Southampton High Street
I lived my “formative years”, from age 11 to 18 on High Street during the 1950’s. I was the go-to kid to help store owners with odd jobs like clean basements, shovel snow, organize storage areas, wash windows and a wide variety of tasks including putting window awnings down and up on Sundays for those owners who did not live on our main street.
To say that I have witnessed change on High Street would be an understatement.
Just to name a few:
A) Our popular public parkette on the North East corner of High and Grosvenor was eliminated, and a gaudy Government Building was constructed to house a Federal Office for a Regional Customs and Excise office as well as an upgrade to our quaint little post office that today is Thorncrest Outfitters. In 1953, the Federal Building did not fit into the architecture of the time.
B) Next to go was our Community Cold Storage. It was always a special treat to go in to the freezing big room with the family locked boxs with all of brown wax paper packages of meat we got from Jack Davies cutting up the quarter of beef we bought from a local farmer. Lots of people in town were buying those new deep freezers so the rest of us had to buy one as well when they closed the Cold Storage. Eventually a new building was built, and it now has a long-term insurance office on its site.
C) My favourite was the next go. Our Blacksmith shop had continued going after the age of the horse and buggy had passed and he had added metal repairs including metal bending, welding and soldering. They had kept the wide doors out front and I would always peak in to see if the forge was going and the hammer was being used on the anvil making the sparks fly. Today you can order or pick up your pizza there.
D) Across the road Reg and Tommy Lee had been repairing cars since autos first came to town. They owned and operated the BA gas station. When they closed it took a few years but eventually, after a few other businesses we got a GRRReat Bicycle shop.
E) Next door was one of my other favourites. In 1955/56 I worked for Ross Fowler in the last dry-cleaning plant in town which also housed the “do it for you” laundry. It was here that I washed dirty diapers for the tourists with young babies. Yes, this was the shi… job I ever had. Today it is our bakery.
I could go on but hopefully I have made my point about change. Today you can count about 8 to 10 storefronts that are either closed or significantly underutilized.
We now have a wonderful opportunity to embrace a marvelous new project that could and should revitalize a rapidly dying main street. The plan for the expansion of our Museum and Culture Centre coupled with the brilliant idea of including a Nuclear Innovation Centre, that provides excitement and opportunity for this and future generations of our young people is an exciting event that everyone of us living in Southampton and in all of Saugeen Shores should EMBRACE.