In 1975, the sign read “Welcome to Caledon, Canada’s Greenest Town, pop. 25,000”.
Tucked into the hillsides, we spotted scattered houses, some even close together. That was all. Caledon, we thought, must span the width of Ontario to account for 25,000 souls. If you had 25,000 people in a Maritime hub, you’d have yourself a major metropolis. We came from Halifax which didn’t claim all that much more than 25,000 – and it flaunted five universities and six movie theatres. But here, 25,000 didn’t rate even the elevated status of ‘city’. And where were the stores, the churches of varied denominations, the sidewalks? As a likely home, we crossed off Caledon in the newly-created Region of Peel’s three municipalities.
We had seen Mississauga. After gawking our way past Toronto’s skyline, we exited the 401 toward “one of Canada’s largest cities”. In our youth, that actually sounded appealing. Anticipation yielded to alarm and matched exponentially the endless number of industrial landscapes and giant billboards.
We stopped for gas. “Where’s Mississauga’s downtown?” The attendant struggled to help. Well, there’s Square One. Miles of asphalt parking lots squashed Square One. Port Credit sounded nice. It was pretty and further redeemed by its nearness to water. But it proved to be too far from work headquarters.
Like Goldilocks, we found Brampton to be just right. With a sigh of relief, we embraced this haven, this refuge. Finally, a recognizable town that boasted a park with a gazebo and a water fountain! The United and Presbyterian churches sat companionably across the street, with the Catholic one down the way a bit. We found a library, cafes, and schools you could walk to. Our street had sidewalks both sides. Our house had a veranda for tricycles, windowsills for plants, and a huge maple for shade. The drive-everywhere future was held at bay for a few years.
Until the day a newly-erected sign screamed the new status: “Welcome to Brampton! One of Canada’s fastest growing cities!!”
We moved. To Caledon. Where we nestle into the comforting hug of the hillsides and hold gently the fading sensibility of small town imagery.
by Elaine Coish