Memories of Fallingbrook

Memories of 1986

by David Villeneuve

When we moved onto Proulx Drive in early 1986, we were just about at the eastern edge of civilization at that time. We could look east and see to Trim Road. I used to take my children exploring the fields around present-day St Francis of Assisi School; it was heavy going through the wet, rutted fields. There was a large lake there at the time, and we scared a family of ducks living in the tall grass. We could walk as far as the farm house on Watters Road, with barn and outbuildings.

There were no schools or parks in Fallingbrook. Our oldest child was bused to Cumberland Village each day, a practice that was to continue for years for many children. The Apollo Crater was the nearest thing to a park, and its play structure had been installed the year before by a group of residents.

Charlemagne ended at Bottriell, but we could still see the old farm road where Charlemagne was to continue east. We found a rusty abandoned car there.

Fallingbrook’s First Park and School

by David Villeneuve

In late 1986, Cumberland Township’s then-Mayor Peter Clark phoned up Peter McNamara, the first president of the Fallingbrook Community Association, to discuss the plans for Fallingbrook’s first park, Des Pionniers. The school board decided they needed more room for their school and had offered the Township $200,000 to buy a few acres of parkland. Mayor Clark said with that money, we could start the park much sooner than otherwise, and did the residents agree with the decision? In those days there was a lot of informal consultation from the Township about planning matters. The recreation committee then began meeting at Dick Mohn’s house to lay out the plans for the park. Keith Nesbitt wanted to build a large climbing tower in one corner, and hence it was unofficially named Tower Park. The tower never made it any farther, but the name still appeared on some municipal maps.


How Three People Moved a School

by David Villeneuve

In 1987, Cumberland Town Council met at the Town Hall in Leonard, about 10 km south of Cumberland Village. The meetings were much less formal then, and people got up and walked around during the meetings. At one meeting the site plan for Fallingbrook Community Elementary School on Deancourt was to be approved, and the community association had some concerns about half of the school being on the park land. Mayor Peter Clark signalled a couple of us into the back room, and we agreed in a few minutes to move the entire school closer to Princess Louise Drive and away from the park. That was how George Blake, Keith Nesbitt and David Villeneuve moved a school.

Tenth Line Road Interchange

by David Villeneuve

The Tenth Line Road interchange to Hwy 17 was controversial from the beginning. Because of it proximity to the Champlain interchange, the eastbound exit ramp had to go under the new bridge and meet St Joseph Blvd east of the new Tenth Line Road. Many people objected to this poor design, saying that the intersection would not function properly. The community association sent briefs to the designers, and president George Blake went to Toronto to object to the deputy minister of transportation, all in vain. However the designers suddenly discovered that the intersection would not function, and proposed to keep open the old Tenth Line Road up the hill. This upset the residents on Norview who backed onto the road, who had been told that old Tenth Line Road would be closed; they took to municipality to the OMB over this. In the end, we have the present structure which, although it looks a bit strange, is much better than what we had before.

From Crater Bash to Canada Day

by David Villeneuve

In September of 1986 Dick and Joyce Mohns organized a “Crater Bash” at Fallingbrook’s only park, the Apollo Crater. They had children’s races and games and some refreshments. The turnout was excellent, considering the small number of residents at the time. There was a stronger feeling of belonging to the community at the time, since we all felt like pioneers in the mud.

In early 1988, Sue Grace suggested that we move the Crater Bash to July 1 and have some fireworks. Sue said that she could raise donations from local merchants to get the several thousand dollars required. And so was born the first Canada Day in Fallingbrook, a tradition that now attracts 20,000 spectators. Bob Janke of Queenswood PetroCanada and Rolly Laberge of the Loeb IGA have consistently supported this and other events ever since.

The first Canada Day event in the crater had its share of problems. People sat around the slopes of the crater and the fireworks were fired from the middle. Even though the fireworks were much smaller than they are today, one misfired almost horizontally and hit a spectator in the chest; luckily it did not explode. Then the trucks which removed the equipment from the bottom of the crater got stuck and left ruts in the sod.

