Sunday, December 26, 2021

The massive Ottawa Christmas tree bonfires!

Happy Holidays to all local history fans! Here's a fun bit of local history related to Ottawa in general. Enjoy!


Disposal of your Christmas tree is pretty straightforward in the 21st century. You just carry your tree out to the curb on garbage day, and the green bin collecting truck will pick it up. You can put your tree out on Boxing Day or, like some people, you can keep it up until February and put it out then. It will get picked up just the same, and end up at the outdoor composting facility on Barnsale Road. Further out in the valley, trees end up at the Ottawa Valley Waste Recovery Centre where they are turned into woodchips and used in composting by the OVWRC, or sold as mulch (a little bit of Googling could not confirm if that's what happens at Barnsdale Road, but I assume it does?).

Even better, the Nature Conservancy of Canada recommends putting your tree in your backyard to provide habitat for birds in the winter months on cold nights. Alternatively, you can bring your tree to Fisher Park or by the Rideau Canal to decorate along the skateways. 

But these simple solutions weren't always available. In fact in the 1940s and 50s, Ottawa had an interesting way of dealing with Christmas tree disposal - massive public bonfires! These bonfires became major public events akin to a winter carnival, that at its peak brought 15,000 Ottawans out on a cold February night to the city dump! And who knows, maybe part of our annual Christmas tradition in 2022 would still be to drive out to the local dump for the massive spectacle, had it not been for the Mayor of Ottawa being seriously burned during the ignition of the bonfire one year. Here is the story.

* * *

The story begins around 1939, when the newspapers began covering the issues with Christmas trees sticking around once Christmas had concluded. The issue was two-fold. Not just with private citizens, but with the sellers of trees. Apparently it had become an issue (and significant fire hazard) that tree sellers would simply abandon their stock after Christmas, leaving behind large numbers of trees littering more often city-owned lots, but some private ones as well. To combat the issue, the Chief of the Fire Department suggested that tree sellers be obligated to pay a $2 deposit to the City up front, refundable once the lots were checked to ensure they were cleaned up. 

It appears the proposal was never adopted. In February 1944, it was reported to still to be a "shame" that Christmas trees were "still blowing around", with the blame going to tree sellers on vacant lots. A local alderman noted "the number of trees sacrificed last Christmas was a crime."

By December of 1946, the fire chief was fed up with tree sellers and warned that those not following the Fire Marshal's Act would be prosecuted. Works Commissioner Frank Askwith called it an "appalling situation", after a visit to all of the 30-35 tree lots in the city showed that hazards existed at all of them! "In one case we found a frame building completely banked with Christmas trees. A match or dropped cigarette butt would have caused a flash fire that would have enveloped the house in flame in a matter of seconds. A fire like that could jump to nearby houses and cause a real conflagration."

It was proposed to increase the annual licensing fee from $3 to $10, with a $7 refund provided if the lot was emptied and cleaned at season's end. It was noted that in 1945, the city had to "cart away truckloads of trees at no cost to those who left them."

(By the way, in December of 1940, it was reported that trees being sold in the By Ward Market were being sold at 25 cents to a dollar each; turkeys meanwhile were being sold at 25 to 28 cents a pound).

During war times, there were Christmas tree shortages. Trees became a hot export to the States, and the Dominion Forest Service issued a warning in December of 1941 that Canadians typically wait a long time to get their trees, and instead should "get down to business" earlier. "The only way a shortage can be avoided this year is by purchasing trees well before the holiday", they cautioned.

The issue of tree-sellers was a big one, but the bigger issue was what happened to Christmas trees being discarded by residents after Christmas was over. Until 1939, it was not part of the City's garbage collection policy to pick up trees. As a result, trees would be "thrown on to the streets or left to litter yards and vacant lots" (from the Ottawa Journal January 4, 1939).

It appears sometime around the winter of 1943-44, the problem began to be solved by City's sanitation department agreeing to gradually pick up the trees in January as space in the wagons allowed it. 

Ottawa Citizen - January 6, 1944

January of 1946 was the first year I could find where it was reported that a dedicated collection of Christmas trees would be conducted by the sanitation department. Trees were asked to be put out by residents on January 7th, when collection would begin.

Ottawa Journal - December 28, 1945

That winter (1945-46) was also the first time the City's new tree disposal plan was apparently put into place... burning them up! It was reported that in January of 1946, over 30,000 trees were collected by the City and burned. Prior to this 1946, Christmas trees would be buried, but at a high cost of space in the dump. 

Following Christmas of 1946, it was reported that an estimated $45,000 worth of Christmas trees (based on what residents had paid for their trees) would "go up in smoke" at the Ottawa South dump in mid-January. 

Ottawa Citizen - January 2, 1947

Residents were asked to place their trees outside on January 13th, for collection by special trucks dispatched by the City to collect all of the City's trees between the 13th and 25th.

Ottawa Journal - January 4, 1947

In 1947, city workers burned the trees as they arrived, or in small batches.

Ottawa Journal - January 22, 1947

This practice continued into 1949...

Ottawa Citizen, February 4, 1949

...and 1951.

Ottawa Citizen - January 13, 1951

An interesting article from December of 1952 published a list of warnings that Ottawa Fire Chief Gray Burnett issued to the public about Christmas trees. I thought it was worth sharing this list:

Ottawa Citizen - December 9, 1952

Reports from later that month in December 1952 noted that trees in Ottawa cost between $1.50 to $4.00, while the original price paid to the grower was between 40 cents to $1.25 per tree. It was estimated that in 1952, that between 40 and 50 million trees were cut down in Canada for sale within North America, which was at the time a $100 million dollar business.

In January of 1953, the Citizen published photos of a mass the burning of most of the collected trees. IT was observed by one single small boy. That would soon change...

Ottawa Citizen - January 20, 1953

One year later, in January of 1954, City officials decided that a public event would be held to watch the burning of the trees! This event would be dubbed "Burning of the Greens". 

3,500 people watched as officials including Mayor Charlotte Whitton lit the 50 foot high pile of 40,000 trees at the Ottawa South dump on Riverside Drive (about halfway between Smyth and the 417, across from what is today's Lycee Claudel School) on Tuesday January 19th, 1954.

"Newspapers, soaked in kerosene, had been placed around the circumference at the base of the pile. Leading into the trees was a trench soaked with varsol. The three officials touched off the varsol, and in a few minutes the pile was a flaming mass."

