Faster Than The Speed of Light: Barrie, Change and Missed Opportunities

I have lived in Barrie, Ontario most of my life.  In fact, I was born here in a building that has since been re-purposed for something else.  The house I was brought home to on Tiffin Street has been torn down, the government building that replaced it has come and gone as well.  I know what it’s like to experience change.

Change is nothing new to Barrie.  Regarded as “Ontario’s most progressive City”, Barrie has often been on the forefront of change albeit not all of it has been received with open arms.  The 20th century did not fair well for the preservation of historical buildings in Canada, and Barrie was no exception.  Between 1950-2000, Barrie lost a handful of historical structures in the name of ‘progression’ as did many other cities across our country.

Change is an interesting thing.  It has been suggested that generally speaking, humans are creatures of habit and dislike change.  I disagree somewhat.  I think humans are incredibly adaptable but struggle with the rate of change, not change itself.  With that in mind, it’s understandable why some struggle to live in a city that has experienced such rapid growth and concentrated change in the last 25 years.

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I love history.  I love Barrie’s history.  I love it so much I lead a group that built Barrie’s only free online museum of more than 10,000 historical photos, videos and documents: the Barrie Historical Archive.  You won’t find a greater champion and advocate for history in our community than me.

My involvement with the BHA has put me in touch with the community in a deeper way than I ever imagined.  I have been privileged to meet and interview the men and women who built Barrie in the 20th century and work alongside an incredible team of like-minded people who want to see Barrie’s rich history celebrated and preserved.

The experience has not come without disillusionment. Whereas most have received our efforts with generous praise, Barrie seems to never be short of naysayers.  I was raised to only identify a problem if I had a solution or was willing to be part of the solution.  After all, complaining takes zero talent.

I have been disappointed by the churn of local social media which seems to often be a celebration of disappointments, problems and frustrations while our council chambers largely sit empty during public sessions most Monday nights.  Again, it takes a different effort to be part of a solution.  Anyone can identify problems.

As a community bridge-builder, it pains me to see that it’s frequently the baby boomer generation on social media complaining, resisting change and often choosing to be sour grapes over roundabouts, statues and speed limits. On many occasions, progression of any type, including the smallest of changes is met with vehement opposition.

There’s a missed opportunity here.

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If I could have the ear of any older, mature person who loves Barrie as much as I do, I’d say a few things…

  1. I respect you.  I honour you and I thank you for your contributions to our City.  I want to tell your story, add value to it and preserve it for all generations.
  2. When you use your influence to complain about what’s wrong with Barrie, I take that personally because just like you, I’ve chosen to live here with my family.  No one likes to hear their town trashed.
  3. We want you to be enthusiastic about what Barrie can be for the next generation.  We understand the new Memorial/Meridian Square may not be your cup of tea, but for us it’s very exciting.  Please be excited for us.
  4. We want to learn from you.  You have so much wisdom, experience and knowledge to pass down. We want you to mentor us, value our interest in our city and play a formational role in our character as contributing civilians.
  5. We’re looking to you to set the right example.

Barrie is not the town it once was.  We aren’t regressing and we’ll never return to what we were.  We will only get bigger and (God-willing) better.  But if my investment in helping build Barrie a free, online museum says anything, I hope it says this: We will never forget where we’ve come from.

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Barrie’s future is incredibly bright.  There’s so much to be proud of, excited for and involved in – if we’re willing to see it.

Much can be accomplished if both the young and old are willing to come outside our preferences, honour our heritage while enthusiastically embracing the exciting future we’re building together.

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6 thoughts on “Faster Than The Speed of Light: Barrie, Change and Missed Opportunities

  1. Karen

    Thank you for the museum, it’s a lot of work and all of us who grew up in Barrie when it was a town are grateful. It’s no longer a town, it’s a city. A city who has become money hungry and has forgotten about the people who have been a part of all of that awesome history! I had to move away, I couldn’t afford to live there anymore. Cost of living and lack of services drove me as well as many others away. Perfect example- our bus service- it takes far too long to take a bus anywhere in town! Every job is retail related! All there is there are restaurants and stores!
    Great to have diversity in culture but it’s also needed in the employment sector!

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  2. I have lived in Barrie since 1940. I went to Prince of Wales and then to Barrie District Collegiate Institute from Grade nine to Grade 12. Grade 13 was at the newly opened Barrie North. I can’t conceive of having grown up any where else.

    During winter months we played hockey on Perry Street. The only vehicles to worry about were the bread, ice and milk horse drawn wagons. Very few automobiles at the time. It was a time when your front door was not locked, a time when you shopped at Dutchers Grocery on Elizabeth (Dunlop West). When you got home from your downtown outing the groceries were waiting for you on the kitchen table. They had been delivered. Saturday morning cartoons at the Roxy. Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Tarzan at either the Granada or Imperial.. Alas times change and you have memories. Good memories of a great town and today a great city.

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    1. Thanks Mr. Partridge for sharing your treasured memories while valuing ones being made today by the next generation. That’s a beautiful example and I deeply appreciate your comments and investment in our great City!

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  3. Effie Smurthwaite

    I remember in the late 70′ when Barrie first annexed part of Innisfil the reason was that by 2020 Barrie’s population would be about 125000, but as we drove by a current population sign the other day I noticed it is now 147000, seems Barrie grew faster then projected back then. I’ve seen many changes but I do wish something could have been done to save Barrie Central, not only because that’s were I was educated but there was a lot of history there and also I think downtown would benefit from a school to bring families to the area.

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  4. Terry Romphf

    I have been away for a long, long time, in fact I’ve not even visited my home town in 25 years. I am living in Edmonton, and will have to remain here until my Old Age Pension kicks in as I am living on a provincially funded disability stipend due to Major Depressive Disorder and there is no guarantee that I will granted the same should I return sooner.

    I can only imagine the culture shock I’ll undergo when I do return. as is my intention. I look forward to exploring the old stomping grounds with an eclectic mix of fear and excitement to see what has changed. I can still remember when the Winter Carnival was actually held on the frozen lake and that the ice had to be at least 18 inches thick before it was deemed safe to do so. I can even remember when the signs on the outskirts changed from “Barrie 20,000” to reflect the growing population had reached 26,000 people.

    Man, its gonna be a gas!

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