Farewell, Victory Street

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I've lived in three different houses in my life. Yes, just three. In 1969 my parents brought me home from St. Paul's Hospital to a 1930s-era house in East Vancouver, near the Pacific National Exhibition grounds. My mother's parents lived there too. In 1971 we moved to a three-year-old duplex in Burnaby, with those same grandparents next door. I grew up on the west side of that duplex, staying even when my mom and dad moved to Toronto (temporarily, it turned out) in '87, and sharing my side with three roommates, Alistair, Andrew, and Sebastien.

In 1991 my parents moved back, so it was time for me to ship out. Sebastien, our friend Tara, and I rented a house only a few minutes away, also in Burnaby, on Victory Street. We stayed a couple of years, but by 1993 my grandparents had both died in their late 80s, and my folks invited the three of us to rent out that half of the old place. We agreed.

Tara moved out a little later, and by 1995 I was engaged to Air, so she moved in and we edged Sebastien out the door. He had been my housemate for eight years in total. Air and I (and now our kids, and our dog) have been here ever since. I've lived on one side or the other of this duplex for 37 of my 41 years, and my daughters attend the same elementary school I did in the '70s.

Those other two houses? The East Van abode stayed in the family: my mom's sister and her husband have lived there for over 35 years, and one of their daughters (my cousin Tarya) shares the basement suite with her husband and their cat. We visit often, and it's where we all eat dinner each Christmas Eve.

The Victory Street house is different. I've passed by fairly often over the years, and the place saw a new paint job and what was probably a succession of several renters. But a few months ago, it was gone, replaced by the framing for a new townhouse complex. It had been an odd structure, probably of 1930s vintage like my aunt and uncle's place, but sort of half-renovated, with a new large master bedroom and extended—but awkwardly empty—kitchen. It used oil heat, had one windowless bathroom, and featured a huge yard often infiltrated by raccoons (who once mauled our cat Guildenstern and left him cowering in the woodpile, until we rescued him to take him to the vet).

If you opened the window sash in the top floor hallway, it was possible to crawl out onto the sloped shingle roof, and look far to the south, across the Fraser River and as far as the San Juan Islands in the United States. In the otherwise unfinished concrete basement, there was a small wood-panelled room where my band used to practice and write songs. One year while we lived there, I had a job at Simon Fraser University on Burnaby Mountain, to the northeast, and classes at the University of British Columbia, far to the west in Vancouver. I rode my bicycle to both, and was in the best shape of my life.

It was only my home for a couple of years in my early 20s, but Victory Street generated many memories. I finally felt like an adult there: it's the only home I've had with no real-estate connection to the rest of my family. Now it's been bulldozed, so the memories, and a few photos hiding in a box somewhere, are all that's left. Whoever moves into the new townhouses can make some new memories instead.

4 Comments

Ha! Right before I read it I was thinking "Was that the house you could climb out the window and sit on the roof?" :) Good parties...

Wow. Only three houses in all that time! How excellent and stable! I lived in the same family home (where my parents still live) til I moved out at 19, and, since then, I think I've lived in 21 different homes, if memory serves me. I've been at my current home at my excellent East Van housing co-op for eight years (and plan to stay here forever).

Your post has me wondering about other people's moving experiences. People?

I've lived in 7 or 8, and have lived in my latest for 10 years. Moving sucks.

That was the first house I lived in away from home when Seb and Tara went to Europe and I lived with you for that short time. For some reason a memory that comes to me is of scrambled eggs that I made there before going to work in the morning. I put anything and everything in them. Super good memories.

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