Fire and police officials were also on hand to help manage the fire, and the crowds. An hour prior to the lighting, firemen had set up huge spotlights near the tree pile. A sound truck operated by CFRA provided music. 

Mayor Whitton concluded her brief introductory speech by telling the crowd "the night is yours, the city is yours. Enjoy yourself", while Alderman St. Germain led the crowd in a singing of "Alouette" and "My Wild Irish Eyes". Then while the fire raged, additional fireworks were let off by officials. 

Ottawa Citizen - January 20, 1954

The event was considered a huge success, and would continue on in much the same manner the next several years. It was well covered in the newspaper with photos each year, as you'll see from some of the clippings below.

Ottawa Journal - January 28, 1955

In 1956, the event did not go off quite as planned. The pile of 50,000 trees was ignited early by pranksters, who ruined the evening for many attendees, most of whom arrived after the blaze was at its peak.

In January of 1957, the "Burning of the Greens" event actually fell on Robbie Burns Day, giving the event extra PR opportunities. By 1957, the city was arranging for parking for 5,000 cars on site, and even built long, high snow banks to serve as shields from the hot fire, to prevent scorching of cars. The city also put in extra security measures to keep pranksters away, as the Recreation Department had extra men guarding the pile all week. 

The night went off very well with 4,000 people in attendance watching "a 40-foot pyramid of 45,000 Christmas trees turned into a wall of fire" when the trees were lit at 8:30 p.m.

"Dads, mums and small fry formed a giant arc around the flames dancing and twisting up from the piled built on the Riverside dump... Many more watched from a ring of cars. More yet saw the blaze from their homes. And not all realized what the mushroom of black smoke and the orange glow meant. In consequence, the Fire Department and Police were kept busy answering worried telephone calls", reported the Citizen.

Sanitation Superintendent Jack May called the fire "probably the biggest in North America", and "compared its preparation to building the pyramids in Egypt", wrote the Citizen. "To get the thing to burn properly when you have rain and ice to contend with, the trees have to be piled carefully. It's not just a tangled mess" said May. 

"Like a chef unwilling to part with a recipe, the sanitation chief wouldn't say too much about the secrets of building the pile", reported the Citizen, though May did admit that it contained 20 gallons of highly inflammable used dry cleaning fluid, but would not admit to what else.

The photo below shows four kids who had come to watch the burning (and seemingly a couple of them told to look sad at seeing the last vestiges of Christmas go up in flames).

January 25, 1957
(City of Ottawa Archives CA-42952)

The crowd remained in the cold for about an hour and then began to dissipate. The fire continued overnight (under watch of Fire and Sanitation Department staff), and by morning had become "a layer of potash and charcoal only knee high". 

Following the event, Alderman St. Germain commented that he'd like to see the event become a full-scale carnival next year.

In 1958, the bonfire was held on Friday January 31st, a total of 49,589 trees burned in what city officials were claiming was the largest bonfire ever set in North America. There were issues in getting the fire started after a week-long heavy snowfall covered the pile of trees. A large crane was brought in earlier in the day to shake up the top of the pile, and with extra gasoline and varsol added to the top of the pile, the fire eventually got going "with all the fierceness and color expected". 

It certainly attracted a massive crowd, with an estimated 15,000 attendees. There was a first aid tent, a snack bar selling hot dogs and colas, and an "amplified record machine well stocked with hit parade tunes". Promises were made for a dance platform for next year.

Ottawa Citizen - February 1, 1958

However, it was a mishap at the 1959 edition of Burning of the Greens on Thursday January 22nd, 1959 that brought this popular event to an end. 

52,875 trees were lit that night, with Mayor George H. Nelms doing the honours of the lighting. However, as the Journal reported the next morning, Nelms and the Fire Chief Dolman were "enveloped in flames" when they put the torch to the trees. 

The trees had been extra-soaked in varsol and other inflammable liquids prior to the lighting, in an effort to avoid the difficulties they had in lighting the trees the year prior. The liquids had been poured on top of the pile, and had seeped down to form puddles on the ground. Fumes from the liquids exploded and a high wind blew flames around the Chief and Mayor. 

"I was about five feet from the trees with the long-handled torch", recounted the Mayor, "Then all I can remember is a whoosh and a bang and there were flames all around me. It was a close call. I wouldn't want to come any closer."

Mayor George H. Nelms (1956-1960)

Mayor Nelms' overcoat was badly burnt, his gloves "just fell apart" and his hat was also destroyed. By the next morning, his left eye was swollen almost shut, the left side of his face was inflamed and blistered, and he had lost his eyebrows and eyelashes. (The Fire Chief's hair was singed and his face slightly blistered, and his clothes were also scorched.) 

Ottawa Citizen - January 23, 1959

Ottawa Journal - January 23, 1959

Immediately it was announced that the Fire Department would assume control of the tree burning for the next year, taking over from the Sanitation Department. Mayor Nelms stated "We will never come as close to being incinerated as we were last night."

Front Page Top Headline
Ottawa Citizen - January 23, 1959

Tree pick up continued in 1960 (with extra warnings about not leaving your tree by the curb in a standing position!).

Ottawa Journal - January 9, 1960

However, it was announced there would be no tree burning as in previous years. City sanitation trucks would pick up the trees, but they would be burned in small batches privately by the sanitation department. The Burning of the Greens was no longer.

Ottawa Journal - January 10, 1961

In future years, there would be the occasional Christmas tree burning in the City, usually in small suburbs holding their own small event or winter carnival. In the 1964 Ottawa Winter Carnival held a Christmas tree burning evening on the canal by Dow's Lake. But for the most part, Christmas tree burnings became a thing of the past, after a swift rise to popularity in the 1950s! Another interesting piece of Ottawa history!

Friday, December 17, 2021

Christmas in Westboro 1899!

Merry Christmas! In this month's new issue of the Kitchissippi Times, I've done another article similar to what I did last year, in that I've tried to bring back a long ago Christmas of the past, to bring alive an era in early local history. Last year I wrote about what Christmas in Hintonburg in 1880 would have looked like (click here for the article), and I loved researching and writing that column. So much so that I copied the idea to write about Christmas in Westboro in 1899. 

You'll see that the year 1899 isn't just a random year I selected - it was perhaps THE pivotal year when Westboro changed from a little quiet hamlet on Richmond Road to becoming the thriving neighbourhood that it quickly became. And I love to compare all the pieces of an 1899 Christmas that still are relatable today. 

