This is the eighth 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.
We all knew the inevitable would eventually take place but we rarely spoke about it. We knew that the body of scholars at the local university was ever-growing. We knew that each and every year it was plumping and fattening and it was only a matter of time before the hilltop would be unable to hold them any longer. Soon they would spill out over the rest of this Garden City and never return to their tall tower. Reminiscent of a bumper car wedged helplessly in the corner of the track, the doctors of arts and bleeding-heart professors at the local university sat in the dungeon of that same tall tower and collectively beat their heads against the grey stone walls. With every birthday, majestic fountain or shooting star sighting they would wish for bigger and better space for their beloved scholars. Now that the funding had been generously donated by our Leading Lady the real question now was where we would put them.
A largely important building sat neatly hidden in the shadow of Main Street. The site was historical, ancient, a classic if you will. Anyone speeding past our downtown along the canal highway could not miss the glowing orange bricks and rustic industrial design of this now quiet structure. For more than a century this orange brick building housed a thriving and blossoming industry. The products of this old factory could be found parachuting from airplanes, creating comfort on cross country train trips and hidden in the linings of men’s dapper suits. The old orange factory provided valuable work for Canadians and immigrants alike and helped to put our humble Garden City on the national map.
However, more recently the old factory provided asylum to rodents in the winter months, became a public toilet for any debauchee or vagabond slinking around in the darkness and on just one magical evening the building came to life when it hosted an impromptu fashion show. It had been years since the dust had settled over the old industrial contraptions housed within the orange brick walls. The formerly bustling industry had faltered and quieted — or more bluntly — and had moved to a more affordable location in a far off land. The recognizable white trimmed windows had begun to crack and peel back with neglect, decay and exposure to the elements.
Soon this historical site will be manicured and given a facelift much like the downtown area that surrounds it. The orange bricks will be scrubbed, the ground levelled and everything will be given a much-needed coat of fresh paint. Soon the old factory will be reincarnated and once again become an industry of hope and change. Soon this lonely building will give back to our community in the same way it had done in it’s previous life and once again become a cornerstone of The Garden City. Soon, when we look up at the recognizable white trimmed windows and peer inside, a new generation of revolutionaries will be looking back at us.