Streetcars and Streetcar Signs, Published 24 August 1946
Sam Rosenthal, longtime popular figure in this city, and a man who has so many friends he doesn't know what to do with them all, has just brought in a picture of Rideau street. It looks as if it were taken sometime between 1900 and 1904. Coming bravely up the bricked heights of the street, before it gave way, to Sapper's and Dufferin Bridges, is street car No-229. It's an open trolley, with motors at both ends, so that It can be run both ways. There's a round white disc on the roof, and if my memory serves me faithfully, that's the sign for Broad street station. What it vas doing down Rideau street instead of coming off Elgin, I can't tell you.
I remember 229 very well. She was cf a type which began about 220 and ran right through tll be got into the higher 230's. She had a rounded steel front. The next genre of tram was the three-sided front, like half of a sexagon; and these sides were made of wood. Indeed one such car is trailing our 229, since it is 235. On top of 235 is the familiar red and white Maltese cross which indicates that this is a Somerset street car.
I cannot see any automobiles in the picture; it was probably too early for them to be out. But coming bravely up the hill, on a bicycle, and hedged in by a gates-ajar collar, was a man who looked like a deputy minister, at least.
Parked over near Little Sussex street is a cab, facing uptown, and against the traffic. You didn't give a horse a ticket for parking the wrong way, in those days. Just up from the wrong-way horse is Stewart's furniture store, with chairs generously scattered along the store front cn the sidewalk. Those were gracious days.
A clock in front of the Garland indicated that it was time lor a temperance drink.
Then up a little further is a wooden lady, standing outside a barber shop. Passing her is another lady, in black, looking like Queen Victoria in her full black skirts, poke bonnet.
The Rosenthal picture shows far more trees on the far end of Rideau street than exist now. Atop Rideau street at the far end. clearly discerned, is the old Protestant Hospital.
The sign of George May and Sons, leather specialists, is clearly to be seen painted on the side of their building. And that's about all I can identify.
But over all there is a leisureliness, a panorama of gracious living, that we have utterly lost today. The clock shows it is 11.16 a.m., yet the streets are mostly empty according to our standards, the street cars have few people, and the sidewalks are far from crowded. Today Rideau street is all a-bustle, to cross it is a hazard, to drive it is a traffic problem. Somewhere, in all this progress of ours, we've lost something.
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I might add a word about street car signs. Originally, as well as the painted, arched, boards which rested on the front of our street car roofs, telling where the cars went, were colored signs.
Thus the literate person could read: "Chaudiere Falls and Rockcliffe Park." But if he could not follow this legend, then he could look for an almost square green disc. Should his destination be St. Patrick's street, there would be a white St. Patrick's cross on the green oblong.
Bank street offered a red diamond. Gladstone was a green triangle, with a red circle in it. Broad street station and Elgin street was a white circle. Somerset street, as mentioned before, was a red and white Maltese cross.
We got the new fangled signs when we got the new cars, in 1924. Now you've got to be able to read, to take a street car, which admittedly is a handicap to some of us.
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Then we also had quite a display at night. You could tell by the color of the lights, which car was approaching. In the front of the car, between the higher and lower parts of the roof, were colored glass. Thus Somerset was red and white, Bank was red. Gladstone was red and green. Broad street station was white, Rockcliffe was solid green, St. Patrick's green and white.
This coloring system was followed in other cities, notably in Regina. where the Blue Line was the old Winnipeg and Thirteenth. Then stores sprang up along the car route, and took their name from the cars, thus, you might get the Blue Line Grocery, or something like that.
All this is not terribly important, of course. But there is a generation growing up that never heard of street car signs, of colored lights, or anything of that picturesque system of yesterday. Let the youngsters laugh, but you could pick out a Somerset street car, 40 years ago, at night, a lot quicker and a lot faster than you can now. We old timers had things lined up, a lot better than some of you kids of 30 think.