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COMMUNITY COLUMNIST: Concession Street, as I remember it

By Sharon Bray , special to the News

I began my relationship with Concession Street on Friday, November 10th, 1950 at 8:30 a.m., when I was born at the Henderson Hospital to parents who had just purchased their first home on East 19th Street, a muddy road that was, and is, very much a part of the Concession Street community.
Each Friday for the first years of my life, my mother pushed my older brother and me down the street, often through mud, but eventually along a bumpy wooden sidewalk, in a buggy large enough to hold $12 worth of groceries that she bought at the A&P.
The street was a hub for shopping: I recall Bain’s 5¢ to $1 Store with its broad wooden floors and bin-like tables to display the wares (ladies underwear, all white, men’s socks, all dark, and baby clothes); Edwards Shoes with patent leather pumps all but prancing in the window; the Brewer’s Retail, where customers and staff were exclusively men; the shoe repair shop with a scent of polish and small machines; the jewelry store and its show of sparkling diamonds and big colourful snap-on earrings (everyone simply window shopped here—no one I knew ever bought jewelry); the coffee shop that was always busy; the gas station where the man who pumped gas wore matching shirt and pants and a dark brown tie, his name embroidered on the shirt pocket and he always waved as we walked by; the meat shop where my tongue stuck to the frost as I licked the window in an attempt to see inside (the butcher applied a teacup of warm water to my firmly attached tongue which released me, but still, there was a lot of blood); the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce where, as a child, I opened my first account and where my kids did the same; and the Concession Street Library—my mother took me there often and I delighted in browsing even before I could read—she borrowed books for me until I was old enough to get my own card, and many years later I did the same for my kids.
Familiarity is all around us. The names on the buildings might change, some have had a face lift, while others have been demolished.
But a black-and-white photo of the street, taken in 1930, is still recognizable as the Concession Street I know today.
Most of those places are gone now, but the Concession Street community remains.
That’s because of the people.
Sharon Bray wrote this essay on her memories of Concession Street for a writing challenge held by the Concession Street branch of Hamilton Public Library. The Mountain News will be featuring a selection of these essays from time to time. A compilation of entries from the challenge is on permanent display at the library.

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