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Column: Downtown Sudbury at Christmastime was an exciting place in the 60s and 70s

If you were young at that time, downtown was the place to hang out, be seen and shop
This photo of downtown Sudbury ran in Northern Life magazine in 1970. (Supplied)

Christmas in downtown Sudbury in the late 1960s and early 70s was an exciting and vibrant place.

It wasn't just a destination to do a bit of shopping, it was for most of us coming into teenage hood THE place to hang out, to be seen, and of course, to shop.  

Before the City Centre opened and before the New Sudbury Shopping Centre expanded, the downtown core was a very thrilling place to be, especially at Christmas.

Restaurants like Radio Lunch on Cedar Street or the Manhattan down the street were packed, stores were filled, and the streets were crowded.

I also remember lots of snow with huge snow banks lining Durham Street. In fact, I don't ever remember a time growing up in Sudbury that there wasn't a time it snowed in December.

I now live in downtown Toronto, and a white Christmas is a very rare event. I can count on one hand the number of white Christmases we've had in the last 30 years.

I loved being a kid in Sudbury, and as I got older, I loved coming downtown on my own.

Coming in from Northern Heights, I always had a “downtown walking route” as I stepped off the Donovan bus at the corner of Beech and Elgin.

First thing I did was make a beeline for Prom Music to see what was in stock, then directly over to Zellers downstairs to check out the toy department.

Then into to the SS Kresge store next door, where I would see if anyone I knew was in the Richmond Room cafeteria having a coffee, then over to Woolworths, crossing the zig-zag crosswalk at Elm and Durham underneath the giant Santa that hung over the corner (the photo attached I coloured in the Santa from Northern Life Magazine).  

Across from Woolworths was the United Cigar Store, where not only could one get the latest Photoplay Movie Star magazine, but a copy of Andy Warhol's Interview.

Durham Street was always the busiest street in downtown Sudbury and the most decorated at Christmas.

Tuesday night was always my favorite night to go out at Christmas time, as Inco employees (including my dad) got paid and the stores stayed open late till 9.

From Woolworths I would make my way over to Murray's restaurant in the Coulson Hotel, as I was always guaranteed to run into someone I knew for a quick catch-up.

Then into Eaton's across the street downstairs, as they always had the coolest stuff with trinkets and home decor items from around the world.

Across from Eaton's was Richmond Furs, and I remember every Christmas they would display the latest fur coat, and one year I recall a full length chinchilla coat in the window, at then the astronomical price of $18,000 (even today a grand sum).

If you grew up in the 60s in Sudbury then, you either hung out at Frank’s or its next door neighbour Fred's on Durham, two of the coolest hangouts in the city (if not the world) known for its hotdogs. 

Those two coffee shops became a major stop on my walk along Durham, as you would never know who might be hanging out there. Lots of local musicians, artists, and just everyday people could always be found at the counters.

Durham Street at Christmas had lights crisscrossing the street with illuminated angels high above.

All the windows along Durham had some sort of Christmas display and with the snow coming down, and the lights ablaze and with shoppers hurrying along, you couldn't help but feel the buzz that was Christmas.

I always ended my evening with a visit to Wolfs Bookstore at the apex of Durham and Elgin and a visit with my best pal, Miriam Moses, who worked on the second floor.

Her dad Wolf Moses owned the store, and with our mutual love of art. theatre and history filling the store, it seemed it was all catered just for me.   

After Wolfs, I would board the bus back home, but not before I stepped into D&D Hobby shop on Cedar Street, for downstairs where the greatest most exciting creation known to man (or at least a 14 year old boy), a model train set complete with mountains, a lake, trees, homes, stores and of course a replica 1956 Canadian Pacific train.

When I think of Christmases past, especially during these trying times, I think back to growing up in Sudbury and taking my jaunts through downtown Sudbury with its lights, its people, its stores and all the excitement this season could offer.

Bruce Bell grew up in Sudbury, but now lives in Toronto.


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