Lots of local tidbits in this piece. I hope you'll have a read. All the best to you and your family.

Read the article here:

(Source: NY Public Library victorian era postcard)

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Brews and billiards: The history of the Herb & Spice building

In the November issue, I wrote about the hidden history of the Herb & Spice building on Wellington Street West! The building has a history that you wouldn't have expected!

Check out the full article here:

(Source: City of Ottawa Archives, CA-24328)

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Tunney's Pasture presentation for the HSO: Video now available online!

Good news. For those of you who missed it last week, my presentation for the Historical Society of Ottawa on the history of the Tunney's Pasture property is now available on the HSO website, and on YouTube!

Thanks to all of you who did attend the live presentation, and asked such great questions. It was an honour to be asked to present for the HSO series, and all feedback from the event has been extremely positive. 

It's a lot of information and photographs jammed into a one hour presentation. I hope you enjoy it!

And here is the link to the video on the HSO YouTube channel:

Laroche Park Revitalization interview

In case you missed it, CBC published a story this weekend about the Laroche Park remediation work, and some of the discoveries they are unearthing as they dig. CBC interviewed me for the story! Check out the full article at:

How land speculation and three scenic islands led to the birth of Champlain Park and Island Park Drive

This month's issue of the Kitchissippi Times contains my article on the evolution of Champlain Park (or Riverside Park, as it was originally known). It's a great story all made possible by Robert H. Cowley, son of Captain Daniel Keyworth Cowley, who operated a farm just west of what is now Island Park Drive in the 19th century. 

Cowley was a visionary, and it was his push that likely led to the western extension to the Queen Elizabeth Driveway (aka Island Park Drive) taking the path it does today, and arriving at what was once three scenic islands off the shore. Cowley's ownership of the land and push for the Driveway led to the establishment of Champlain Park, and eventually the arrival of Island Park Drive. 

It's an interesting story, and for those who live in Champlain Park, a great bit of history on how the neighbourhood was first formed. 

I've intentionally not written too much on Champlain Park over the past five years as I know fellow historian Bob Grainger is actively working on a book on the history of the neighbourhood. But this story was just too great not to share! 

A few vintage photos and visuals, so hope you enjoy!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Invitation! September 29th: The history of the Tunney's Pasture property brought alive!

My presentation is just two weeks away!

On the evening of Wednesday September 29th, at 7 p.m., I will be making a live, online presentation as part of the Historical Society of Ottawa speaker series, on the history of the Tunney's Pasture property. If you have not registered yet, I encourage you to do so now (click here: 

This will be a detailed history of the land going back through all its uses (and proposed uses) of the 1800s and 1900s, from its days as a mill site operated by Nicholas Sparks, a shantytown, a hub for the proposed Georgian Bay Canal plan, a residential subdivision, a heavy industrial site, an abbatoir... and yes, the spot where Anthony Tunney's cattle grazed. I'll speak to its evolution to a federal government hub, and maybe even a brief look ahead at the proposed redevelopment project that will change Tunney's over the next two decades.

There will be a ton of visuals and photos. This is not just a boring history chat... this is going to bring the most interesting tidbits of Tunney's Pasture history alive in a 60 minute presentation! 

I'll be featuring a lot of new photos and new stories that I have never shared before.

I am proud to be asked to be a speaker for the Historical Society series. The HSO holds just a few presentations each year, and to be recognized in this way is very meaningful to me. I invite you to join me on this special evening. 

Admission is free, and no membership in the HSO is required. You can simply jump online using the link and watch the show without any need to speak or share video, as if you're watching Netflix (but good luck finding anything half as interesting as the history of Tunney's on Netflix!) 

To register click this link:, and just enter your name and email address. It will reserve a spot for you in the presentation (spaces are somewhat limited) and ensure you receive a reminder email with the viewing link prior to the 29th. 

More information can be found at the HSO website for the event here:,17/tunney-s-pasture-the-story-behind-ottawa-s-field-of-dreams

Thank you, I am very much looking forward to this presentation!

The fascinating Holland Brothers and their namesake street Holland Avenue

In this month's Kitchissippi Times, be sure to check out my new column profiling the fascinating Holland brothers, Andrew and George and their significant impact on the early days of our neighbourhood. You'll be surprised to read about all of their professional accomplishments, and how they directly affected the development of our community, including many of the streets and its infrastructure. 

The article also talks about the growth of Holland Avenue, a street which is growing in prominence as Kitchissippi continues to evolve (just wait until the Tunney's Pasture redevelopment begins!). Holland was the main street they designed as part of their subdivision plan for the area, a street laid out for the initial purposes of featuring the streetcars going south to the Farm, and later west to Britannia. 

Read all about these two incredible individuals, and the history of Holland Avenue at:

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Loads of Laundry: From faith healing church to Laundry Land, the history of a notable Westboro location

Check out the newest issue of the Kitchissippi Times for a neat article I've written on the history of the piece of land at the top of the Churchill Avenue hill. For years it has been a coin laundry/dry cleaners known as "Laundry Land", but I was surprised when my research took me back to when part of the building was originally a faith healing church as far back as 1900! It's been several other things since then, and has quite a colourful history. 

Working on this story has also yielded one of the biggest coincidences of my life. I'd been poking at the story for a couple of weeks back in June, when one day into my inbox I read the subject line "Hornerite Church on Churchill". It was an email from esteemed historian Bruce Elliott. I'm always glad to hear from Dr. Elliott on any subject, and in this case he was kindly forwarding something he had randomly come across that he thought I might be interested in. What a huge coincidence, as I was already in the midst of researching the Hornerites and the history of that Church! For about ten seconds when I read that subject line, I was stunned. How does anyone even know I'm working on this, I wondered. Anyways, what a coincidence, but the article did reveal a few details that led me to making the important confirmation that the Church was actually moved, and not demolished and replaced by a new commercial building. So great timing on that for sure.

Anyhow, it's a sad story, the closing of Laundry Land, and who knows what lies in store for that impressive piece of land in the heart of Westboro. So I'm happy to share the history of the property, and the building. 

Click here: 

(Photo credit: Francis Ferland/CBC)

Saturday, July 31, 2021

The history of the Island Park Metro

I love the Island Park Metro. I've spent my entire life living within short walking distance, and as a kid, it was the place where my family did most of our shopping. Before the arrival in the neighbourhood of the big box stores like Superstore and Sobey's, the Metro was one of the few grocery store options in the area, and believe it or not, one of the biggest. 

