— Extraordinary Neighbours —

Forty years in Oliver

A couple says goodbye to the ‘hood that became their home.

They were only going to live in the small, walk-up apartment in Oliver for one year, but Kathleen Drysdale and her husband David ended up staying for another 40.

A few months ago, they left, and now they’re reflecting back on a neighbourhood that changed along with them over the years.

Flash back to 1975, when the newlyweds settled here, and Oliver looked a lot different than today.

The Canadian Northern Railway line still ran down 104 Avenue. Drysale says she remembers being kept up at night by the trains shunting back and forth on the tracks.

The Brewery District was also there, but back then it was the fully operational Molson Brewery. “My first experience with the Brewery District was smelling the hops when they were making the beer. That was not pleasant,” Drysdale says, with a laugh.

Raising a child on the edge of downtown in the ‘70s and ‘80s seems like it might have been tough. But Kathleen and David decided to do just that after their son was born in 1978.

They skipped the mortgage payments on a house in the suburbs in favour of Oliver’s walkable amenities: A school, playground, grocery store and parks were all close by and Drysdale says she never had to drive.

“I remember the slide – it was one of those metal slides,” she says, of the playground at Oliver School, where her son, Loren, learned to read. “We would go in the afternoon because I was home. There’d be no one else around. My kid would slide for hours and still scream when I took him home.”

Drysdale says Loren also enjoyed splashing in the wading pool at Paul Kane Park. “It wasn’t an ornamental park at that time, so the kids could go in the water,” she says, noting the park’s recent shift to ban wading.

On nights out in the late ‘80s, when Loren was a little older, the family would often end up at Tiki Tiki, a Polynesian eatery on Jasper Avenue and 117 Street. “That was a really neat restaurant,” Drysdale remembers.

As the decades progressed into the ‘90s and early 2000s, Drysdale says the skyline changed. Small houses and walk-up apartments gradually disappeared and high rises took their place.

Beth Israel moved from 119 Street and 102 Avenue to the Wolf Willow neighbourhood in the west end in 2000—Drysdale recalls how their parking stalls were often taken by people attending the synagogue—and the squat brick building was converted to a private residence.

Kathleen and David finally moved from Oliver to a seniors-friendly residence overlooking the Legislature grounds a few months ago. “I kind of hated to leave Oliver,” she says. “I was falling in love with the Brewery District and the stores there.”