|I REALIZE NOBODY ASKED ME FOR MY FIVE CENTS: So|
I took this one from Atlas Obscura, the online source for offbeat tourism.
While I am neither a member of the travel media association nor did the organizers ask my help, I thought I would create this list of things those visitors to Sudbury should know about so they'll return home knowing that--of all the places on the planet that they have ever visited--my hometown is one of the--if not the--most significant.
What makes a tourist destination worth remembering?
Geography? Historic events? Architecture? Local wines? Famous people? Big battles? Stuff you can't see anywhere else, like the famous terracotta armies buried in the tomb of the first emperor of China around 200 B.C? What if I told you Sudbury, too, has thousands of guys underground, but they're actually still alive? And hard at work? And you want local wine? Ask one of the Italian kids I grew up with.
Sudbury doesn't just have landscapes; it has moonscapes.
You want to talk famous battles? I point you to the easternmost corner of Sudbury's Queen's Athletic Field, where, in 1967 or '68, our grade-six classmate Francis Jonik threw down against Terry Puska in an afterschool match attended by a bunch of us grade sixers from St. Albert School. The next morning, our teacher whose name I shall leave out of this document--and who had somehow gotten wind of the fight--told everybody who attended to raise their hand, so we did, and then she proceeded to strap everybody who stuck their hand up. I learned a lesson alright. I've never volunteered for anything, since. I've also learned that Hitler used the same tactics. If one person misbehaved, everybody did time.
Yes. As the brochure writers say, "Sudbury has it all." Plus I'm happy to report Sudbury has it all in alphabetical order.
Sudbury Travel Tips
To make the most of this guide, you'll need a car, an Uber account, a taxi and/or driver.
The Sudbury public transit system is not designed for touring around and looking at stuff.
Or, you could phone my sister Mary. She knows the city and its history as well as anybody and would love to show you around. In both official languages.
Mary is a retired nurse and hospital administrator and is one of those people who's busier now than she has ever been. If you want something done, ask the busiest person in the place, right? I didn't ask her if I could put her name forward like this but what's the worst that can happen? I have three more sisters.
But before we start, there's some things you ought to know.
Sudbury Tourist Guide Warning Number One: A Mary-Carter-led tour of Sudbury would be like a TMZ.com-led tour of Vegas. You'll hear way more than you see.
|WHOSE BED HAVE YOUR BOOKS BEEN UNDER?|
Eileen (later Shania) in Hanmer, Ont.
Tourist-Guide Warning Number Two: I will probably overlook a lot of the regular touristy things in favour of things I think are way more interesting.
Number Three: Even though Sudbury is a fiercely bilingual city, this guide will be in English.
By rights, I should speak French. My mom and dad were very progressive in that department and strongly advocated that we Carter kids attend French school but our tour guide Mary was the only one smart enough to take them up on this; she went through elementary, high school and some university in French and the rest of us Carters are all very impressed.
|ST.ALBERT'S LOBOTOMY: The wrecking crew that took|
down my elementary school afforded me my first view
ever of the second-floor French section.
Also, visitors to Sudbury would be cheated if somebody didn't address at least one of the elephants in the place. When it comes to official bilingualism Sudbury is a lot like Canada as a whole. There's two distinct cultures. I'm not sure how it happened in Sudbury, but still.
St. Albert's School had two levels; on the first floor were us English students; the French kids were upstairs. We had separate classrooms; separate principals, separate entry and exit times and recesses. The French kids attended St. Eugene Church, which was two blocks north of our school and we all went to St. Clement's, which was kitty corner from the school and a block and a half south of St. Eugene.
The more I tell you about the French/English thing, the weirder it seems. I, for example, played on the St. Albert Saints basketball team (extra points for the creative team name!) and we competed with other English elementary schools. I do not even know if there was a St. Albert's French team. I don't even know if French kids knew what basketball was.
What I do know is, when I was way older and living in Toronto, I met a woman whose husband was my age and who grew up near my school and was in the French section of St. Albert's so we never met. He was in high school, his wife told me, before he learned that English moms and dads actually slept together.
