I’m back in my old East Kildonan neighbourhood, but I’m not really there. I left E.K. many years ago when I was still a child, and this is my first time seeing the area again, but it’s a virtual visit, courtesy of Google Street View.
The intersection of Watt Street and Kimberly Avenue was the northern boundary of my childhood universe, so I start my virtual tour by looking for the Tom-Boy supermarket, where my family used to buy groceries. What, it’s now a Family Foods? Well, at least good old Ebbeling Pharmacy is still beside it. But where’s the bank across the street? It looks like an appliance store now. I feel lost already.
Walking further south along Watt, I tried to regain my bearings. I remember the hydro substation between Bronx Place and Chelsea, but I honestly don’t recall a big church being there. And, I’m positive there was a barber shop in that building near Chelsea and Watt. It seems to be long gone. And hey, what happened to the little green corner store at Melbourne Avenue and Watt? It’s been replaced by an insurance agency! When did that happen?
Anyway, never mind, there’s my old home! The colour’s different and there’s a big tree that I don’t recall, but it’s unmistakable. I learned to ride a bike on the sidewalk in front of the house, and I remember my grandma often sitting in the backyard, keeping an eye on me while I played.
When I was around five or six, my big adventure one day was to reach the Champs Chicken (now KFC) at the end of Melbourne, home of the Colonel and his secret recipe. It was mission impossible though, and I lost my nerve (I dare say I chickened out) less than halfway there. The Colonel would have to wait another day.
I decide to continue down Watt and retrace my walk to school. Coming to Sydney Avenue, I remember being pals with a girl who lived there in first grade. We played hide-and-seek in my backyard once, but I cheated by hiding inside my house. I remember feeling guilty because she went home in tears after not being able to find me.
I see the 7-11 is still on the corner of Watt and Neil Avenue. I often stopped there on my way home from school, to buy a pizza pop or a Slurpee. I was terrible at counting change, so I would dump a fistful of money on the counter and let the clerk sort it out.
Trent Avenue is next, home of my best friend Sean. We kept in touch briefly after I moved away, but a new school year and new friends soon came about for both of us.
I find myself wondering what happened to these early friends and classmates — how their lives went and how mine may have been different if I had stayed.
The neighbourhood that I knew no longer exists, but it continues to live on in my mind, where there will always be a little mom and pop store on the corner, a barber shop down the street, and childhood friends eager for the day’s adventures to begin.
Wayne Chan is a Winnipeg-based writer.
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