Ode to Parkway Variety

My brother, Dougie and I tooling around on our bikes on Homewood Avenue in Peterborough, Ontario, circa '81 -- the same bikes we would have thrown down on the sidewalk outside Parkway Variety.

My brother, Dougie and I tooling around on our bikes on Homewood Avenue in Peterborough, Ontario, circa '81 -- the same bikes we would have thrown down on the sidewalk outside Parkway Variety.

Parkway Variety is not just the name of my blog. It's a place from childhood that is tattooed in my memory. Also known as "Player's" due to its exterior cigarette advertising, Parkway was a community fixture in my youth and I remember it fondly. It was the place to go for minor indulgences like a Tahiti Treat or some Popeye cigarettes. On a hot summer's day, I'd get a twin banana popsicle and crack it in half on the bench outside. 

The site of Parkway Variety at the corner of Park and Charlotte Streets in Peterborough, Ontario. Since Parkway closed in the early 90s, it has been the home of a winemaking shop and now a nice little brunch spot called BE Catering. Compare this shot with the one that graces the homepage of my blog and it's depressing to see the dearth of greenery today compared with the 1930s.

The site of Parkway Variety at the corner of Park and Charlotte Streets in Peterborough, Ontario. Since Parkway closed in the early 90s, it has been the home of a winemaking shop and now a nice little brunch spot called BE Catering. Compare this shot with the one that graces the homepage of my blog and it's depressing to see the dearth of greenery today compared with the 1930s.

What made Parkway extra special was the luncheonette counter at the rear of the store. It had a row of chrome stools and was dotted with a few tables and chairs. I distinctly remember the hard-as-rock encrusted wads of gum that lined the underside of the Arborite countertop.  Standard menu items were things like Western sandwiches and soup-of-the-day, but I went for the Hamilton Beach chocolate milkshakes. The owner, Roy O'Brien (always decked out in a bowtie) made them just the way my Dad insisted they be made --- VANILLA (not chocolate) ice cream, with milk and chocolate syrup. Delicious.

And that Hamilton Beach machine was a marvel to watch. Built to run three shakes at a time, the stainless steel cups that held the frothy delights were generously dented but built to last decades. And when the mixing was complete, there was always too much to fit into one parlour glass, so you had the bonus of extra on the side, remaining icy cold in its steel tank.

Isn't she a beauty?

Isn't she a beauty?

Parkway wasn't an overly tidy place. You might even say it qualified as a bit junky. Sun hitting dusty rows of canned soup, boxes of cereal that were likely past their prime, and trinkets and novelties of the tacky variety that never seemed to make their way to the cash register. Perhaps the most notable of these dust collectors was the plaster bust of Elvis that sat in the front window. Always for sale but never sold. 

Keeping in line with its brazen advertising of the tobacco variety, Parkway was also the place my parents would send me to on a smoke run. This type of child labour had to be done with a modicum of propriety, so my parents always tucked a note in my pocket. Something to the effect of "Please allow my daughter, Sarah to purchase a pack of Dumaurier Regular. Sincerely, Pam Wilkinson."

Being someone who appreciates certain constants in my life, Parkway provided me with a safe and fun place to exercise young independence. It was always there for me, and I'm eternally grateful for that.