Travel writers visiting Sudbury should know that the city has these French-English issues that are ridiculous but go back generations.
When I was in high school, I saw the French arts scene as exotic indeed; they seemed to have so much fun, and out of a local phenomenon known as the Co-operative des artistes du Nouvel Ontario (CANO) came a rock band like no other; the now defunct CANO musique. Back in the last century when I attended Carleton University in Ottawa, CANO came to town for a concert and I convinced all my non-Sudbury friends to attend and they were like "Holy cow! That band's from Sudbury??"
That's how good CANO was.
The French arts community also spawned another arts organization called La Slague, named for the Slag dump which you'll hear about in other tourist guides and most recently the community was integral in the opening of the relatively new Place Des Arts Du Grand Sudbury downtown, which I've yet to visit but I've never been to The Louvre in Paris either but I will confidently recommend you check it out.
Of course Mary or Marie depending on the day would be more than happy to elaborate on other aspects of the area's rich Francophone mosaic. And if I seem jealous that Mary speaks French, it's because I am.
And that brings us to...the land-recognition thing.
Sudbury was built on the traditional lands of the Atikemeksheng Anishnawbek. When I typed that, the first word reminded me of a place called Atikokan, a lumber and mining town about 1,000 miles northwest of Sudbury. I've never been to Atikokan but one of the kids I grew up alongside and remain friends with, Mike Blondin, had cousins there.
When Mike and I were in grade school and played, like, scrub (a version of baseball but with no teams) or springtime ball hockey and we'd have to make up a rule on the fly--say you took a slapshot and the tennis ball bounced off the brick that was serving as a goalpost and into a space under the ledge of ice and you had to fish it out by hand--Mike pronounced that the move was permissible under "Atikokan rules."
Mike's ad-hoc regs came in very handy. Still do.
Mike is Indigenous. I believe he's Anishnaabe, which is like the other half of that long phrase in the land-recognition thing. According to Ojibwe historian Basil Johnston, Anishnaabe means "spontaneous people; a.k.a., people who came into being from nothingness or by the breath of God."
Mike's entire family is nothing if not spontaneous, and there's more on that later, but I also think that telling you about Mike's Atikokan Rules hockey counts as my land-recognition thing.
Finally. The alphabet
A is for Azilda, which is not, I expect, what you were expecting. You can't say I didn't warn you.
Plus surprises are often the best part of travelling.
Azilda is a town a few klicks north of Sudbury on Highway 144, which actually goes all the way from Sudbury to Timmins, a city I've always thought wanted to be Sudbury when it grew up, the same way my current home Toronto aspires to be Manhattan.
But never mind Timmins. Back to Azilda.
The most important thing about Azilda is that it was named for Azilda Belanger, and if Azilda's not one of the best names you've ever heard, I'll eat my hat. Azilda had 12 kids. She taught her husband Joe, who later went on to be an important politician, to read and write.
Azilda, a Metis woman who spoke Huron, was known locally for her healing powers and midwifery and--cradle to grave--she prepared bodies for visitation. Azilda the renaissance woman died in 1942 and is buried in St. Joseph's cemetery in nearby Chelmsford. At the time of her death she had 72 grandchildren.
|JUST MISSED AZILDA: (From the Bob Atkinson|
This postcard from the event is proof that most postcards should show life as it really happens. Really, who wants another shot of a beach framed by your friend's tootsies? Real life postcards. Talk about a million-dollar idea.
B is for buses. We might as well get this over with. My family owned buses.
A whole bunch of them. Blue ones, grey ones, green and white ones.
My dad Tom and his brother Ed started Local Lines Ltd., in the early 1940s, bussing miners from their homes in the main part of the city out to all the mine and factory sites in the small towns nearby. The bus business grew and eventually became the actual Sudbury transit system, taking Sudburians wherever they wanted to go. So when I was little, one of the perks was me and my friends could ride all over town for free.
|FLEET DON'T FAIL ME NOW: |
The Carter collection
Plus because we had the buses that delivered people to all the small towns that ran out of our old bus station on Durham Street downtown, I can rhyme off the names of all those towns, just like a guy in an old movie that has buses. Like this: "Azilda, Chelmsford, Dowling, Larchwood, Onaping and Levack." Or, going west from downtown ... "Gatchell Copper Cliff, Lively and Creighton." It's a skill all my brothers and sisters have that is probably the least useful thing anybody on earth can lay claim to.
