- by Dennis Thompsett

The big secret is that the stairs were there at all. The City installed and maintained them to give access to all the working men needed for all the factories around the Bay. Their women and children got to live up in the clean air and water and they got a quick way to work. Which was a secret indeed.

No-one else knew. Or cared.

There were 3 sets along 5th Avenue East,. The 1000 step was by far the longest.

It's so wonderful that the dedicated people at the OS Hub are helping bring these local stories, that effected so many lives, to light to help Owen Sounders understand their history.

Were there really 1000 steps there? I always thought so as a kid, running up and down them so often. And as Angie Schihl's powerful photo shows, it certainly looks like there are 1000 of them.  Just past our house at 20th street, the 1000 steps went from right at the top of the cliffs  all the way down to 3rd Avenue or what we used to call The Bayshore Road. The lively beating heart of Mudtown. . There were so many steps there the stairway was considered  to be a City Street on it's own. It was 21st Street and I know that because halfway down there was a house and that was it's address.

At the bottom, across the road was a lovely little sand beach between Russel's and some forgotten pier that just had poles sticking out of the water. There was a big, half buried log to sit on. It was like our own private beach.

Once in a while we'd talk our Mom into going down to swim with us. We'd pack up blankets and food and make the trek down with a whole herd of bubbling kids.

We'd get down there with Mom in her bathing suit and swanky sunglasses  and her paperback book, sitting on the log. She'd always say "Oh you guys, you forgot my cigarettes," and one of us would run up those 1000 steps, get them from the house and run back down. Then she'd say " oh come on now. You forgot  the matches." And we'd run back up those 1000 steps again and bring them back. Not even breathing hard.

After everybody splashed around in the water, including Mom, we'd gather up our stuff and go back up the stairs, my mother saying "never again" every few steps. Then we'd get back home, put away the swim stuff and go back out to the fun of playing in the yard, in the trees at the back or back in the Orchard.

Ahhh well, it's all gone now. No more beach. No more house halfway down. No more 1000 steps at all. Only these warm memories now. The secret for working class men was different for working class kids. And much more amazing.

It was the only really long stairway to heaven that had true joy at both ends.

Photo: Angie Schihl


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