By Sue Stefko
If there are two themes that run through the life of Ray Lalonde, they would be the dairy industry and the Glebe Annex.
His first foray into the dairy industry was milking cows on a dairy farm in the early 1940s. As the oldest in a family of 11 children, he left home at the tender age of 14 to support himself and to ease the burden on his parents. His first job was on Mr. Spratt’s dairy farm. It came with the added benefit of shortening his daily walk to school from seven miles to four. That first job paid $45 a month, including room and board. It was enough to get by and to allow him to send some of his salary back home to help his parents care for his siblings.
After high school, Lalonde wanted to come to the city for a change of pace. Clark Dairy, located at 634 Bronson, seemed to fit the bill. Quite determined that this is where he was meant to be, Lalonde went in, asked for a job and was hired on the spot. He worked there for the next 44 years, doing everything from office work to shipping. In fact, even now, many years after he retired, his extensive old-fashioned milk bottle collection attests to his continuing fascination with the industry.
While Clark Dairy may have first been the first thing to draw Lalonde to the Glebe Annex, it was not the last. At a dance, he met a beautiful young lady named Marion who lived right around the corner from Clark Dairy on Plymouth Street. It seemed that fate was pushing him to the Glebe Annex. Lalonde married that beautiful lady in 1947 and shortly thereafter moved to an apartment on Lebreton Street.
That move was short-lived, however, as the building was expropriated and demolished to make way for Natural Resource Canada’s Booth Street complex. In 1952, the couple heard about a home that was going on the market right across from Marion’s parents on Plymouth Street. He talked to the owner and then went away on vacation for 10 days. He didn’t realize that as a result of that conversation and the owner’s connection to Marion’s parents, the owner had given him the right of first refusal on the house. With no cell phones and no email, the real estate agent had to wait impatiently for the Lalondes’ return to Ottawa. When they finally got back, they were only too happy to purchase the property, for a whopping $6,200. Lalonde has remained there ever since, with the couple raising five children in that modest three-bedroom home.
Why the attachment to this little brick home in the Glebe Annex? Besides being close to work for the first little while (Clark Dairy moved to a new building on Churchill, now Clyde Avenue, in the mid-1950s) and close to family, the sense of community was an important draw. It was a great neighbourhood, with great people, he reminisces. Everyone looked after each other – at one point he had the keys to eight different houses in the neighbourhood. Perhaps his care and ministration for his neighbours is one of the reasons he was dubbed “the mayor of Plymouth Street.” It was a community full of children and full of life. To help give the children somewhere to play, Lalonde was a key force in the fight to establish the neighbourhood’s first (and only) official park, Dalhousie South Park, in the early 1990s.
While the neighbourhood demographic has changed, with fewer children and fewer families, Lalonde has kept that neighbourhood feeling strong. He is well known and much loved, by the four-legged and two-legged alike. Some refer to him as the “dog man” – there are dogs that refuse to walk past his house without stopping in for a biscuit and a pat. In fact, one of the first things one sees when walking into his home is a big box of dog biscuits by the door. There’s also a collection of birthday and Christmas cards from his neighbours – including some from grateful neighbourhood dogs.
Lalonde has been a bastion of this neighbourhood for nearly 70 years. He has contributed to its fabric, and he has been someone whom friends, family and neighbours could count on for help. Whether he’s known as the mayor of Plymouth Street, the “dog man,” Mr. Lalonde or just Ray, it seems everyone knows him, and the mention of his name brings a smile. If this world was full of more people like Ray Lalonde, it would most assuredly be a better place. The Glebe Annex is lucky to have him as one of our own.
Sue Stefko is president of the Glebe Annex Community Association and Glebe Report contributor on the history of the Glebe Annex.