Except we do know the names of the towns tourists ought to visit.
There's a bus on my parents' grave and I could spend this entire tour guide talking about our family bus lines because we had dramas all over town. Places you should all visit. I'll try to keep the bus stuff in check but can't make any promises.
B is also for Blondins. And if you're wondering "why are we back to the Blondins?" you're not alone. I'm sure the Blondins, if they ever see this, will ask the same question.
Volkswagen Beetle and made it work.
|VOLKSWAGEN SASQUATCH: So fast it was blurry. (Rendering by the author.)|
This John accomplished with as far as I know no professional mechanical training; a next-to-zero-budget and a completely outdoor backyard workshop. He built a car that was so cool and so extraordinary that cops pulled him over just to get a look at it.
|QUITE THE RACKET: Creighton had badminton cornered.|
Badminton. I know. Looks easy.
But have you ever played against an Olympian-level badminton player? I have.
|ALL IN A DAY'S WALK:|
Me and my heroic brother Ed
|GETTIN' OUTTA (THE) DODGE: Our |
high-school cruise mobile.
The cruising strip in Sudbury seemed big too, when in fact, it was about five city blocks long, up Elgin and down Durham, and repeat. Both streets were one way so cars could line up five across at some intersections; and in their imaginations the drivers would race away from the lights, but in all the time I spent on the strip, I never saw anybody go flat out. I tried to do so in my dad's 1968 half-ton Dodge truck but you couldn't tell by watching.
F is for a fact the travel media will want to know: Until 2001, Sudbury's Ramsey Lake was recognized by the Guinness Records people as the world's "largest lake completely surrounded by a city." How's that for a distinction? I once visited San Angelo, Texas, and its claim to fame was "the largest American City untouched by an Interstate Highway."
G is for George Armstrong, the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs when they won the Stanley Cup in 1967, and he came from, you guessed it, Skead! Armstrong, the son of an Ojibwe mother and Irish-Canadian father, developed spinal meningitis as a child but still played 21 seasons for the Leafs. Nicknamed "The Chief," Armstrong died in 2021 and as I wrote in this story about Sudbury and hockey, if I ever got to put up historical plaques, I'd start with one on the shores of Lake Wanapitei and I'd dedicate it to Armstrong. You can read more about him and also, about Sudbury's brilliant contribution to professional hockey, here.
|TOMB IT MAY CONCERN: The last bus stop|
|HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF. In 455|
A.D., the Germanic people known as
Vandals sacked Rome. Last year,
vandals beheaded the Roman guards
in Sudbury's grotto.
And while yes, other denominations do get their share of attention, the "Grotto on the Hill" started with Jesus; or, to be exact, His Mom. The grotto began life as a monument to one of the most famous Catholic beliefs, Our Lady of Lourdes, which was made famous in the 1943 movie The Song of Bernadette, about Jesus' Ma making no less than 18 appearances to young Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France, in 1858. You don't have to watch The Song of Bernadette before visiting the grotto but it wouldn't hurt. After the grotto came statues depicting the Stations of The Cross (depicting Jesus' final, really lousy day on earth). Now, this park pays homage to all sorts of faiths and is way more interesting than I make it sound here. Plus just like in the old joke where Jesus beckons St. Peter to the foot of the cross only to tell him "I can see your house from here," the grotto affords a great view of Sudbury. But really. What would tourism be if not for religion and/or folklore? The world would be a very boring place indeed. Thank you Jesus.
