Posted by: Nancy Ross
Ottawa South was a very different place to live when Mr. J.D. Poaps was a boy. In 1897 Mr. Poaps’ father built the large brick home called Glengarden on Barton Street, and Mr. Poaps was born in that house in 1898. He and his wife Florence live there now.
In the early 1900’s Ottawa South was called Rideauville, and although most of the streets we know were laid out, many of them had different names. Barton Street was William Street then, and Aylmer Ave. was called Dufferin. Surrounding Glengarden was an apple orchard and a dairy farm. Across the street, north of Euclid were sand pits run by Mr. Poaps’ uncles, and next door was a cow pound where you could retrieve your wandering cow for a dollar.
According to Mr. Poaps people thought you were crazy to want to live way out here in the country, where cows grazed on the pasture land which covered most of the area west of Bank Street and south of Sunnyside to the river, and where a big swamp extending from Dow’s Lake to the river, through what is now Brewer Park, had a lake in the middle of it with quicksand.
Farmers brought their produce to market in horse drawn wagons along Bank Street. Bank Street even then was one of the main north-south thoroughfares, but there were no stores on it and only a few homes. To shop you went to the small settlement of Billings Bridge or you hopped a streetcar into Ottawa at five cents a ride. Mr. Poaps remembers as a special thrill, a bareback ride to Billings Bridge to pick up the mail.
The bridge over the canal at Bank Street was a swing bridge turned by hand. When children in the area heard the whistle, they would run to catch a ride on it as the bridgeman swung it open to let a boat pass.
The boys and girls had separate play-yards in the old Hopewell School, a four room country school house with two hundred children. Children from the Park, a rowdy residential neighborhood at the western ends of Sunnyside and Hopewell, were allowed to eat their lunch at school, because it was considered too far to walk.
Mr. Poaps envied them so much he would sometimes stay too, only to catch the switch when he got home.
The convent on Echo Drive has been here for a very long time says Mr. Poaps, though there is a new building since he was a boy. He remembers going up to the chapel there with some friends. The friends had been given a penance by the priest and told they must attend chapel six times. They all spent a concentrated couple of hours going in, saying prayers, coming out, and going in again six times.
Entertainment for children hasn’t changed so much, just the location of it. Mr. Poaps learned to swim in the Rideau River. East of Bank Street, the south side of Sunnyside to Riverdale was Rays Hill, and on a night with a full moon it was loaded with children and their toboggans. For one dollar you could receive a year’s membership to the ice skating rink at the corner of Bank and Clemow, where a brass band played while people traded skating partners. That’s where Mr. Poaps was the night Parliament burned, and he went up from there to watch the frustrating time for firemen with all the hydrants around Parliament so old there were no hoses to fit them.
At the corner of Riverdale and Bank you could put your horse in the shed and drop in for some whiskey at the infamous Ryan’s Hotel, a place high on the disapproval list of the WCTU (Woman’s Christian Temperance Union). Mr. Poaps says its reputation as a sin spot is probably highly exaggerated. It was from Ryan’s Hotel that he and his family watched the spring flooding of the Rideau, which one year took out the wooden bottom of the bridge and forced people to go to Hogs Back or go all the way to Cummings to get across.
Originally published in the OSCAR April 1978.