September’s here and you need a little quiz to get that sun-soaked brain sparking again. Six questions, no prizes.
1. Where does Hamilton stand in population rankings for Ontario?
Well, we know Toronto’s first. And Ottawa’s second. Mississauga is third, but it’s not a real place, is it?
So surely Hamilton comes next. Well, it used to. But while we weren’t looking, Brampton edged past us. The signs coming into Hamilton say 520,000. And Brampton now has 524,000 citizens.
Well, at least we’ve got the history, right? Turns out Brampton does too. Last year it won the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Community Leadership. At a time when every designation seems to be a fight here, council in Brampton is protecting properties under the Heritage Act at a great clip.
2. Where’s the funkiest washroom in downtown Hamilton?
The toilets beneath Gore Park are long gone, and that’s probably a good thing. And when nature calls, there are other places in the core.
The MacNab HSR terminal offers basic facilities. They’re small, dim and, when I inspected, rather odoriferous. The soft-lit facilities up the stairs at the Sheraton are four star. And there are compact new washrooms at the east entrance of the new Nations grocery store.
But the funkiest washrooms in the core just opened up at the west end of Jackson Square, across from the waterfalls in the Standard Life building.
The old ones were in the basement, dark and creepy. The new washrooms are showroom shiny. The men’s is cool turquoise, the women’s hot yellow. We’re talking grey-granite trough sinks, Dyson Airblades, everything touchless.
Design by David Premi Architects, the same firm that won an award for work on the library and market rebirth. Look for more Jackson Square bathrooms to leave the basement.
3. Who's got the most expensive new laptop?
The back-to-school flyers are piling up, including one from the people at Easy Home, where their motto is "Make life easier."
Their new flyer shows a 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop, with 4 GB RAM and a 500 GB hard drive. It’s a fine machine. In fact, I’m tapping away on one this very minute.
Easy Home says you can lease one from them for $32.90 a week, and it’s yours to keep after two years. Not counting the tax and a $20 processing fee, that works out to $3,421.60. Or you can go to Future Shop right now and buy the same laptop (refurbished) for $999.99. There oughta be a law.
4. What does TH&B stand for?
Maybe you’ve noticed the letters on the rail bridges over James and John, or in the Hamilton GO Centre itself. Maybe you know the official title is Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo Railway.
But the history of the line includes the Great Depression, when men hopped a boxcar and rode the rails looking for work. And from that era, TH&B got translated a few other ways: To Hell & Back, Tramps Hobos & Bums, Tired Hungry & Broke.
Check out the TH&B history at the Hunter Street station. There’s usually a strap across the entrance to the mezzanine museum. Just unclip it, and climb those stairs to learn of a time when trains made the world go ‘round.
5. Where’s the most miserly parking lot in Hamilton?
I wrote this summer about the dying days of the parking meter. They have ripped out the old ones on streets near St. Joe’s hospital and replaced them with those pay-and-display machines.
People said they would miss the joys of pulling up to a meter and finding 30 minutes left. Others pointed out there’s some fun to be had with pay-and-display, when you pass along a dashboard receipt with time still on it to someone pulling onto the lot.
A fellow recently did exactly that for me at Rankin’s on Main East, turning over a receipt good for another 90 minutes. He felt good about it — and so did I.
But a parking lot with entrances off James South, Augusta and Hughson has devised a way to kill that gifting. When you step up to the machine there, the first thing you have to do is punch in your licence plate. Receipt on the dash has to match the plate on the bumper. A rotten trick.
6. What huge Fifties song was written in Hamilton?
This past Sunday would have been the 80th birthday of a man named Harold Jenkins, better known as Conway Twitty. He died 20 years ago.
He arrived from Tennessee in 1957 and lived here a couple of years, at 111 Herkimer Street. And on a break at the Flamingo Lounge on MacNab near King, he and his drummer wrote a song called It’s Only Make Believe. It reached No. 1 in 20 countries, sold eight million copies and changed Twitty's life.
It’s a song you could have heard on regular rotation on Hamilton’s Oldies 1150, CKOC, Canada’s oldest radio station. However the station riled some listeners recently by modernizing its playlist. It used to spin songs from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Now it’s 60s, 70s and 80s.
But Conway Twitty still lives on YouTube. Here's a version of his signature tune that includes a cool introduction by Dick Clark, America’s oldest teenager.