Opinions on the Metro seem mixed amongst people I've spoken to. Some love it because it's close by, small, and has that old-school charm. Or others avoid it for the perceived lack of selection, small size, or whatever. To me, its almost like shopping at Morris Home Hardware. A smaller location, but the selection is pretty impressive, the staff are awesome, its just a short walk away, and it just has that extra neighbourhoody feel to it. 

I was in the Metro two days ago and realized I didn't really know the history of the store, and had never written about it. 

And since it has been way too long since I've written something for the blog, I thought it would make for a nice, shorter piece. So here we go... 

* * *

The Metro property actually has a grocery store as part of its history going all the way back to 1908! In that year, prominent Hintonburg businessman William George Wilson built a 2-storey red-bricked house at the corner of Carleton and Richmond (fronting Richmond, but on the far west edge of the property, which is now the Metro parking lot). The ground floor was built as a commercial space, with an apartment upstairs. The house was leased to 24-year old Henry Porteous and his family, who moved in upstairs and opened a grocery store downstairs. The would go on to operate this store for the next 19 years, until 1927.

The neighbourhood was growing steadily at this time. Though the Ottawa Land Association property east of Western would remain empty fields until 1920, the little pocket of homes north of Richmond along Carleton and Rockhurst, and south of Richmond along Piccadilly and Mayfair was enough to keep the store busy.

Business must have been good; Porteous later bought the building from Wilson in 1917, and around that time as well purchased the house on the other side of Carleton fronting Richmond for his family to move in to (they then rented out the apartment above the store). 

May 6, 1922

Porteous sold the grocery store property in 1927, and opened a small hardware store out of his home next door for two years, before passing away in 1929 at the young age of 45. 

James M. Shouldice purchased the grocery store in 1927, and after a brief stint as "Shouldice & Rogers", became Shouldice Brothers in 1929. The store would have been for several decades the primary grocery store for the area east of Westboro and west of Parkdale Avenue. 

Shouldice Brothers Grocery
(illustration by Lorne Parker)

I don't have a photo of the grocery store, but this illustration by long-time resident Lorne Parker survives. Parker grew up with the Shouldice store in the 1930s and 1940s, and wrote this about it several years ago:

"The Shouldice Store was on of the focal points that attracted us youngsters for one reason or another. They sold a full line of groceries plus most of the requisites of everyday living, a forerunner of the present-day department stores. Unlike today, the owners were present to serve and chat with the customers,  young and old. No need to have a credit card for your purchase, just tell them you'll drop by tomorrow or "put it on the bill" til payday, which to their consternation, sometimes never came. The Shouldice Brothers, Rug and Jim, often handed out free candy to the assembled kids who occupied their front veranda and window sill for most of the daylight hours, six days a week. Sunday was then a day of rest, which the majority of people required after working nine and ten hour days. Another use for the front entrance of the Shouldice Store was a dropping-off spot for the Ottawa Citizen and Journal papers, for delivery to customers on the "paperboys" route in the area."

In 1945, it became known as "Island Grocery & Meat Market", around which time the Shouldice Brothers sold to Morris Krantzberg, who soon after sold to Max and Lillian David, who continued business under this same name. 

Ottawa Citizen - May 16, 1946

In 1957, the grocery business was changing, and larger grocery store chains had arrived and moved into the neighbourhood. The smaller shops could no longer compete with the chains who had access to discounted products and shipping lines. The Davids leased the building to Esbar Kouri, who opened a restaurant here called Kouri's Restaurant, and by the mid-60s had become Island Park Variety (a convenience store with a lunch counter). 

The old building's life came to an end in July of 1965 when the assets of Island Park Variety were sold by auction. The Davids had sold the property to M. Loeb Ltd. in October of 1963. 

Now the adjoining lots are also part of the story in what makes up today's Metro property. The Porteous/Shouldice/David lot was "lot 7" on Richmond Road. Lot 8 to the east had a house on it built also in 1908 by sawfiler John James Clark (later the long-time home of the Bennie and May families). This house was purchased by Max David in 1954 and included in the sale to Loeb in 1963.

Lots 9 and 10, which is the east end of the parking lot and the Island Park Dental building today, was the long-time home of the 'Ottawa West Garage', a very early neighbourhood car repair shop opened by Charles Weatherdon in 1922.

May 6, 1922

It later became Young's Service Garage (1936-1939), McNally's Service Station (1940-1955), Brazeau Motor Sales (1956-1959), Bytown Motors Ltd. (1960-1962), Goodwin Motors (1964-1965), and Wally Biggs (1965-1966).

The small service station building was demolished in 1966, and the property in lots 9 and 10 leased to M. Loeb Ltd. (it's kind of interesting that the Metro does not and never has owned the eastern half of the property - or at least did not until the 2000s if it ever has). 

Meanwhile, there were three houses fronting onto Garrison Street (then known as Perth Street) which had to be demolished to make way for the big supermarket. In May of 1964, Leonard and Edna Schan sold their house at the corner of Carleton (341 Carleton, a small, wood-frame 1 1/2 storey house); in September of 1965 Palmerino and Maria Nicoletta sold their house at 18 Perth (a 2 1/2 storey brick house); and in July of 1965 Rene Ladouceur sold the house at 14 Perth (a 2 storey wood-frame house) to M. Loeb Ltd.

Though I do not have handy any photos of those buildings or houses, the aerial photos of 1958 and 1965 from GeoOttawa show the detail of where those houses were located, and also shows the site in 1965 in mid-transition, with the used car lot and old Shouldice Grocery still standing, along with the Ladouceur house on Perth still there. All three buildings would be gone within a year.

1958 aerial view (GeoOttawa)

1965 aerial view (GeoOttawa)

* * *

Construction on the Metro store would have begun sometime in the late fall of 1966. The store had it's grand opening as IGA Foodliner on Tuesday July 18th, 1967.

