I was only 13, born in Mimico at the tail end of The Depression and the beginning of World War II. Mimico was a village along the shores of Lake Ontario near Toronto, the setting for CBC’s hit series Murdock Mysteries.
In that time and place, kids made their own fun, as there were no community clubs then and organized sports was only for the well-to-do. Instead, we explored the village undersides.
A small reddish stream slithered into the sewer under Superior Avenue. With a friend, I had already traced the upstream pollution to a local tannery, but we wanted to see where it went. “Let’s go in”, said I, with youthful bravado. Armed with a Bic lighter we entered the sewer, soon inured to a dim and dank concrete smell.
This tunnel was barely tall enough for us to stand upright. Stooping slightly, we duck-walked astride the shallow trough with room for one foot on each side. “It’s getting dark”. That was Don’s echoing voice. And it was dark. The concrete sloped ever so gradually downward and turned making the entrance disappear from sight. Silence overpowered our ears. There had to be rats and spiders but we persevered, scared, but again we were young and unaware.
A quiet rumble ahead, a faint light. Inching forward, Bic flickering, our knees hit something solid. Pipes. “That’s a car noise!” Overhead, small square holes showered shards of faint light, a manhole cover. We are in the middle of the street. “Has to be Superior Avenue”. In the faint glow from above we saw cross-pipes slightly visible at our knees, and amazingly a cross-tunnel just like ours.
Explorers both intrepid and ignorant, we carried on for about another hour. “The water’s getting deeper.” It was! We were gradually going downhill again. Off in the distance a pinpoint of light appeared, the iconic “light at the end of the tunnel”, and also a faint wet swooshing sound. Naturally we had to press on, too afraid to go back.
Now chest deep, we felt safer for the light ahead was stronger, and the swooshing noise louder. Surprise! Emerging, we were about 150 feet out into Lake Ontario at Superior Beach.
To swim here was forbidden. It had always been signed as a polluted beach. A hollow concrete pier bisected the beach reaching well into the lake. Now we knew what was inside that pier – we were!
Over that summer we went the length of this sewer several more times. My younger brother Glenn tells me he once went with me through the sewer tunnel. Ouch, how irresponsible, taking a 10-year old through that tunnel.
On a subsequent tunnel trip we discovered a mastless sail boat floating just inside the entrance brought in with the waves of Lake Ontario. Although we reported it to police, the only reward we ever received was the aroma of sewer and a little knowledge of our villge undersides.
This is Bob’s first contribution to our “Celebration of (Retired) Life“ series and his first post since Putting Ivy on the Walls (a must-read re. the birth of the HG) in 2019. Nice to have you back, Bob. We welcome any uplifting, funny, inspiring, or otherwise simply interesting story, profile, or bit of whimsy. To share with our other retirees, simply email your 500- to 1,000-word piece to HG-Editor@RRC.CA.