The Steepest Street In Town

Hill Street

When I was five years old and Daddy was away in war

My family - Mummy, my three sisters and me -

Lived in a small Ontario town on a short, steep incline

Angled straight down to a busy road below.

At the foot - a public school to the right -the high school to the left -

And the hospital grounds straight ahead

Down yet another sharp, weedy slope.

Cars and trucks and bicycles moved constantly along that road

And people - and school kids.

The steepest hill in Brockville my block was,

Called, with civic imagination, Hill Street!

A quiet neighbourhood full of friendly people

With smooth pavements and little traffic.

Great for hopscotch, skipping and roller skates.

Not too sporty for balls -

If you missed one it could roll all the way to the bottom!


Horse Wagons

Bread and milk were delivered on our street

In bright, wooden wagons each hauled by a sturdy horse

Snorting and sweating up the steep climb.

I wasn't allowed to touch them

But there was no law against talking to them.

They would tilt their blinders to look at me

And snuffle around their bits,

So I knew they knew I was me.

'Why can't the milk and bread bosses

Make your routes the other way round!'

Citing insurrection at five years old!

Even if it was just to horses.

But I wasn't too savvy about Physics yet.

Maybe, going down, if the wagon broke away

It might roll right over the horse!

But, coming up, a broken wagon with no brakes

Could have dragged it right to the bottom.

It was a really deep problem to think about.


The  Ice Truck

The rattle-y, old ice truck went downhill

With a sputtering engine and squealing brakes.

The ice man hollered every time:

'Don't stand in front of the truck, even if it's parked!'

He had a big smile and black whiskers

And a funny accent.

He chopped chunks off the huge ice blocks

And threw them, covered with sawdust,

Into the street for us kids.

We screeched our 'Thanks!'

And spat and polished and sucked

With sheer delight, especially in summer.

We watched for that man and his wonky truck

Like a military unit, whooping out signals.

Behind the grimy windshield we could see his grin

Shining like a lamp.

We didn't have anything to give back

But I don't think it mattered.


Runaway Car

One day our street wasn't so quiet!

Mum's car parked beside the curb

Slipped its brakes and rolled downhill.

We kids were playing hopscotch right beside it

When it groaned and took off

Like a giant toy - picking up speed -

Bulleting across the street below

Flying off the slope into the hospital grounds

And careening on to its side.

We were horrified, but it was ever so thrilling!

The crazy car hit nothing! No one!

Mum croaked, 'Thank God!' about a hundred times.

She cried and she giggled and she shook all over.

And then she made strong coffee.

I could have used some myself, but she didn't offer.

Neighbours lifted the car on to its wheels.

I don't know how they got it up on the street again.

I had to go back to school.

It was an exciting lunch hour.

Everybody talked about 'the miracle' for days!


Cynthia Buell Thomas

◄ Social Respect

Peek-a-Boo Blue ►


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M.C. Newberry

Tue 13th Aug 2019 13:01

Charming seems too slight a term for these recollections.
How about "delightful"?

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Don Matthews

Tue 13th Aug 2019 04:22

Devon? You've changed hands?....

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Tue 13th Aug 2019 00:42

Hi Cynthia
Utterly enchanting tales. I could vividly picture the scenes. I'd love to read more...loved the ice truck man and I could almost see the schools and the hospital.

More please!

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Don Matthews

Mon 12th Aug 2019 23:33

Why do we write Cynthia? Because it pleases us. And that is reason enough........

Devon Brock

Mon 12th Aug 2019 21:21

Hella stuff, Cynthia. Loved it, great movement, great contrast between the bygones (milk/bread deliveries by horse, the ice truck) and what we have today.


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Raj Ferds

Mon 12th Aug 2019 19:55

A Steep Street called Nostalgia is how I'd like to call it.
That panorama of childhood memories was so engaging Cynthia.
Would make a good series. Defo.

Only the other day I went on and on about my own childhood years to a friend. It's funny how we can recollect all the minute detail.
My Uncle Johnny was a great on for old tales although he made up half of them!

Coming back to your street in Brockville, how that crazy car didn't hit anyhting is beyond me.
Defies the laws of physics.


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Mon 12th Aug 2019 19:16

Enjoyed this escapade of a poem - it gathers speed so to speak. My early memories of the Canadians go back to my Merseyside days when troops in dark green uniforms appeared locally where they were billeted in requisitioned buildings. Us street kids used to hang around their base - when the lads packed up to go back home they would dispense the loose UK coins jingling in their pockets and put them onto the ground for us. I guess they must have felt quite sorry for us looking so undernourished. Soon after our schools started to receive consignments of apples containing the vitamin C necessary for us to avoid rickets. Such kind people they were the Canadians. I felt they were rather understated heroes after all they did for us. What we would have done without them - and/or the lease lend arrangements set in train by Eleanor Roosevelt's earlier on - doesn't bear thinking about. Heroes all of them.

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Cynthia Buell Thomas

Mon 12th Aug 2019 17:25

I'm having a bit of fun, pulling together ideas that have been jostling
around in my head a long time. I believe that you carry your childhood within your heart and head throughout your entire life. There are other poems already logged on WOL that I intend to bring under the umbrella idea of 'The Steepest Street in Town'. It pleases me, and that is reason enough.

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