Ottawa Citizen, July 14, 1967

Ottawa Citizen, July 19, 1967

Here is a classified ad looking for clerks just after opening:

Ottawa Citizen, September 22, 1967

Moses Loeb came to Ottawa in 1912 by way of Cincinnati, in search of new business opportunities. He purchased a store in LeBreton Flats and began selling groceries. He also began selling candy and tobacco to other grocery stores with his horse and wagon, growing his business so that the family's Eccles Street home was essentially a warehouse. The wholesale business was profitable, but the Loeb business did not take off until son Bertram returned from WWII and purchased the first Independent Grocers Alliance (IGA) regional franchise in Canada, and started signing up small neighbourhood grocers. By 1952 they had 34 stores, doing $3.5 million in annual business. Bertram then took the IGA concept across Canada and in to the US, and took the company public in 1959. He was the first to implement computerized inventory, and also intrdouced Gold Bond Stamps (which shoppers could exchange for toasters and blankets). Loeb in radio ads in Ottawa began to use the slogan "I Give Away" to represent IGA. The Island Park IGA opened when Loeb was at its peak, with sales and profits franchise-wise increasing 40% annually. 

Example of the interior of an Ottawa IGA store
at the time. This was taken at the IGA Foodliner
on Merivale Road in April of 1964

Here are two views from just overheard taken on May 13 1969. The second photo is similar but is taken more to the west so you get a bit of a view of the front wall (unfortunately the photo is cut off as it is at the edge of the photo):

Here is a better shot of the store taken in 1974:

July 1974 (part of Ottawa Archives CA-10408)

Below is a profile of then-manager of the Island Park IGA, Ray Moise:

Ottawa Citizen, August 9, 1972

Ray Moise would be in the newspaper quite a bit over the next four years, adamantly fighting the Sunday store closure laws. It all began in May of 1972, when Moise began fighting what was known as the Lord's Day Act, which required that larger stores be closed on Sundays. He argued that he was losing a lot of business to smaller stores. "I was forced to open by Mac's Milk and the other supermarkets that were staying open in the area. I would lose my business otherwise and I can't afford to see a lifetime of work fly out the window" he stated in June of that year. 

Moise was one of the first stores to fight the Act, following the lead of the Alta Vista IGA and Paquins Pay Less on Bank Street at Walkley, which began operating 7 days a week in January of 1972.

That July, Moise's Island Park IGA, as well as Fournier's IGA in Britannia (now Farm Boy) were charged under the Lord's Day Act (which dated back to 1906). When it finally got to court in April of 1973, Moise was acquitted of some of the charges on the odd technicality that "evidence failed to show whether or not he was the owner last June 11; a Sunday on which his store was open." (He was obviously the owner at the time). Paquin was found guilty and fined $25 (the maximum fine for each day of a store being open was just $40), and at court in August, other stores were found guilty as well. Moise was later brought up on other charges and fined the minimum $25, as the Judge took into account that Moise had stopped opening on Sundays once he was charged.

However, that seems to have changed by later in 1973, as Moise and other grocery store owners decided to remain open on Sundays "until the fines became too high". He said that "Sunday was as good a day for business as the rest of the week". 

The fines piled up, and on July 4th, 1975, Regly Markets Ltd., operators of the Island Park IGA, and its owner Ray Moise were convicted of 60 charges and fined $4,080. A total of 186 charges for three stores resulted in more than $11,000 fines assessed. 

Yet, that Sunday, Moise remained open (as did the two other stores found guilty and fined heavily that previous week). Ottawa morality detectives visited the store and sent reports to the Crown attorney's office for potential prosecution. Moise argued that many corner stores remain open Sunday and "if it's fair for them, it should be fair to me", and noted that he would keep his store open on Sunday's despite the threat of legal action. "We're going to try to see it through anyway." 

By the fall of 1975, the unions of retail store employees began picketing grocery stores (which were now opening in abundance across Ontario - including 108 supermarkets on one Sunday alone in Toronto), arguing that employees should not be forced to work Sundays, and that the additional costs of overtime/increase shift premiums would result in the companies passing on the costs to the public. 

On New Years Day 1976, new provincial law came into effect (the Retail Business Act), stating that stores with up to 3 employees with less than 2,400 square feet of floor space can stay open on Sundays. Larger stores face fines up to $10,000 for opening. This was enough to force Moise and all of the Ottawa supermarkets to close on Sundays. At other stores, there were layoffs due to the new Sunday closures, while Moise noted to the press that he hoped to absorb his additional staff into the weekly work schedule. 

It would not be until 1989 when Sunday shopping would be allowed in some areas (Ontario Liberal new legislation allowed local municipalities set Sunday shopping rules), and then across the province in June of 1990 when Ontario Supreme Court Justice James Southey declared the legislation unconstitutional, allowing for wide-open Sunday shopping. Sunday shopping became one of the big issues in the fall 1990 provincial election, which saw Bob Rae's NDP emerge victorious under promises to eliminate Sunday shopping. In March of 1991, Ontario Court of Appeal ruled Sunday shopping had to stop, and it became a political issue for all of 1991 into 1992. Finally the government relented, and on June 7th, 1992, Sunday shopping became permanently allowed across the province. 

Here is a view of the IGA from August 28th 1984:

August 28, 1984

The name of the store changed from IGA to Loeb in July of 1992, after Provigo (who had acquired Loeb Inc. in 1977) sold the IGA trademark and franchise rights to Oshawa Group Ltd.

I wish I had a photo of it at street-level from the 1980s or 1990s. (If anyone does by chance, please let me know!). 

The best I can do is this old photo from Google Streetview from before it converted from Loeb to Metro, from September 2007:

September 2007 (Google Streetview)

The Island Park Loeb was one of the final 31 stores to carry the Loeb name. It was renamed with the new Metro branding in the Spring of 2009. 

Ottawa Citizen, August 8, 2008

Which brings us to today, 113 years after Henry Porteous opened a small grocery store in a brick house on this spot, and the now 54-year old Metro building remains a distinct, familiar building on the Wellington West strip.

Monday, June 7, 2021

A Welcoming Place: Part 2 of my series on the history of Kitchissippi's Jewish community

The new issue of the Kitchissippi Times for June 2021 has just come out, and I'm proud to say my article is the cover story! And it is an important one. In May I told the story of the first Jewish residents in Kitchissippi, and the struggles they endured in coming to Canada, finding work and making a new home. 

Part two looks at the era between the world wars, and an incredible piece of local history - the arrival of 14 families between 1919 and 1921 in Hintonburg, creating a mini-Jewish district almost overnight. 11 of the families lived right on Wellington Street West all within a very short distance, and almost all of them opened businesses on Wellington! What a story! 

