On an April day forty-years ago I became a permanent resident of Sudbury and an employee of one of the largest nickel producers in the world, Inco. My first sight of the desolate, moon-like landscape, red slag piles lighting up the night, and smoke pouring into the air from three stacks made me wonder what was I getting into, and I made up my mind to spend as little time as possible here.
My first day on the job, and my first taste of the flavourful sulphur dioxide gas that hung in the air of the smelter complex only heightened my resolve to shake the dust of this place off my shoes as soon as I possibly could. Fortunately events and circumstances kept me here far longer than I intended to.
Sudbury grew, changed and mellowed over the years that sped past me like a comet through the night, and I have changed with it, my dislike of this Nickel City has faded, and been replaced by a genuine affection, a pride in it being my home.
I love to walk through the downtown core, and gather inspiration for writing. Many of the old stores are gone, yet vague memories of Zellers, Kresges, Woolworths, Silvermans, the Nickel Range Hotel, and other places push through the many years. New business have replaced the old, and in some-ways have made the heart of the city more enjoyable.
As I pass by places like Frank’s Delicatessen, Respect is Burning, Simons Gallery Grill, Nibbler’s, my olfactory senses drown in the mouth-watering aromas drifting out every-time their doors open. Even the most jaded pallet must surrender to the promise of delectable delicacies offered up by friendly and lovely waitresses.
I have several favourite spots where I pass idle moments writing a new poem, a short story, or a chapter of whatever book I am working on. The Fromageri on Elgin is a delightful place to spend part of an afternoon, trying out cheese from around the world. Whatever my taste is at the moment, whatever my craving is, whether it is for a sharp cheddar, or something of a milder nature, it is always available, and to wash it down, a cold beer or a glass of wine does the trick
On a warm summer day I enjoy stopping at Peddlers for pint or two of Guinness, and if my stomach grumbles when the delicious odours coming from the kitchen overwhelms my senses, all it takes to put things right again is a burger, a steak sandwich, or one of their other offerings.
Another gem, another oasis where I while away an hour or two over a hot coffee, and a delicate, delightful piece of pastry, is The old Rock on Durham, and sharing this building is The Grand Ciel Bleu, a French bookstore and library. Every time I look at the stacks and stacks of books, with their seductive covers, some written by local authors, I wish that I had of taken the time to learn Canada’s other official language.
One thing that always surprises me is that the place isn’t overrun with teachers, parents of French and French immersion children and bilingual students from our university and college.
I don’t believe for a moment that young people no longer read, or that parents and teachers don’t encourage their charges to read. Perhaps why so few avail themselves of this hub of Francophone culture, the plethora of French novels and magazines, is that they don’t know about it.
Beneath the hustle, beneath the bustle of this made over city, there lingers a touch of that mining camp, of that boom town I once knew, and I hope it is always with us, because it would be a shame to lose such an important part of our heritage.
The next time you are downtown, spend a little time exploring the many things that our beautiful city of Sudbury has to offer.