This is the fifteenth of many excerpts from Heather Lowe’s novella titled Catharine. It explores her love affair with downtown St. Catharines through a series of shamelessly exaggerated vignettes.
The seven boroughs of The Garden City are spread across a beautiful and ever–changing landscape. The city is not large by any means but the unique boroughs can, at times, feel worlds apart. If The Garden City was located in England, the inhabitants of The Hill would have a completely different dialect than those of The North Edge, and probably have some sort of ancient blood feud between the hard-nosed clans. Although we live in one whimsical city, it can sometimes feel like seven, little villages; all with their own coat of arms and municipal heritage. Families stay put in one borough for generations and surnames are oddly similar and easily confused. The Hill towards the western end of The Garden City is the life (and death) of the party, The North Edge is a land of all or nothing, and The Midfield is a quaint spot, filled with shiny offspring and acts a haven for those who formerly lived in the downtown core.
The Heights is where the money lives, home to breathtaking, tree-lined communities, a revival of Tudor-style homes and modestly massive backyards. The Heights looks like it jumped right out of a family drama that revolves around a middle-aged couple who just can’t seem to agree on which charity to support this year or which stainless steel barbecue will make their neighbours the most envious. Before you feel resentful of this part of The Garden City or its inhabitants, you should probably know that The Heights is also the unfortunate setting for the local university, so it didn’t get everything and wasn’t always so fortunate.
The Founder’s Base is the eldest part of our city and named for its very first “benefactor.” It houses a devoted and proud group of people and, even now, the shared sense of community planted in The Founder’s Base far surpasses that of any other borough in The Garden City. Fundraisers, history buffs and seniors can all be found in The Founder’s Base but they are not a crowd who enjoys or accepts change. The legendary history of this borough has caused its dwellers to be traditional, seemingly wholesome and conservative preservers. Builders of a grand waterway and industrial mills, the fathers of The Founder’s Base changed the face of The Garden City early on and although the land was never theirs to claim, they did so anyway. Now, The Founder’s Base is a dusty part of town where most inhabitants of The Garden City go for an oil change or a corporate steak dinner and the memories of a glorious, thriving borough lives and dies in the memories of its aging population.
The Port sits on the edge of a vast, semi-polluted body of water. On a clear day, one can see the skyline of The Little Apple peering across the water. Rarely lived in but always visited, The Port is known for its boating culture, catch and release fishing season, and less than personable geese that seem to run the show now. The Port used to be fun, on warm, summer weekends The Port was littered with a boisterous drinking crowd, firework displays and the itchy sand from the beach seemed to spill out onto the very streets. Now, however, The Port sits half dissected and abandoned. The few shops and taverns that still exist are popular in the warm weather but ghosts that once inhabited the now demolished historical buildings seem to haunt the entire borough. I can’t help but feel sad when I venture through The Port now, the greed of a few seemed to ruin the magic for all. A place that was once the setting of numerous first kisses, carousel rides and melting ice cream cones is now merely a memory to most of us, and it’s a blurry one at that.