The article also tells about the first residents in other neighbourhoods in Kitchissippi, and highlights some individuals who helped grow the Jewish community, and how they grew. The article also looks at some of the reasons why Canadian Jewish immigration numbers decreased in the 1930s and 1940, tragically when the Jews around the world needed Canada the most. 

Check out your copy of the June issue of the Times in your mailbox, at a local street box, or at the link below.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Explore the working-class roots of Mechanicsville

I was happy to have been asked by CBC to contribute to their series 'Walk this Way', profiling the past and present highlights of neighbourhoods in Ottawa, in kind of a walking tour format. When CBC first came to me, I immediately thought of Mechanicsville as an ideal location. The neighbourhood is turning 150 years old next year (2022), but piece by piece the original, vintage character of the streets of Mechanicsville are being lost as each house is demolished and replaced by a modern structure. While that's the bad news, the good news is there are still plenty of highlights that remain, and I was happy to go over some of them with CBC producer Trevor Pritchard.

CBC posted the article yesterday (Friday) morning, and in the afternoon I joined Alan Neal on All in a Day on CBC radio to discuss the article. 

The links to both are below. Of course not everything I would have liked to include was in there, but at least it includes a couple of the most interesting tidbits from Mechanicsville's past. It barely scratches the surface on all the stories that could be told, but it's a good overview. (I am tentatively working on a book on Mechanicsville's history, which I would love to see finished in time for the 150th next year, but my schedule is such that I hate to publicly commit to anything.. but it is in the works at least!). And I genuinely do encourage anyone from within Kitchissippi or the outside to take a walking tour through Mechanicsville. It's a unique area just in how the streets and houses are laid out, and there are so many houses that date to the 1870s/1880s still standing (though likely not for much longer; in fact, one of the first couple of houses from Mechanicsville's first year, 1872, at 134 Forward Avenue is gated off and boarded up, and will tragically be demolished any day no). It's a quick walk up and down the historic Parkdale, Forward, Hinchey, Carruthers and Stonehurst streets, and there is a lot to see. 

Thanks to CBC and Trevor Pritchard for the opportunity to be a part of this series. I'm always happy to share the love of Mechanicsville!

The article:

The radio spot:

Thursday, May 6, 2021

A new home: Kitchissippi's first Jewish residents

The May issue of the Kitchissippi Times has just come out, and in it is my "Early Days" column for the month, which is a particularly special one. It's Part 1 of a 2-part series, looking at the stories of the first Jewish residents in Kitchissippi.

This was a research-heavy article, but an important one to write. Census and survey data indicates that Kitchissippi is home to one of the largest populations of Jewish residents in the City, and their history in this neighbourhood is both long and substantial.

First I wanted to try to identify who the first family/residents in Kitchissippi were, and then tell their story as best I could. I lucked out in that the second Jewish family to arrive in our area are one of the most prominent, and the young son who spent a large part of his childhood in the old shop on Wellington in Hintonburg went on to an illustrious legal career, and wrote an autobiography. When I was able to get my hands on a copy of the book (no easy task during this pandemic lock-down!), I was amazed to see he had written quite a bit about his experiences in Hintonburg. Some good, some bad, but that I think is a very fair representation for the experiences of a Jewish person living here in the first decades of the 20th century. 

Part 2 will be printed in the June issue of the Kitchissippi Times, and I'm excited for it to come out too (I've already written and submitted it to the Editor). In that article, I talk about the overnight arrival and establishment of almost a mini-Jewish village on Wellington in Hintonburg all around 1920, and the first Jews to live in the Hampton-Iona, Westboro and Woodroffe neighbourhoods as well. I also go into the larger history of immigration of Jewish people to Canada, and how after a few decades of reasonable support and aid to the growing number of refugees, the government failed them when they needed the help the most.

For now though, I hope you will enjoy Part 1, and particularly the stories of the Golt, Lieff, Widder, Rosenthal and Blushinsky families. 

What I've enjoyed most about the research for these articles, is discovering that though it was by no means a perfect existence for the Jewish residents of Kitchissippi, for the most part it seems that our neighbourhoods were relatively safe, comfortable areas to live, where Jewish citizens were able to prosper, and run businesses, sit on boards and hold political office at a time where that was barely possible most anywhere in the western world, even in the rest of Canada. To me, this is a proud moment in Kitchissippi's history, and definitely worth highlighting in these two articles.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Video Knight: Wellington Village nostalgia + the history of movie rentals in Ottawa!

(Be sure not to miss the link at the very bottom of this post for a special video experience!)

Valentine's Day 1987 is a day I'll always remember. How do I remember that specific date, from when I was 7 years old? Why has February 14th 1987 remained stuck in my brain 34 years later? That's easy... that was the day my parents brought home our first ever VCR. 

It seems crazy to explain to my kids now, or anyone born anytime beyond the 1980s really, but the acquisition of a VCR was a big deal at the time. It opened up two worlds to families: the ability to watch a movie of your choice, at the time you choose it (and the ability to pause it midway through); but also the ability to record whatever you wanted off of TV. This was a huge difference maker to a 7-year old kid back in 1987 (and also to his movie-loving 37-year old Dad). 

Prior to the wide-spread availability of VCRs, movies could only be seen at the theatre, or when they happened to come on TV. Now at the time, I remember we subscribed to First Choice Superchannel, which was a decent option - By the way, thanks to Retro Ontario they have some clips of the station's old graphics and ads, which I still remember. Here is one, for example: I remember always looked forward to reading through the new monthly program guide for what was on the schedule (I'd love to see one of those original guides again!). 

But the idea of owning a VCR and owning movies, and being able to go to a store and pick just about any movie you wanted was an exciting prospect. Yet, in the mid-80s, it was still a pretty expensive proposition. My Mom was a stay-at-home Mom, and my Dad had a decent government job, but money was fairly tight for us growing up. A VCR was a major luxury. 

However, on that fateful day in February 1987, the VCR arrived. With a few quick Google image searches, I was able to find a photo of the exact one we had! (Which we'd continue to use for the next dozen years or so).

The RCA VMT-385!

