Well, it’s now a parking lot. Like Carthage where the Romans burned the crops and salted the fields, it’s all over but the shouting.
I should suck it up and call this remake of our neighbourhood progress. Whether I like it or not, people who are making money decreed with permits, deeds and fees that our little area of the map should become another Mississauga with all that entails. (insert here why I never go to Mississauga). Our area is becoming busier, noisier, and “improved”. There is a lot of new money flowing in. High rises used to be discouraged in our area, but as they say, money talks and nothing convinces a municipality like density when it comes to property taxes. Stack those people up like sardines and the municipality is positively printing money.
That vacant lot, set aside for a future development, used to be Sammys Chips Wagon, a fixture in Bronte. It was one of those things that enshrined the feeling of endless summer, and small community in this area. Now, midst all the tear downs and new monster homes, there is a soul-less feeling creeping in. The people who envisioned this, are the same ones who envision amorphous “developments” everywhere. A cookie-cutter arrangement complete with a Fortino’s, a Chapters, a Boston Pizza, and an Aritzia. Draw that money in, at all costs.
And what it cost, was our neighbourhood, formerly unique and sooner or later destined to be like many other “developed” areas, congested, with people wandering about and frequenting the patios and bars. Money positively falling out of their pockets and the municipality happy as hell.
I concede that things must inevitably change. It’s just that you can’t put a dollar value on missing something. Sammy’s the Chips Wagon disappearing, kills one of my favourite memories.
Sammy (otherwise known as Samir) kept his business model simple. Fries was his standard, complete with three different shakers of spices to dust on top. The only deviation was the option to add some gravy and cheese to upgrade to a poutine. Sammy’s genius was that his price for fries was an even four dollars cash-over-the-counter, and everyone has two twonies knocking around in their pocket. Add a drink and you had an even five bucks. Beside the big bag of potatoes, Sammy had a huge twoney jar which clinked with every couple of twonies thrown in. The bank people must have seen him coming every week, lugging a wheelbarrow full of money. I’m thinking the big beaver didn’t see a lot of that in taxes remitted, and doing cash meant Sammy only worked the summer starting May 24 weekend, and closed up around labour day. With his stash of twonies, he’d head south to Florida for the winter. You could mark the return of summer when you saw Sammy setting up shop again for another year.
This is how Sammy's was part of our weekend routine: we used to do family bike rides when the kids were small, and their Mom was at work nursing weekends. The two older girls had their own bikes, and I would saddle up the youngest behind me on a rider bike… the kind that you bolt onto a larger bike, designed for littler kids who are not independent riders yet.
We would do the rounds. 7-11 for a Slushie, swim at Bronte Pool, followed by Sammy’s Chips wagon for some good old greasy fries. It sounds awful but it was a lot of fun. The only people who remember it, are Elizabeth, Rima, Petra and me. We four have the corner on this little memory that was part of our routine in a former day and age.
Gone but not forgotten they say. Well, I remember and it’s good someone does, because our neighbourhood is not what it once was. But the memories live on. And they make me smile.
I don’t know where Sammy is these days, but I’ll wager he’s somewhere warm, still living large off that big stash of twonies.