Tuesday, April 16, 2019

"When Westboro Was Used Car Alley"

I contributed to a CBC piece this week that was a follow-up to a popular, if not somewhat contentious article they ran back in February, in which they called Bells Corners the "next Westboro". CBC wanted to do a follow-up, discussing the Westboro of 20-30 years ago (before the real estate explosion occurred, and the village changed so much). So a reporter reached out to me for my thoughts on the Bells Corners comparison, and to ask for some 1970s-80s vintage Westboro photos.

The article was published yesterday, you can view it here:

I love the 'slider' feature they did with some of the photos I provided, many of these I've never shared before. It gives a great picture of the not-too-distant past of Westboro, one which many current residents can still relate to.

As for the comparison to Bells Corners, I think its a bit of a stretch to try to compare Westboro (of any era) with Bells Corners. There is obviously little similarity in terms of the layout, the history, the types of homes, etc. The author of the article focused on a couple specific areas which I guess does align a bit with Bells Corners, namely the used car shops and service stations. Not that Westboro was really ever known for that in some major way, but just that there always were an abundance of them along the strip from Golden all the way to Holland. By the 1980s, there were still quite a few of them, and the area indeed did have the moniker "used car alley" for a time.

In the interview I did with the writer, my main point of comparison (which unfortunately she glossed over a little and only chose to include a small part of it) is that Westboro used to be a relatively inexpensive place to live. When the area exploded in the 1910s and 1920s, it was the start of two or three generations that chose to live and remain in Westboro. And why not... a person could live, work, shop and enjoy recreational activities all within the "village". There were shops, there was a movie theatre, a lawn bowling club, bowling alleys, a golf course... there was a sense of pride in community, because the people who lived in Westboro generally stayed in Westboro. A good reason for that is that they could afford to. A young adult in their 20s could afford to buy their first home in Westboro, and often they did. They raised their kids there, and so on. But you can't see that as much now, because property values are astronomical. Most 25 year olds can't buy a $800,000 house - they have no choice but to look to the suburbs, the Barrhavens, Stittsville, Kanatas. So that continuity, that multi-generation pride in Westboro is lost. To me, that has what changed the most in the area, and that is sad. And I would fear the same for Bells Corners. Many of the residents there have grown up and lived there as their parents did, and grandparents. There is a LOT of pride in Bells Corners. Just check out any of the huge Bells Corners facebook groups, and the very-active community associations. So you'd hate to see a similar fate happen there. And it could happen. With DND moving to Carling Campus on Moodie, the increased demand for housing, and larger family homes, will inevitably drive up the market. A first step in a neighbourhood change maybe. Many will welcome it, as many Westboroians did when Superstore came long for instance, and certainly there are a lot of changes "for the better" in Westboro in the last 20 years. Hard to complain when your house value has gone up x3, right?

Anyhow, I just felt I should explain the naked quote left at the bottom of the article about the lack of pride in Westboro, and clarify where that comment came from!

Hope you enjoy the walk down memory lane in Westboro with these old photos!

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