For kicks I took a quick keyword search through the Ottawa Citizen from around that time, and somewhat surprisingly found a couple stores selling that model in flyers that week: J.M. Saucier on Baseline Road in the Fisher Heights Plaza, and a place called Krazy Krazy Electronics and Furniture Warehouse (on Stafford Road in Nepean, and also on Industrial Avenue). I called my Mom with the ultimate memory test to see if she could recall where they'd bought the VCR, and she could not remember, nor did either store name ring a bell. She did confirm that it was a major purchase for the family though, recalling that it was more than $500. Here is part of the Saucier ad that week, which also shows the costs of TVs, camcorders and monitors at the same time:

Ottawa Citizen, February 17, 1987

Anyhow, it was a big day for our family, and instantly we became regulars at the three local places that rented videos: Video Knight on Wellington Street across from Carvers' Drug Store, the Winks gas bar on Richmond Road at Tweedsmuir, and the Quickie convenience store on Wellington at Carleton. From my memory, I recalled that for selection, quality, and convenience we'd go to Video Knight; for a cheaper price, we'd go to Winks; and for a small selection, but ultra-low price (under $1 per rental), we'd to to Quickie (they had some awful "B" and "C" movies at Quickie, but my Dad loved that 99 cent rental fee!) 

Video Knight though was the place to go. And it was cool to have that experience of going in and seeing the long walls of colourful boxes lining the wall, and the tiny little tabs that would be there if the movie was in, and which you'd pull off to take to the counter to rent the movie. For a kid it was pretty exciting, that feeling of instant gratification of picking a movie, and being able to take it home and watch it right away. Or watching it a few times. Or pausing it mid-way through and going back to it. All novel concepts, and a pretty cool thing. Something my kids will never appreciate, as they've grown up being able to turn the TV on and have the choice of literally millions of movies and video clips built right into the TV basically. It's too easy.

I recently watched the two new-ish documentaries "Netflix Versus the World" and "The Last Blockbuster" (which also contributed to my inspiration to finally write an article on Video Knight and research the history of movie rentals) and they covered the story of how the video stores grew and then disappeared. I recommend both if you like this subject like I do.


Though this article is the story of Video Knight, I confess to not knowing much of the story, aside largely from my personal experience.

I can tell you that the store opened sometime between mid-1985 and early 1987 by Mike Renaud, who saw a need in Wellington Village. 

The front entrance to Video Knight in 1998

But let's rewind just a little bit here... The video rental boom came in the early 1980s, just a few years after video cassettes became a new technology offered to consumers.

It was in the mid-1970s that rumours of video cassettes began to circulate. One of the first stories to appear in Canadian mainstream media was a story based around comments made by Knowlton Nash of the CBC, who spoke of how one day Canadians would "build personal libraries of video cassettes as it does with books and records."

Ottawa Citizen, March 21, 1975

The first demonstrations of video cassettes began as novelty items in the occasional bar or event, including notably the 1976 Conservative leadership convention when some candidates had rented VCRs and connected them to televisions to "provide a constant barrage of the campaign ads, interviews and other reports", with the Mulroney camp renting the hotel club room for the youth delegates where they could go "watch taped rock shows when the politics become too tedious."

The Betamax arrives in Ottawa!
Ottawa Citizen  July 5, 1976

In 1976 Sony had released the Betamax videocassette player-recorder. Their advertising pushed that owners could record shows to keep. "Even if you’re not there, it records TV programs you don’t want to miss — builds a priceless videotape library in no time" promoted Sony. However, executives at Disney and Universal were concerned, arguing that people recording shows and movies were violating copyright laws, and sued Sony, alleging that Sony was liable for the copyright infringement its customers were partaking. The lower court sided with Sony, on appeal the appellate court agreed with the studios, but the case went to the Supreme Court, where Sony won, essentially saving the VCR, and forever changing copyright law. It took 8 years to figure out the mess, and by that time, Sony was in trouble anyways, as unfortunately for their business, they had emphasized quality over cost. The VHS system would prove cheaper, eventually conquering Beta in short order.

Ottawa Citizen - November 11, 1978
VHS arrives in Ottawa!

Typically, Canada was a bit behind their American counterpart in the absorption of new technology. 

When movies on Beta and VHS first came out, they cost in the range of $65-$100 each! The studios calculated their prices based on how many times a video would be watched and by how many people (versus the cost of say a $5 ticket at the cinema). But this, along with the introductory prices of the players in the $1,500-$2,000 range, made it inaccessible to most people.

Though a limited client base existed for video ownership, some ingenious entrepreneurs thought of a a way around it - movie rentals. The $100 price tag was manageable when the movie could be rented out many times over. Conversely, VCR ownership became a reasonable proposition when movies (which in most cases would only be watched once or twice anyways) could be acquired for a couple of bucks, and then returned. It was a perfect solution, however the studios didn't see it that way. The studios sued the early video stores, but the courts sided on the side of the shops. The Copyright Act of 1976 - also known as the First Sale Doctrine - said that once the copyright owner sold a copy of their work, they cannot control what the user does with it afterwards (for instance libraries could lend books, and individuals were allowed to sell their old records - and movies). However, as it turned out for the studios, this would become huge for them. In fact, in just a short period of time, proceeds from the video rentals became their largest source of revenue. 

So that was the story of the beginning of video rentals in the U.S. Canada, however, was a little behind. By 1980, it was still illegal to "rent" movies in Canada (tapes were issued with a "not for rental" sticker). Instead, the first rental stores to open were allowing "previewing" of movies. A $6 or $6.50 service charge was administered to someone who came into a store and took home a movie. If they chose to keep the tape, the $6 would come off the purchase price. Or they could return it, and "preview" another movie! Alternatively, some stores would sell an initial movie for $100, but then allow it to be exchanged for another tape within three days, with a service charge of $7 charged for the exchange. Stores were very nervous of copyright laws, and the early shops also had extensive agreements in place to ensure customers were not duplicating the tape or using it for commercial purposes. 

So the boom was on, and Ottawa saw its first stores offering video rentals around the summer of 1980. I can't figure out through research which store was officially the first, as the whole movie rental thing seems to have been pretty underground. Certainly none were advertising before the summer of 1980,

By December of 1980, there were three stores in Ottawa where you could "rent" movies: Captain Video (281 Bank Street), Video Warehouse (2901 Riverside Drive), and Videoland (1154 Bank Street). Video Warehouse led the way with 900 available movies at the time, with the three stores charging in the range of $6-$7 each for a three-day rental.

Captain Video's video "previewing" shelf at 281 Bank Street
Ottawa Citizen, December 12, 1980

In May of 1981, Mooney's Bay TV and Stereo were charged by the RCMP on a complaint from the Motion Picture Association of America of renting movies. The owners pleaded guilty and were fined the maximum penalty of $300. The case was considered a test case by the RCMP, the first of its kind in Canada for movie rentals, who apparently hoped the owners would not plead guilty, so that it would force a review of the out of date Copyright Act. 

