The old Pinke Street neighbourhood

Yes, the Pinke Street neighbourhood. I was surprised too.

Last week I asked local historian rych mills for some neighbourhood history. Most of the volunteers who are working together to organize this Lantern Walk have lived in the neighbourhood for less than 10 years. I was hoping for some details that would help animate the streets we’ll walk with our lanterns, including Hett Avenue, Wilhelm Street, Ahrens Street, and Blucher Street. Within days rych had dug up an old article written by David Kowalksi in 1989 for the Waterloo Historical Society annual volume.

David’s father grew up on Wilhelm and Blucher Streets in the 1910s and 20s. Back then, Weber Street stopped somewhere around Wellington. Until Weber Street was extended in 1956, Pinke Street ran from Wilhelm to Guelph Street, creating the Pinke Street neighbourhood. It’s the area we’ll be walking this Saturday, December 21st. Here’s an image from the 1989 article:
Pinke Street 1989 homes WHS#77 1989Kathryn Lamb 300 dpi

As an aspiring gardener, and with such role models as Little City Farm right around the corner, it was neat to read about the Pinke Street area’s rural roots:

Urban life in pre-depression Kitchener was often rural in character. Many homes kept chickens and pigs in their backyards. This was true of the Pinke Street area. Many good-sized gardens were set among fruit trees to help supply the homeowners own food. The housewives preserved, canned and pickled the surplus produce to tide their families over the winter months. My dad fondly recalls butchering days as a neighbourhood event.

And here David describes winter fun on Hett Avenue, (the street where we’ll be starting and finishing the Lantern Walk), but before Hett Avenue existed.

My dad recalls that ice skating was readily available during the cold winter months. A local resident, Feldie Schmidt, maintained an outdoor rink in his backyard for a number of years. A flat fee of five cents was charged each skater. The site is now present-day Hett Avenue where it intersects At Wilhelm Street.

And a description of the people who first lived in this neighbourhood, when it was developed in the early 1910s and 20s.

…although the North Ward was generally associated with Polish residents, in fact, in the Pinke Street area there were more German families, with some Polish to round out the ethnic make-up. Names such as Schott, Schmidt, Schultz, Westfall, Ott, Bierwagan, Rainhart, Brenner, Psutka, Kunda and Kowalski helped compose the area residency.

David also offers some rich details of the area’s industrial history, with small factories to be found on almost every street.

One of the reasons I’m working on this Lantern Walk is the idea of people connecting around simple gestures. Holding a candle in your hand. Bringing it out into the cold and dark. Greeting strangers. I’m grateful to David’s reminiscences for reminding me that we also build community through learning more about who we have been as a community. David’s family’s roots in the Pinke Street neighbourhood are now, in a small way, my roots.

“Pinke Street Revisited,” David J Kowalski’s nostalgic personal memoir, appeared on pages 63-68 of the Waterloo Historical Society’s annual volume 77 (1989) . Excerpts are printed here with permission. The publication can be seen, with photos, at the Grace Schmidt Room of the Kitchener Public Library, 85 Queen Street North. For more information on WHS visit www.whs.ca

– Sarah Anderson

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