Remembering when I was young at the CNE

Toronto Travel Blog

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When I was young, I lived for a time in downtown Toronto’s Parkdale area near one of the gates of the CNE. The natural evolution of cities causes traffic to and from suburbs to become more congested over time until downtown real estate becomes more valuable and even areas like Parkdale that initially have troubled reputations eventually become gentrified. This is why former president Bill Clinton has offices in New York’s Harlem district. Toronto’s Parkdale area may or may not be on the course towards being gentrified but though I didn’t know when I lived there I’ve since learned that Parkdale was long considered a rough, downtrodden area full of derelicts.

I can see the derelicts now, but they aren’t all I see. Though I couldn’t have been much more than five years old back then, the sound of the organ music accompanying some of the rides and attractions, the smell of cotton candy, and even the lights of the exhibition at night, all of these remind me of the time I lived there. Thinking back I recognize that the surroundings of our basement apartment were humble, but thinking back I also remember it being a safe and familiar home with the best friend a kid could have living just a few doors away. And it wasn’t a run-down neighborhood to me but a palace. Being only a block or two from the entrance to the CNE we were on the doorstep to just about the most breathlessly wonderful place on earth. Even though far more often than not we did not get a chance to go in, every summer night while it was open the smells and sounds of the Canadian National Exhibition sweetened my dreams.

Perhaps there’s a lesson in this for me and the rest of my generation of parents who worry that we don’t do enough for our kids in terms of giving them material things. The gift of memories seems to last much longer.
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photo by: yasuyo