A hundred years in the Glebe

The 1920 wedding of the author’s grandfather Raymond Bradley (far right) and Susannah Weir (second right). Best man is Raymond’s cousin Everett Birtch, and maid of honour is Susie’s younger sister Edith Weir. Canon George Anderson of St. Matthew’s church presided.   PHOTO: Courtesy of D. Bradley

By Douglas Bradley

While the Glebe lost many large trees to Dutch Elm disease and other infestations over the years, many of the grand old trees from the 1800s, before there were houses in the Glebe, still remain. One such tree is in our backyard. Its roots run deep, and it struck me how my Glebe roots run almost as deep.

On June 23, 1920, just over 100 years ago, my grandfather Raymond Brown Bradley married Susannah Weir at St. Matthew’s Church on Bank Street. The 1898 church in which they were married was demolished in 1930 to make way for the much grander building we see today.

My dad was born in 1923, but the family lived mostly on the “other side of the tracks” on Arlington.

My grandfather was a dandy pitcher, and when the 1920s Ottawa Senators hockey team hung up their skates for the summer, they played baseball at Cartier Square. Frank Finnegan, whose sweater was the first to be hung from the rafters of the Palladium in the modern era, played first base, Bill Beverage was back-up catcher and my grandfather was their pitcher. He lost a couple of fingers at the Somme and it gave him a wicked curve ball.

My uncle Harvey entered Glebe High School in 1935 and my dad Bill followed in 1937. He joined the Glebe cadets in 1940. Their best friends were Jack Hall and Jerry Foster who were neighbours on Findlay Avenue. Jack was one of the few who owned his own car and he got all the girls.

When the war came, Glebe graduates often marched straight from their final exam to the enlistment office, partly for the glory and adventure, partly out of duty – and it did no harm that uniforms drew in the girls. My dad was smart but lazy about schoolwork and was two courses short in his last year, but he couldn’t wait and signed up in 1942. He was in the Canadian Field Artillery, fought in the battle for Caen and the Falaise Gap in Normandy and was part of the Canadian liberation of Holland.

After the war, “old homes” were not popular so my dad joined the tidal wave to the new suburbs, to Happy Valley on Carling Avenue across from Westgate shopping centre. The house was the size of a postage stamp, but all returning soldiers just wanted a job, a wife, a house with a back yard and kids. That was me.

I grew up near Mooney’s Bay, close enough for my best friend Harald Klempan and me to enjoy “Where It’s At” at the Ex. We even joined the Cameron Highlanders for a military training course at Dow’s Lake.

It didn’t take me long to return to my roots though. I got a degree in mathematics from Queen’s University in 1973, married in 1974, and my wife and I were soon living in a second-floor apartment on Woodlawn Avenue across from the sleazy old Ex. At Queen’s we had lived in the student ghetto, and we found it charming to live in apartments in older homes. We bought our Christmas trees at one of the corners on Bank Street and ate a lot of pizza at Fat Albert’s where Kettleman’s Bagels is now.

We moved away again in 1978 so I could get my MBA at Western. We subsequently found ourselves living in Calgary and Toronto for several years, climbing up the corporate ladder, but we were back by 1990. Our local friends told us that “no one lives in the Glebe anymore, people move to Kanata and Orleans.” We didn’t listen. We bought a fine old home on Third Avenue. I worked at E.B. Eddy as director of strategic planning. Now how “Ottawa” is that!

In the Glebe, we fit right in, a walk from the grocery store, the hardware store, restaurants and pubs, coffee shops, Dow’s Lake, the canal, the Arboretum. All my kids rode the December Snowflake Special. I coached Glebe girls’ soccer and baseball and played hockey at the Third Avenue rink. Two of my daughters, Randi and Casey, graduated from Glebe high school, and my wife, Cornelia Wagner, taught there for 20 years, finally retiring in 2018.

And here we are still, in our Third Avenue home for 30 years. We travel a lot and often find ourselves in Nicastro looking for Italian specialties. While retired now, we are happy to see the Glebe is not just filling up with old people but renewing itself with young families moving in, little kids playing on sidewalks and riding bikes.

We like it here. Let our second century begin.

Douglas Bradley, former president of the Canadian Bioenergy Association, is now retired and writing a book on his 1969 hitchhiking adventures in Europe. He has lived on Third Avenue for 30 years.

Doug Bradley’s father Bill (fourth from left) in 1942, the year he “joined up”
A “Mamma Mia” party in the author’s backyard on Third Avenue in 2018  PHOTOs: Courtesy of D. Bradley
Author Douglas Bradley and wife Cornelia Wagner after camping in 1972
Doug Bradley’s daughter Randi’s graduation from Glebe Collegiate in 2005, handed her diploma by her mother, teacher Cornelia Wagner.
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