Regent and want to continue to get to, say, the house I grew up in. South of Killers' Crossing, Regent has two lanes; but if you're in the left lane, you can only go straight north and across the tracks but if you're in the right lane, your options are, when you get the green arrow, turning right on to Riverside or turning right a few feet further and on to Ontario. Are you still with me here? To continue north on Regent, you first have to cross the tracks then quickly merge on to Lorne but then even more quickly get across two lanes and make a left where there's no signal unless it's between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. on a weekday because that's Sudbury rush hour. In that case, you must continue along Lorne until you can make a legal left on Douglas or cut through the alley beside the Donut Shop. Seriously, if you want to get an idea for what it was like to navigate life in Sudbury, take a few runs at Killers' Crossing. And for a sense of Sudbury at its most confusing, arrive at the intersection just as a train is starting its way across the intersection. You'll be there awhile. You'll get bonus points while you wait for the train to make its way across the intersection if you've got to go pee.
|LESSONS LEARNED? Laurentian's |
a few degrees from bankruptcy
|BEST'S HOME & GARDENS: Everything's for|
One of the former inhabitants was Dr. Henry Best, who used to be the president of the university and who was the son of Dr. Charles Best, the co-inventor of insulin. According to
my late brother Ed, who earned a degree in philosophy from Laurentian, Dr. Best was-- considering his hoity-toityness--accessible and indeed friendly. And if you knew Ed and his attitude toward the establishment in general, that's some high praise. If we were in the United States, the university president's house would be a museum. The Americans make museums out of everything. Which brings us to...
M which could be for the Mining Museum. But there isn't one. And neither should there be. Sudbury is a mining museum. Trying to explain it in one building would be like erecting, oh, I don't know, a bad taste museum in Vegas. Or the Nashville Museum of Heartbreak. Everywhere you go in Sudbury you're reminded of mining. I'd much rather have a Killers' Crossing souvenir T-shirt than a little snowy bubble containing a Sudbury nickel.
Spoiler alert: Everybody got out okay. But it was still scary.
For three days, the Totten mine was the only thing Sudburians could talk about. And like with Shania and Stompin' Tom, everybody knew somebody whose cousin had a brother that was trapped down there. We are happy to report mining techonology has come a long way from James Worthington's day but still. No matter how much the tourist people tell you about Sudbury's dynamic health care, its vibrant arts scene or diverse economy, it's still a mining town. There are--and I really recommend you try to remember this--about 3,107 miles or 5,000 kilometres of mines underneath the city and its surrounding region. You're basically walking around on the outside shell of a giant rocky rabbit warren.
So, depending on where you are in Sudbury, you could be treading on top of a bunch of guys earning a living underfoot. Think about that. And tread politely.
|IDLE SINCE 1920: Longer than some relatives|
You'll know you're getting close to the Flour Mill when you pass the 93-year-old St. Jean-De Brebeuf Cathedral on the west side of the road. It looks like it belongs in Quebec.O is for the Old General Hospital. To lots of people in Sudbury, the huge mural on what used to be The Sudbury General Hospital is like your dirty-joke-telling, beer-chugging
accordion-playing uncle who
|CODE RED: And blue. And cyan.|
P is for Poltergeists. The first story I ever wrote for Chatelaine magazine was a true tale about the ghost that inhabited my sisters' Sudbury apartment. I won't tell you exactly where the apartment was because it was a long time ago and I don't want to upset anybody. Especially the ghost. The current tenants are maybe living happily with the poltergeist; or perhaps the ghost has gone back to where it came from. But I do know there are plenty of other places around Sudbury that are haunted and if you don't believe in spirits that's only because you haven't met up with one. Yet. Read Spooky Sudbury by Mark Leslie and Jenny Jelen. In another book called Haunted Hospitals, by Leslie and Rhonda Parrish, the writers describe a visit to the abandoned General hospital by a photographer named Tom who hears a little girl giggling and then the sound of a bag of marbles falling to the floor and then even more laughter and I'm getting the willies writing this so I'm moving on to the next entry.
