#YEG: Crestwood, Now And Then

A writer re-visits an old childhood haunt and finds herself reminded of what used to be.

Illustration Valery Goulet

My siblings and I are home for a visit.  Edmonton comes through with one of its light-filled warm July evenings. We wander over to Delux Burger Bar in Crestwood.  After we’re seated, I crane my neck, taking in the ambience, the modern design. Disorienting.  We’re in a restaurant ordering craft beer but, in my mind, our table is smack-dab in the middle of the Vic’s drugstore of my childhood.

A pop cooler sat at the front of the store, a large chest freezer-shaped machine with a lid that would open on hinges sounding like a question being posed. Motor-propelled rivulets of cold water bubbled over glass bottles of soda pop. The front counter was filled with chocolate bars, in little (5) and big (10) sizes, and boxes of jawbreakers, Life Savers and licorice pipes. A colourful battlement of liquor bottles now lines a wall where magazines once were displayed and, below them, the comic books.

“You’re wrong,” my brother says, “It’s mainly Vic’s, but I think where we’re sitting is the front door of Levine’s Shoes. Over there, isn’t that where the talking mynah bird would be?” In my mind, fun-loving Mr. Levine sits in front of me on a padded vinyl stool, as I consider my foot, planted on the rubberized ramp set at an angle at the front of the stool and being buckled into a sturdy Buster Brown. A trip to Levine’s felt like going to a family party, and you brought home new shoes as a fancy kind of party favour.

Yam fries arrive at the table in a miniature wire grocery cart, served with aioli dip and a more recent memory: A customized foodie tour of Urban Fare, an intervening tenant between Vic’s and Delux Burger Bar.

“Wanna see a $100 loaf of bread? Wanna see a bottle of vinegar shaped like a man?” asks my then eight-year old niece, her sell job besting the best carnival barker. On the actual tour, one block from her grandma’s house, she discreetly presents the promised artifacts with small hand gestures and whispered “See?” as if we are standing on holy ground. That is, until her excitement suddenly pumps up the volume, eyes widen and her hands point down at the floor: “This is the exact spot where Grandma was standing when she drank cat-poop coffee on TV!”

Home is a shelter, our kith and kin, and the memories of the people and places that still nurture our lives. Crestwood. Edmonton. I’m home.

Lauralyn Chow grew up in Edmonton and practised law in Calgary before she pursued her interest in writing fiction.  Her debut book, Paper Teeth, is a collection of funny, heart-warming stories that follow the lives of a fictional Canadian-Chinese family and their friends growing up in Edmonton in the 1960s and 70s. Paper Teeth was published by NeWest Press in September.

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