wife ran the store until he could come back. Hammy was missed very much while he was away. Next to Hammy’s was another place where people liked to hang out. It was a Chinese restaurant called EatMore run by Tommy Wong. You could buy both Chinese and Canadian food. This restaurant was a very busy place, especially after the Genesee Hotel closed for the night. The patrons of the hotel would go over to EatMore for a meal. It was not uncommon for some people to sneak out after their meal without paying. Good old Tommy would still serve these same people when they came back because he knew they would eventually pay and he would trust them. Still going further north on James Street was a store called Dorothy’s Dry Goods. This store attracted a lot of people from the North End because she would sell both men and ladies clothes at very reasonable prices. Dorothy was a very friendly person and if she didn’t have something you asked for, she would do her best to try to order it for you. Sadly, none of these businesses are around today. The buildings have been torn down.
Back in the 1970’s, they had a “North End Reunion” at the H.M. Star. Both Tommy Wong and Hammy attended this reunion out of respect for all the “northenders” who had been so kind to them while they ran their businesses.
In the North End there were outings! On the weekends there were 2 boats that would leave the Hamilton harbour to take passengers out on Lake Ontario for the low cost of 50 cents per round trip. These boats were the Lady Hamilton and Macassa Bay. Usually the Lady Hamilton would go to Port Dalhousie because it was a bigger boat. Macassa Bay would go to Burlington Beach and LaSalle Park. Many families in the North End would pack up a picnic lunch and go to the boats to enjoy the day. Burlington Beach had an amusement park with rides and a bingo hall. Back then, the beach was a very busy place in the summer with clean water and a clean sandy beach. LaSalle Park had a little wading pool and swings for the children. There was also a pavilion that was used by different organizations for a picnic area. One of the organizations that used the pavilion at LaSalle Park was Her Majesty’s Army & Navy, of which my dad was a member. We went to both LaSalle Park & Port Dalhousie for our summer picnics. There were 2 parks in the North End for us to go to. One was Eastwood Park at the corner of Burlington Street & Mary Street and the other was Bayfront Park at the corner of Burlington Street & MacNab Street. Eastwood Park had swings and a sandbox that all the kids enjoyed. Eastwood Park was used both in summer and winter. In the summer, all the kids enjoyed the pool and the rink would be used for playing basketball and volleyball. In the winter, there would be ice skating for 25 cents. It was an outdoor rink and on really cold evenings, you could go inside and buy a hot chocolate or just sit and get warmed. These parks are still in use today.
There were different churches in the North End with lots of activities for the community. Calvin Church had Brownies and different Christian clubs for the kids. Hughson Street Baptist Church had Pioneers for the girls. There was Eastwood Baptist Church run by the Reverend Allan Matthews. He was a very nice man who had many volunteers for leaders for all the different activities. I remember going there for C.G.I.T. (Canadian Girls in Training). I really enjoyed this Christian club. In the summer, the churches had Vacation Bible School for all ages. Usually in the morning, the Bible School was for the kids age 5 – 12 years old and at night, the older kids age 13 and up would participate. We were taken out on different outings. Boy! Did we ever have a great time!
I will never forget the North End. At times, it is sad because you can’t go back. I still see some of the old faces from the neighbourhood and we sit and talk about the old times. I will always cherish my memories of the great times I had there!