Who would ever tell their 10 year-old child, how much their house costed? My father did. It was $19,000 back in 1968. It was a throwaway fact he told me after our whole family moved there . Nothing more said.
Home for Growth.. and Repair
It was a bargain price because this 1883 house (year was not known to us until 51 yrs. later), was rundown with needed insulation, better heating and roofing plus the bifold wooden old garage doors required replacement.
Autumn –best season for neighbourhood where Father stood. Waterloo, ON. 1981.
Now, the neighbourhood is part of a downtown historic walking tour in the city.
Back then, I was more intrigued and relieved by having more space after living in a 1-bedroom apartment with my parents and 4 other siblings. Mother was pregnant with 6th child.
Looking back, maybe my father wanted teach his eldest kid something. Not sure, what the lesson was supposed to be. Except their first house ate into the family budget.
Never mind, the 3 bedroom house led to a repurposed den and living room into 2 extra bedrooms for 8 people. It had a sunporch which was never used in winter but in warmer seasons, an extra place to hang out temporarily. We could hear backyard crickets on hot humid summer evenings.
Oktoberfest mascots. Kitchener-Waterloo. Annual 2 wk. long event of German-based fun. Including drinking as shown in red-faced mascot. Photo by C. Paradis
I hated going down into part of the unfinished basement: this house still had cobblestone basement floors where we stored eggs and multiple 25-cent butternut squash in cool temperatures.
Poverty, Wealth and the Middle Thrown Together
However, unbeknowest to my parents, they chose a quiet one-way street, just 15 min. walk from downtown Waterloo, Ontario. The oldest house, the 1812 Kumpf House (below), was just half a block away. This heritage designated house was on
sale for over $3 million in late 2021. Clearly the heritage status will not protect it from being torn down.
Our street was lined with mature maple trees and older unique homes built mid- 1800’s to early 1900’s. Some homes were solid yellow or red brick with wood trim, while others like our house were stucco. Several had large 2-storey wraparound verandas. As a kid, I dreamed of living in houses like that –to run around or lounge on a wide veranda to watch the world go by.
On our street was a Russian Mennonite church with grassy lawn and its little old parish like house. Later the house was torn down and an extension was built to house seniors in a retirement home.
Ideal Mix to Raise Kids
Out of pure luck, my parents chose a mixed socio-economic class neighbourhood. A healthy place to raise a large family.
House now retrofitted with extra enhancements. Lawn still looks patchy as several decades ago.
We were welcomed into the neighbourhood since previous house occupants were reclusive and might have drank too much alcohol. So says the rumour.
We were the only Asian-Canadian family on the block and probably for several blocks. The closest one we knew, was my mother’s friend who lived half hr. walk away. Several neighbours had German last names, either from marriage or family ranging from first to third generations.
Oktoberfest dancers. Kitchener-Waterloo has been hosting Canada’s biggest Oktoberfest festival for past 5 decades. Photo by C. Paradis.
We played or knew kids from wide range:
- a noisy next door working-class family with their overweight cocker spaniel and 2 short-leashed, terrifying German shepherds which the latter were chained perpetually in their backyard. The 2 older sons seemed to like their hotrod cars. Annoyingly, my parents insisted one of us trundle over with a store bought Christmas tin of cookies or chocolates –form of insurance they would be remain nice to us.
- a German family of 8 kids. They kept the exterior of house beautifully painted and landscaped.
- college professor and wife with 4 kids
House built in 1883, further up our street, occupied by former University of Waterloo President. Prior to him was a Mayor of Waterloo and owner of local small newspaper.
- retired couple who had a son and family that visited. They lived in a nice big house.
- cop who dropped by to help his friendly aging mother and do yardwork. There were fruit trees in their backyard where I picked up leaves for a science project.
- a banker with wife and teen son. And yes, they were the Kleinschmidts.
- vaguely Hispanic /Latino family with some kids
- Hungarian elderly lady where her adult grandson also lived in a large, wonderful house
- an unknown family of some financial means, living in a gracious patrician styled house. The attractive girl who lived there, got pregnant in her senior high school year. The house was occupied decades earlier by one of Waterloo’s mayors.
Along King St., Waterloo. Facing a German Bavarian themed gazebo. Behind it, First United Church where as children, went to Sunday School.
Later we learned, further up the street, the president of the local university lived up a steep hill in his house. Another house was occupied by a mayor decades ago.
In front of my bedroom was the maple tree that lit up a wonderful golden glow into my room, during autumn from its flaming leaves. When I lived elsewhere and even now, that’s what my memories are flooded with light of the place where we grew up.
Mature maple trees still line childhood street. Waterloo, ON 2021.
1 km. away from home, our family doctor’s house, Voelker House with office on lower level. Dr. Voelker was our physician for several decades. House built in 1849. At corner of Alberta and Young Street in Waterloo. Always a signature Christmas tree with lights in evening , when walking home from senior public school near by and then later, from university.