Friday, November 7, 2014

Photo Friday: Cool Memories

A definite sign that winter is around the corner in the national capital can be seen when the Rideau Canal has been drained and the National Capital Commission (NCC) has placed the change huts on the yet-to-be prepared, world's largest skating rink. Drivers who usually use Colonel By Drive may have encountered tie-ups as cranes hoisted the modern facilities from flat-bed trucks onto the muddy beds of the canal.

Photo credit: CBC
I like the new change huts: the curves and glass are welcoming. The interiors are bright and warm. And while the price tag of the seven new huts make most gasp—at $750,000 apiece, each hut costs more than double what my house is worth—in the grand scheme of things, I'm sure they're a worthwhile investment.

At that price, I really hope they last a long time.

Photo credit:
I call these huts "new," though we've had them for a couple of years—they were unveiled in January of 2012—but I do so to distinguish them from the "old" huts, which were in use since the 1970s, and with which I associate my childhood, when my parents would pack up my sisters and me, and we would spend a weekend afternoon on the frozen canal, skating, viewing the show sculptures that once filled Dow's Lake, and drinking hot chocolate from one of the vendor huts along the skating route.

We would don our skates in the shelter of those old huts, and when the NCC upgraded those shelters, I couldn't help but remember those wonderful memories of those structures.

And while those huts no longer line the Rideau Canal, they have not left Ottawa. Since their final removal from the canal, they have sat outdoors, basking in the sunshine, enduring the rain, aging over the four seasons, not very far from my home.

I see them on my commute to work, in the distance, lined end-to-end between the grey agricultural buildings in the south end of the Greenbelt. They are visible from Woodroffe Avenue, near Slack Road, about a half kilometre or so from the transitway corridor.

I can still see them and remember the years of my childhood on the world's largest skating rink. I can almost taste the watery, chalk-like, but warming hot chocolate. The huts are as out of place in their new home as can be.

Earlier this year, I contacted the NCC in an attempt to gain permission to take photos of these nostalgic structures. I wanted to get close, to capture them in a way to honour their memory.

The NCC declined. At the time, I was told that the commission did not want to make it widely public as too the location of these huts. There was still some unwelcome controversy over the new huts, about their cost. They were concerned that photos of the old huts might stir up that controversy again.

While I assured the spokesperson that I wasn't interested in picking at that scab (personally, I feel the price is high but if we get the same number of years out of them as we had with the old huts, it would be money well spent—plus, the new huts look really good). The NCC wasn't willing to take that chance.

I addressed the issue of making the public aware of the huts' location by explaining that they were clearly visible from a major road that led to and from South Nepean, a highly populated neighbourhood. Thousands of commuters saw the huts every day.

Still, the answer was no.

"I have a telephoto lens," I explained. "There's nothing to prevent me from standing at the side of the road and capturing the huts."

The head of the NCC's public relations, whose name I'll withhold, said that he hoped I wouldn't do that.

Sorry. It's what I want.

© 2014 Ross Brown
I want to remember these huts. They bring back good memories. And seeing them, especially at this time of year, as the NCC prepares the canal for winter festivities, these old huts make me think of winter and a great means of celebrating the season.

Do you have memories of these huts? If so, share them by leaving a comment. Would you like to see better images of these huts? Let the NCC know by leaving a comment. Maybe, if I try them again, they will have a change of heart.

We can enjoy the new huts while still maintaining happy memories of the old ones.

Happy Friday!

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