Nightmare in Elm Grove.

Took a break from working on Belle 8, don't worry its almost done, to write this little bit.

Years ago a new and modern, well for the times, cannery/food processing plant had opened up. The place was surrounded by an expensive and impressive wrought iron fence with steel poles every 12 feet or so. The front gate had a little white guard shack where people would punch in or out as the day proceeded. It did well for the first few years trucks were almost always driving in and out day and night.

Like all popular places a small community built up around it. A gas station, a restaurant, a small store all well off property. Many of these small first buildings were built for maybe 5-10years at most. An old abandoned property of some long dead family gone to seed with wild trees self seeding all over was bought out by a company and petitioned. Although it took time community housing zones were established and people bought lots and started to build their homes so they could walk to work.

Before long a small community had grown up around the small center park that was left for children to play in on the, at the time brand new playground equipment made of steel in animal shapes. There was seesaws, merry go rounds, swings, slides, a big sandbox, and a section that was made for summer fun with nets for volleyball, badminton, or tennis. In winter it would get flooded and people would either curl, play hockey or ice skate.

After much debating it was called Elm grove because of the big ancient Elm tree that stood in the center of the park. All was well and people would wash their new cars, or trucks, there was no minivans at the time, or have family picnics. The store grew in size and became the local grocery eventually bought out by Safeway. The community also had a hall and a church. People were happy they could go to work and come home to a meal. The gas station made money as well from all the trucks going in and out.

Sadly after a few years things began to happen in the plant, an assembly line would bust belts or bottles would fall off. Doors wouldn't open or other machinery would somehow destroy itself in unusual ways. As with all small places some feared ancient ghosts and some people stopped going to work. It took the company a few months before it was found out that the cement floor of the plant had heaved and cracked all over. The cause was unknown till a developer and some government people came to do tests. After a large core sample was pulled it was discovered that the factory had been built over a bed of dirt that was over a 20 foot bed of peat moss.

What this meant is that every time the building would shift it would get worse and worse. Plans were drawn up to build a new expansion on piles driven into the ground past the peat moss to the hard bedrock. Amazingly the housing community was not on such a foundation as the bedrock was closer to the surface there. Indeed it was discovered much later that had the company built 100 yards further back on the property, still within the fenceline, the building would never have moved.

The community was a the edge of the city and not quite the city proper at the time. Subject to city bylaws though so after much red tape, and a few bits of legal battles a bylaw came to pass to allow the piles to be driven into the ground. Unfortunately the parent company of the cannery had long since decided to stop spending money on the place and had closed it's doors.

Elm Grove had already grown to be about 300 people all living around the area. While many people moved out to new jobs and locations and at first a couple of houses were left on sale a long time before a new family moved in. After awhile the property values dropped little by little. The part once shiney and new didn't get water for the rink one winter. Then it didn't get paint as the local community was using funds to repair the roads instead. It took time and lack of upkeep but the once thriving community became a mid class neighboor and then final its current low class. Nobody washed their cars anymore except maybe one or two who had a newer car. Most vehicles had rust here and there. Some stayed on the street and never moved as people couldn't afford to insure them.

About 3 years after I was born the cannery was classed condemned and after a freak fire torn down. All that is left is a half overgrown parking lot of heaving concrete. The much rusted fence is still there. The small community school I go to is only grades 4-9. We have a gym that doubles as a community hall as the original hall was torn down. We have one science classroom with all the beakers and microscopes. It is not a very large school and being just on the edge of the city, a bus ride to the closest highschool for our twice weekly woodworking/home ec classes.

My school is called simply Elm Grove school. There is no sign that says what grades it is. Why because years ago when it first opened it did grades k - 9. I can only imagine what it looked like then when the desks and chairs were new. There is no local dentist office or medical center. For that it's a 30 minute drive to the city proper along roads that are not always kept clean and clear. The distance isn't really all that far maybe 5 or 6 miles but the speed limit is like 50-60km.

Some of the old timers have told us kids the story of the cannery and the birth of Elm Grove. Some stayed in hopes that the cannery would reopen, others just didn't see the point of moving. Still its my home town so to speak and I grew up here.

Who am I? Oh sorry He..sorry Hea... darn it.. let me try again. I was born Henry Adams, Henry Lawrence Adams. As you can guess, male and was quite happy to remain that way until one day when....

"Hey I was writing that!" I say to Mrs. Brandford, my grade 7 teacher. She reads what I have written so far. It is done on paper with pen and not on the computer. So it takes her a few minutes and she uses that cursed red pen in places.

"Very good Heather a nice story of the history of the area. Though you may want to keep to the facts dear. Now as you were daydreaming when the bell rang collect your purse and books." she says to me. Thankfully the class is mostly empty of my fellow students at this time so I just get a few giggles and snickers.

Standing up I reach on the back of the chair and retrieve my purse the grab my schoolbooks, along with my paper that has more than a few red marks all over it, and head to the door. The swish of the skirt of my dress on my bare legs silent but still maddening in the way it sends tingles up my spine. I think to my paper and the words she said about facts.

Funny thing was is that it is all facts. This is the story I fully intend to write and mail to a newspaper or someone who can maybe one day...

To be continued ....



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