Comment 49986

By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 11:01:05

Happy to oblige, Meagan. Again, immensely pleased that you're taking such an interest.

I'll reframe my recommendation of Pardon My Lunch Bucket, however. Although the historical content is sandblasted and sanitized, and the predictive coda is borderline hilarious, it's not all sweetness and light.

Often overlooked in the rush to flip through to the future is the most poignant thing about Pardon My Lunch Bucket. Namely, the brutally faux-folksy, blithely sexist and heartbreakingly naive discussion about civic identity that opens the book. (Remember that this book was printed the year the Stelco Tower opened, and four years before the AGH arrived at its present location.)

From the introduction (sic):

"Now you were asking about Hamilton? Well, you see, a few years back this town had what you might call a bad case of inferiority complex. A real bad case. It was always 'Toronto's doing this, Buffalo's doing that and we're doing nothin'.

"You know, things like that. Down-in-the-dumps talk. Well, all of a sudden some of the boys downtown and the boys at city hall got talking and decided they were sick and tired of wearing Toronto's hand-me-downs.

"There was nothing wrong with the city that a new spirit and a few new buildings wouldn't cure... say a new downtown core... somewhere where the people could go and shop and look around, a place where they could take their friends from out of town with a little pride.

"And some new housing to get rid of those old decaying buildings in the north end, an urban renewal project, something that would perk up the people of the area yet would cause very little relocation.

"The city already had acres and acres of gardens and parks... things that the citizens knew about but that the casual visitor seldom saw. And they're going to get more. Before you know it, this'll be the finest city for taking your family out for a stroll in the whole of Canada.

"Now with this Lloyd Jackson Square project, the tall buildings, the pedestrian malls, separating pedestrians from all the traffic and such, the new stores and expanded old ones, well Hamilton is putting on a new face.

"Did you know this city has the same growth rate as Montreal's – 28 per cent every 10 years – one of the highest in the land? And it's got Boris Brott and the Hamilton Philharmonic, and the art gallery and McMaster out in the west end.

"Sure we've still got pollution but they're spending $75,000,000 on cleaning it up. Why one of these days, you'll be able to swim out in the old bay.

"The old Hamilton, the grimy old town, is disappearing. What you're seeing now is new money coming in, new people from abroad settling and bringing their cultures with them – and getting us interested in them as well.

"The people are slowly changing their ideas about the old town. A few years back, they'd admit they were from Hamilton all right, but only if you pressed them. Kind of apologetic-like. But not now. That attitude is changing to one of pride, the kind of elated feeling you get like when everyone gathers around for a big celebration, like that one a few years ago for Canada's centennial and the one they're having for Hamilton's 125th birthday.

"People are getting out and taking a second look at their town, rediscovering it if you will, finding places and things they never knew existed. A lot has changed in the last few years and all for the better."


You can practically play connect-the-dots between that passage and the virtues extolled in the wave of “Hamilton renaissance” ink that arrived 30 years later. Crushing on so many levels.

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