I had one of those odd dreams recently; a crazy mix of future and past, where rotary dial phones and smart phones co-existed, where past and future intersected. A retro-future dream. I was in Collingwood, an odd Collingwood, but it was still my home town: recognizable,familiar, but also changed. Modernized in striking ways, old-fashioned in others. A calendar told me it was 2114. It looked a bit like 1964, too. Odd how dreams do that.
I thought I’d share some images of that dream, of what Collingwood might be like in a century. Using a combination of arcane and highly secret technologies (as a member of a secret underground conspiracy, I have access to them…), I was able to capture some of the images for your enjoyment and enlightenment. Click on the images for a larger version of the image.
In my dream, I wandered around the town, looking at the old landmarks, and the new developments. My, how our small town had grown! It was bigger, brighter, happier.
First, I saw in the bright world of 2114, that the Admiral Collingwood development finally got completed. It combined both graceful, heritage-like style and soaring height for a breathtaking visage. The additional landscaping was a nice touch, but I wonder what the NVCA of my day would have said about the water feature that dominated part of the old lot.
Then looking towards the north end of the downtown, I saw that the waterfront development had also – finally – come to fruition and completion. It was packed with crowds of people strolling along the bay in the sun.
No more gaping holes in the ground. No more unfinished and uninviting streetscapes. No decaying hoarding trying in vain to hide the incomplete footings. No weeds. Instead there were beautiful condos, wide walking paths, beautiful landscaping, and plenty of boats in the water.
Eat your heart out, Wasaga Beach! This was the most beautiful waterfront on South Georgian Bay!
But there was more to see.
Over on St. Marie Street, the Library I loved so much had grown, and by grown I mean up and up! Rising above the street in its majestic faux-heritage style as new floors had been added onto the existing building. Proof that reading was not dead, and that libraries still played an important role in our cultural and civic lives, despite the doomsayers who predicted the internet would negate the need for books. Why the place was packed floor-to-ceiling with books!
I was a little worried by the water, that seemed to be overflow from the water feature at the Admiral site; it washed all the way up to Simcoe Street. But pedestrians bravely walked on in the water, carefully carrying their armloads of books borrowed from the library.
Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t able to stop in and see if any of my own books were still on the shelves. Would they still be relevant in 2114? Some bloggers had written they weren’t relevant back when I wrote them. Maybe they were just jealous.
Further to the west along Second Street, the once simple outdoor shelter we euphemistically referred to as the “bus terminal” had grown into a fully-fledged bus depot, cramped with vehicles taking passengers to destinations all over the province.
Buses bound for Owen Sound, Barrie, Orillia, Newmarket, Toronto and even Peterborough and Ottawa lined the streets waiting for passengers. But the buses were retro – all were designed to match the town’s revised heritage standards, which had been updated to include colours, styles and fashions from 1857 to 1957: a century of historical flavour.
The ornate building that rose from the space that once was a parking lot, had a bronze plaque on the front that told me it was the “Ed Houghton” building. Finally after all those years, he got the recognition he deserved.
I strolled along Hurontario Street to town hall. The clock tower still rose majestically above the skyline, but clearly there had been some work done to enhance it since I had lived in town. And the building looked different. Where was the Eddie Bush Arena, a fixture in Collingwood’s downtown all those many years? I stepped inside the town hall to find an entirely different building.
Renovations had replaced the arena with a new Council chamber, one finally large enough to accommodate the growing audiences. And just my luck: Council was in session when I visited, so I dawdled a bit to listen while a public meeting on a minor variance was in session.
After a few minutes, I decided not a lot had changed in governance, in a century. I left the packed Council Chamber to take a peek around the rest of the town hall. And despite the big changes to the Chamber, not all of the interior had been altered. Perhaps the future residents like having the traditional look. It might give them a sense of security and comfort.
The mayor’s office, for example, was still the same. Or so I expect – I didn’t get past the receptionist’s office. But from what I could see through the door, it didn’t look any different from what I remembered.
Beside town hall, the old “annex” building was still in use by the town, although like so many other municipal buildings, it had been remodelled and enlarged to accommodate the swelling ranks of town staff, it seems.
I was surprised it still hadn’t been sold, as so many politicians had rumbled about doing, back in my day.
The downtown was bustling; packed with busy shoppers and pedestrians. The changes that allowed the Admiral site to rise to such heights has also affected the downtown, now filled with six, eight and even ten-story buildings. The small-town charm was a little lost, but at least the planners had kept some of the boulevard trees and the wide sidewalks. Looking south, the tall buildings just seemed to go on and on. Was that a Costco I saw in the downtown core?
I took a spin around town to see what else had changed. On the west side, I saw the fire hall – newly built when I was on council – was pretty much the same, maybe a little more glass than in my time. Maybe a little taller, too. But architecturally the same.
Bays full of fire engines and plenty of firefighters to keep the town safe. Maybe a few more than we had in 2014, but probably not as many as the new chief wanted.
For all the architectural pizzazz of the exterior, when I peered inside, I saw the Fire Chief’s office hadn’t changed much. Pretty basic, really. Unadorned. Furniture accumulated from different offices, it looked like. I’m pretty sure that desk came from the old mayor’s office a century or so ago.