I did a bit of digging but couldn't find when the Act was changed, but clearly the laws were clarified for the new video cassette technology, and it led to a massive craze across Canada starting in late 1981 or early 1982. A surge in production in VCRs (both VHS and Beta, as well as the upstarts but short-lived Videodiscs), an increase in the availability of blank cassettes for recording, and the wider availability of movies for purchase led the craze, which saw video stores established in virtually every neighbourhood across the country. In 1982 more than 175,000 VCRs were sold in Canada. 

Shops were also able to offer VCRs for rental, further enabling more Canadians to try out the new technology, even if they couldn't afford the huge price tag to purchase one.

The next issue that arose was video piracy. Slick entrepreneurs with two VCRs discovered that they could make copies of VHS tapes, and sell the pirated tapes to the upstart rental shops (who were more than happy to purchase copies at a fraction of the full price). This was more trouble for the RCMP and the Copyright Act to figure out. Check out this clip (once again Knowlton Nash is the one to report on it!) from the CBC in 1982 talking about the video piracy:

By mid-1983, the Ottawa Citizen reported there were "more than 35 outlets in the Ottawa area" with video rentals, ranging from specialty shops to supermarkets! The chain stores like IGA that had gotten into the business were able to offer low prices, driving down the costs across the city. Thus many locations began offering annual memberships, which included a certain number of rentals, in order to compete. Captain Video on Bank Street offered a $80 annual fee which included 24 rentals. The Video Station had 7 locations in Ottawa, and offered a yearly membership for $50, which allowed for a $3/day rental (or $6.95 for the weekend), with non-members paying $8 for a 2-day rental and $9 weekend. At the Greenbank IGA, there was no membership fee, but video rentals were $3/day or $8/weekend, and a VCR could be rented for $12.95 overnight, which included two movies (or $35 for a weekend with three movies). Even Simpsons-Sears got in the rental business, further driving down the costs offering $1.88 movies during the summer and $9.95 overnight VCR rentals, for members.

In most cases, stores had to offer both Beta and VHS options, and the average store carried a total of 400 different titles, though the specialty stores such as Captain Video and Video Warehouse offered more than 1,000 movies. All the stores surveyed by the Citizen in July of 1983 responded that they had adult sections - including the supermarkets! Come rent your pornography while grabbing your milk and bread at the IGA!

By 1984, video rental shops filled an impressive six pages in the yellow pages!

Thus it was only a matter of time before Wellington Village got their store. Video Knight filled that void, opening as I mentioned above sometime between late 1985 and early 1987 at 1327 Wellington Street West. It was a long, thin shop, with I'd say barely 10 feet between the 2 walls. The shop has now been incorporated in to the store next door, which is now Massage Addict. 

Unfortunately, attempts to locate Mike Renaud proved difficult, as that would have a been a great interview to add to this story. So my details on the early years are limited. 

Video Knight didn't advertise. They didn't have to. They weren't competing for any business outside of the immediate neighbourhood, making them a fairly unique business in that regard. Every neighbourhood had a video rental store, and even if someone from outside the 'hood found themselves passing through Wellington Village and considered popping in to rent a movie, they'd then recall the need to drive back the next day to return the video, likely making it just too much of a hassle.

Thus in the entirety of the Ottawa Citizen pages during this period, there existed just ONE advertisement of Video Knight...that in early 1987 for the film Ruthless People. 

Ottawa Citizen, April 4, 1987

From the limited research I was able to do, I discovered there were apparently three different owners: Mike Renaud (from opening until about 1991), Lucie Perron (short period only, 1991-1992ish), and then Spawn Gusdal (from 1993 to its close in 1998). 

The shop stayed mostly the same over the years. I still remember when the Beta section was removed (which I recall was on your left when first entering the store), and when video games made their first appearance (also on your left, just above the radiator). My brother and I spent many summer vacations in the early '90s renting various SNES games a week at a time. I think we played the entire MegaMan series that way.

Here is a blurry photo (taken from a screenshot) of the old Video Knight rental slips, which may be familiar to those of you who used to rent videos as much as we did!

And here are a few photos of the video walls, taken just before its closing in 1998:


Finally, here is a photo of the length of the store just before its final day when the last of the stock was being sold off: 

Video Knight closed, like so many of the local shops did, when Blockbuster came in and ran everyone out of business. They offered huge stores, cheaper rates, massive selection, and finally guaranteed availability of hugely popular new releases. When a movie like Titanic was released, a shop like Video Knight could afford to have only a handful of copies available; Blockbuster was able to put 100 or more in a store through rental sharing agreements with the distributors, giving a percentage of rental proceeds to the studios, rather than just paying outright for a certain number of copies. 

Blockbuster of course went from top of the world to bankruptcy in epic fashion (see those documentaries mentioned above for more on that). Left in its wake are still a couple of shops in Ottawa that rent movies, most notably Hintonburg's Audiovideo Centre at 1097 Wellington West!

Video Knight's final day open was on Friday October 30th, 1998.

I've saved the best for last here... a couple of years ago, someone posted a photo to Lost Ottawa of the front of Video Knight. I contacted the poster, Jeff Connolly, and it turns out his photo was actually a screen capture from a lengthy video he and some friends took in the store during its final days. Not only that, but Jeff's video actually caught me and my girlfriend in the store buying two of the shelving units on the final day (which I kept through my University years for all my videos, CDs, etc.). 

Anyways, I've put together a 5-minute video of clips from Jeff's video, showing Video Knight in its final state, no longer renting movies but selling off their stock. The best bits and pieces from the video show the inside of the store and some of its customers (including the line-up of movie buyers on the last day). The video clip has no audio, as the original tape was largely Jeff and his friends joking around so I removed the audio track, but still a great opportunity to flashback in time and walk into Video Knight and see the old familiar walls and shelves and faces. The final owner Spawn is seen in a few shots.

Again a huge thanks to Jeff Connolly for digitizing this, sharing it with me, and for making it possible to be shared on the Kitchissippi Museum!

View the Video Knight video on Youtube here:


So thanks for reading and taking this trip back in time with me! I hope this was a fun piece of local nostalgia! I encourage anyone with memories of Video Knight to post a comment!