By Margaret Tremblay, special to the News
In 1954, Mountain Hardware was launched by my parents, Clayton and Dorothy Berg. I was just 3 years old. They built the new store in what had been the front yard of an old two-storey farmhouse, the house where we would live for the next 20 years.
I never had difficulty remembering the address as long as I started with ‘5’ and counted back two numbers to 543 Concession St. The house my brother and I grew up in had no front door, but it did have a store!
As I got older, I began to realize that growing up in a business community was different than in a more traditional residential area. Shopkeepers and their employees were our neighbours and friends. On the one side was the old Royal Bank of Canada. Its dark brown bricks and cream-coloured stone window sills reminded me of a Spanish bar cake. On the other side were a menswear shop that I often wished was a womenswear store, Felker’s barbershop and next to that the dry cleaners.
The cleaners was in an old, ramshackle building with a large and noisy steamer which to a young child seemed alive and angry. I always walked quickly past the cleaners.
Mr. Felker and the menswear owner also knew that my brother and I would use the field behind their stores as our playground.
At the end of our block was the Concession Street library, which was one of my favourite haunts. The children’s entrance was around the side on Cliff Avenue and I spent many Saturdays happily choosing books for the week.
Halloween called for a bit of logistical timing. There were two bakeries on Concession Street — Weil’s and Mountain Bakery — and boy were they popular on October 31st. You had to get there before the lineup of kids started because if you didn’t, all the day-old baked goods would have been given out; 5:30 was the optimum time but we always had supper at 6pm when Dad closed the store.
Coming home from school, I would walk through the store and up a few steps into the house. I can still remember the smell of freshly oiled wood floors and hear the paint mixer whirling. My mother loved to set up houseware displays especially at Easter and Christmas in the large front window, and I was always excited to see how they turned out. Dad’s were pretty good, too, but they consisted of tools.
It was fun, interesting and reassuring to have a sense of place in a community of shop owners who helped create a thriving and vibrant Concession Street.
Margaret Tremblay wrote this essay on her memories of Concession Street, which she entitled “Growing Up Behind Mountain Hardware,” 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.