I suspected from the spartan furnishings that he or she was the same sort of chief in 2114 that we had in 2014.
First Street had really changed. That “grand avenue” people had talked about back in the 1990s had finally come to pass. Six lanes now, and finally the median – which so many politicians had asked for when I was in my second term on council – was in place.
The landscaping had matured so it looked pretty green despite the width of asphalt. Big, wide sidewalks for pedestrians and bicyclists, too.
I couldn’t find my old business, but there were plenty of other franchises in operation.
The airport had grown, and was busy with planes landing and taking off from all over Ontario – and apparently other provinces. Lots of activity and a new, multi-storey terminal building. Served by our new bus fleet, too, I saw.
Not a wind turbine in sight, either – they must have finally won that battle.
The Curling Club was still standing, looking as good as ever. It apparently had gown like so many other buildings, expanding to take in what was in my day, the new arena in Central Park. Obviously curling was still a popular sport and needed the extra space for ice.
Not a Sprung building in sight though; just a huge, heritage-style bricks and mortar building – how some folks must have loved that!
I arrived on the day of the 120th celebration of the annual Elvis Festival, which by 2114 had grown into a prestigious international event that attracted thousands of visitors from around the world. Crowds filled the downtown, dressed in their national costumes.
I was surprised that it had such longevity. I had expected it to run its course by 2014, but apparently I misjudged the fascination and passion people had for the dead American pop star. I watched a group of Ukrainian visitors dancing in the street to the sounds of “Viva Las Vegas” in front of the new town hall. They seemed happy.
The Works Department site on the Tenth Line had been upgraded; curiously similar to the secret plans council had made for it in my era. The front entrance was a bit more reserved than the original designs, and it looked a few storeys shorter, but the basic site plan looked the same. The town had obviously bought all the surrounding land, too, to fit all the landscaping in.
What was originally a functional, utilitarian building when purchased in 2013 had morphed into what some residents had suspected we intended all along: a palace.
That boded well for my re-election in 2014, I suspected.
The federal government had apparently changed its parsimonious ways towards heritage and opened its wallet to allow the federal building, downtown, to undergo another facelift. The expansion allowed many more civil servants to have desk space inside, and that suggested to me the spendthrift Conservative government had been replaced by at least the Liberals. Or maybe even the NDP.
You can see a long line of people waiting to fill in unemployment assistance forms queued for blocks outside. With such a crowd, I didn’t go inside to see how it had been renovated.
One of my favourite places in town, the Arboretum, in Harbourview Park, had not changed much over the years. A few artificial hills to improve the contours, several new trees and benches added – but basically it was the same, restful and pleasant place I had enjoyed walking in with my dogs for many years.
The mutt mitt dispenser was even full, although I saw no pets in my dream.
No chess tables, however. My efforts to get them installed in every town park and municipal site seems to have been in vain. Can’t fault me for trying, though. Chess is good for the brain and a great social activity.
Like so many other facilities, in 2114, Centennial Pool was bigger too, so big that it was no longer covered as my former council had done. The pool occupied the rest of Heritage Park by this time; a massive expanse of water.
It could host a dozen swim meets at a time, but only in the summer, unless some esoteric, invisible weather shield I could not determine was in place to protect swimmers from the elements.
I don’t know whether the Sprung covering had aged beyond repair, or some subsequent council after my time had turned angry and torn it down. Maybe the bigger pool simply proved too difficult an engineering challenge for such a cover.
There was a hidden history I wanted to uncover, but in my dream state, simply didn’t have the time.
A new sports stadium had arisen at the place we knew of as Fisher Field. There was a soccer match in play when I went by and the stadium was loud with cheering crowds. According to a plaque outside, the local soccer clubs had come up with a lot of the necessary funding to build the new facility.
I had thought back in my day they were just going to help build new washrooms, maybe a change room and canteen, but it seems like they dreamt large and had accomplished a great fundraising campaign. The crowds coming out after the game seemed pleased.
My last stop was at a fairly new park – new at least since 2014. Bloggers’ Paradise it was called. It featured a central plaza with a large statue dedicated to the “Unknown Blogger” whose efforts had helped change the town and make it what it was today. Today as in 2114.
I wondered which of the many bloggers it was meant to represent, and whether it was one from my day or someone from the intervening years. Could it be… me? No, the beard was wrong. And my writing wasn’t anonymous. Everyone knew who I was.
Clearly, though, someone online had been instrumental in creating the beautiful, progressive Collingwood of 2114. Was it even someone I knew back in 2014?
Perhaps a new, erudite and savvy blogger was going to emerge in the local political scene after I had gone. Perhaps his words would be full of hope, of promise, of optimism – not bitterness, anger, jealousy and vitriol. Perhaps he would galvanize a disheartened and apathetic populace weary of the incessant innuendo, weary of the negativity, the snide accusations and personal attacks. He would uplift their spirits, turn them into active, engaged and forward-looking citizens. I could only hope.
And at that moment, as I pondered this mysterious blogger’s identity, a cat leapt on my chest and awoke me from my dream. Maybe one day soon I’ll revisit this future Collingwood and be able to report on more of the changes between now and 2114.