No One To Wave Goodbye

Olde Dundas contains many elements of a strong neighbourhood. There is definitely an absence of what experts call “physical and social incivility” By that they mean there is no marked evidence of garbage strewn around, vandalism, graffiti, or damage to vehicles or property. There is little evidence of noisy neighbours, loud parties or people dealing drugs, hanging around or sleeping on the streets or in public places. Most of the well-maintained homes are single family or semi-detached houses with inviting front porches and carefully-tended front lawns or gardens. There are very few apartments and no high rises, densely-populated, or poverty-stricken areas. The attractive streets are very walkable day or night without concern for one’s safety. Houses that are advertised for sale are snapped up quickly by eager buyers.

This neighbourhood has all the ingredients needed for a socially interactive, inclusive, friendly community. There is some evidence in the literature that ethnic diversity decreases social cohesion and reduces social interaction among community residents. Some studies suggest that ethnic diversity causes residents of all races to “hunker down”. Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, and friends are fewer. That is not an issue in Olde Dundas where the dominant language is English and the population is composed almost entirely of middle class white people.

Olde Dundas is definitely the heart of the town- the place where the action is. Its main street is crowded with one-of-kind boutique stores that draw in day tourists and residents alike. Surrounding this street is a hockey arena, indoor swimming pool, community centre, an amateur theatre, historical museum and archives, two large elementary schools, an art school, a school for the performing arts, and a music academy. A golf course and a small industrial park occupy the western extremity. North of the main street in the residential area the imposing Catholic, United, Anglican and Presbyterian church buildings stand like ancient sentries among the upscale, stately homes anchored into the landscape along wide streets lined with massive, century-old shade trees.

Although there are five parks in the old part of town, its pride and joy is the Driving Park, so-called because this prime piece of real estate, with its circular drive and beautiful trees, was once the a harness racing course, one of the earliest in Canada, and playground of Dundas’ wealthy citizens to show off their expensive horses and buggies during Sunday afternoon drives. After being purchased by the town from private owners in 1886 the race course was gradually transformed over the decades into a multi-purpose recreational playground for the public. Opportunities abound for lawn bowling, tennis, softball, soccer, volleyball, ice skating, band concerts, picnics, and for children, a wading pad and playground equipment. A seemingly endless parade of dogs and their owners stroll along the winding pathways skirting the swings, slides and teeter totters. Mothers pushing strollers, joggers, cyclists, and elders, propped up by Alpine poles or mechanical walkers, make their way around the circular drive once used by race horses. This recreational paradise is a year-round hive of activity for residents of all ages.

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Dr. James F. McDonald is a retired elementary school principal who lives in Dundas, ON.
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