Q is for Queen's Athletic Field. To us kids, it was "Queen's Eth" because our calendars were too packed to make time for the ensuing three and a half syllables. Opened in 1930 and originally named the very creative "Athletic Field" this outdoor heritage sight and former quarry had "Queen's" added to its name nine years later when King George VI and his eldest daughter Elizabeth and prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King visited. (Not sure why they didn't call it "King's" but there you go.) Many high school football games were played at Queen's Eth; and in the winter, the city of Sudbury makes it into a lovely family friendly skating rink but those Friday night football games were way more fun. Purple Jesus is grape juice mixed with vodka and while we cannot endorse pairing Purple Jesus with fresh cut french fries drenched in vinegar and covered with salt and ketchup like the terrific version they served at Queen's Eth, the combination can sure make a high school football game a lot better, especially if you're the only one at the game without a date.
R is for Ramsey Lake. Named for a CPR surveyor named Allen Ramsey. When the railway was planning its route from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean in the last few years of the 19th century, surveyor Ramsey made the call to put the tracks along the north side of this huge lake instead of the south side. In honour of that smart move, Ramsey's colleague James Worthington renamed the body of water from "Lost Lake" to "Ramsey Lake" and it has played a huge role in the life of Sudburians since.
S is for Split Rock. If I tell you about Split Rock, you have to promise me to keep it a secret because my story might be illegal. In your travels around Sudbury, you would have noticed a lot of rock outcroppings. Some about the size of a small apartment building, others that range for a few city blocks. They're hilly, rocky, and barren geographical features that for kids growing up in the city, provided miraculous fantasy lands. Playgrounds. We ran free on those outcroppings, using them as pretend war zones or forbidden planets. I imagine the property belongs to the city; but for all I knew, it could belong to the mining companies, too. It didn't matter. Even if the rocks we were playing on were within shouting distance of our houses, when we were on the rocks we might has well have been in another time zone.
And one of the most exciting locations for us Carter boys was a small crevasse in the rocks near our house, a place called Split Rock. While we were pretty wussy and never actually did anything bad at Split Rock, we often talked about how the tough kids from the other side of the neighbourhood frequently sinned--and with gusto---at Split Rock. They probably smoked and drank there. Maybe even took girls. So why am I telling you this? Because when my late brother Ed died in February, 2022, at the age of 66, my family and some friends climbed the rocks near the house where we grew up, found our way to Split Rock, and once there, after an ad hoc ceremony that involved peanut butter and jam sandwiches and yours truly performing an acapella version of Monty Python's Always look on the Bright Side of Life, we spread Ed's ashes. Best. Funeral. Ever.
|HELLO, STATUE? The writer, Tom, and|
Ramsey Lake afficionado Trevor.
U is for Uguccioni: (Pronounced You- Guh-Chone-ee) Don Uguccioni ran Don's Pizzeria in the west end of Sudbury and when I was a kid, we could buy a small plain for 95 cents. Henceforth, it was by Don's that all other pizzas were measured even up to now. Don's, under new ownerhsip, still sits at the corner of Byng and Lorne Streets.
|SUDBURY CSI: Where the |
eagle-eyed editor got his start.
X is for Xtrata. Pronounced like it looks: "ex-Trada." For most of Sudbury's mining history, people worked for one of two big companies, Inco or Falconbridge. That was then. Lots of locals called Inco Mother Inco. Falconbridge was smaller. Inco mines are now largely operated by a Brazilian mining company called Vale, pronounced Vallez and Falconbridge facilities are owned by a company called Glencore Canada but before that, in 2006, Falconbridge sold its assets to Xtrata which sold out to Glencore, in 2016. You don't have to know this but on the off chance you end up in a bar talking to a local, it's good to be up on this kind of thing. Also, nobody pronounces the town Val Caron the French way. Everybody says "Val Karen." Which of course might inspire a joke of its own but I'm more mature than that. Also, Sudburians call MacDonald Cartier High School Mac Jack (Jack referring to Jacques Cartier) and Nickel District Secondary School was Nickel Dick.
Y is for Yikes! Did You see this thing on YouTube? At this point, I'm thinking, "I just researched (ish) and wrote about 10,000 words and then clicked on this, one of the countless entertaining online explanations of why Sudbury is--like I said at the beginning of this list--one of the coolest places on the whole planet."
Z is for zed, the correct way to pronounce the last letter of the alphabet. The English and French agree on this.