Although the Apollo Crater was a natural amphitheater, it was realized that it was too small for fireworks. In 1989 the site was moved to the just-completed Fallingbrook Park. The audience sat at the ball diamond and the fireworks were released over Brome Crescent, then undeveloped. In 1990 and 1991 the site was still Fallingbrook Park, but the fireworks were released on the other side of Princess Louise, near Clearcrest Crescent.

When all the land surrounding Fallingbrook Park became developed, we had to seek another site, and so Canada Day 1992 moved to the Ray Friel Centre. This also allowed larger amusement rides. Today’s Canada Day in Fallingbrook attracts 20,000 spectators and has a budget of $20,000.

Fallingbrook’s First Traffic Light

by David Villeneuve

It wasn’t really the first traffic signal in Cumberland Township, however it was the first one installed by the Township, not on a regional road. In this photo are (left to right) John Morell (CBE), Ned Lathrop (Chief Administrative Officer of Cumberland Township and the main designer of Fallingbrook), Mayor Brian Coburn, David Villeneuve (president of the Fallingbrook Community Association), Richard Alton (principal of Fallingbrook Community Elementary School), and Chris Baird (Cumberland Township Works Department and a Fallingbrook resident). These lights were also the first to have an Opticom system which enabled approaching fire trucks to turn the lights green. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one on your car?

Recollections of One of the First Homeowners

by Ed Merkley

(Ed and Susan Merkley were two of Fallingbrook’s first new residents. They moved into their Sandbury house on Brookridge Crescent on April 1, 1985.)

In October of 1984 I happened to be driving up the old Tenth Line Road when a sales trailer for one of the builders in Queenswood Heights was being put in place on the crest of the hill on the east side of the road. It did not look like a promising place to buy a house. At the time Fallingbrook consisted of a flat plateau of clay, a few hundred yards of asphalt,the sales trailer and a deserted stone bungalow which sat on an area of land now occupied by homes at the northwest corner of the Princess Louise storm management pond.

Within a very short time myself and my soon-to-be two immediate neighbours would be the first to have purchased homes in this new community.

At first glance back then the flat acreage of mud and clay didn’t look too appealing, but with further exploration one could see the potential for the evolution of a suburban community in a lovely setting with all amenities needed to live comfortably and raise a family. The view from the ridge overlooking the Ottawa River and the Quebec side was beautiful with the fall colors at their peak. There was a nice mix of mature pine and deciduous forest all along the ridge, and the presence of a winding creek and waterfalls was an enticing and spectacular site for anyone wishing to experience city living and yet be close to nature.

The first builders in the area quickly put up model homes along the partially completed streets, Princess Louise, Brookridge and Cezanne Cresents. By March and April of 1985 the first residents had moved in.

At the time there were only two access roads to my house, neither of which is now open. Since Princess Louise did not yet connect to what is now Charlemagne, Marjolaine was used to get from Tenth Line Road to Princess Louise. The second access road was the driveway for the original owners of this property, coming up the escarpment from St. Joseph Blvd just east of Princess Louise Falls and leading to the stone bungalow mentioned earlier. The stone house was soon demolished and continuous construction, growth and change has taken place ever since. The fields that surrounded our new home were soon filled with the houses of other new Fallingbrook residents.

Townhouse Explosion on Hoskins Crescent Kills Woman

By John Kessel and Ian MacLeod

The Ottawa Citizen

1 April 1987

There were tears, screams and pandemonium among neighbors as an explosion blasted away the early morning peace in an Orleans townhouse development.

“I saw this big, big ball of fire. I couldn’t believe how fast those houses burned,” said one neighbor who had fled with her children.

Alain Lafrenière said an injured Marguerite Lalonde, mother of the presumed victim Marielle, was taken to his home for care until an ambulance arrived.

‘‘She was screaming and said: ‘My daughter is still in there.’ She was pretty hysterical.”

Lefrenière said the woman told rescuers her daughter had pushed her out a second-floor window and onto a garage roof to escape from the spreading flames. The women shared the Hoskins Crescent home.

He said the elder Lalonde then jumped from the roof and injured her arm in the fall.

Lefrenière said a man, woman and young child living at 1566 Ho-skins escaped from their home through a garage door.”In five minutes, the whole thing was on fire.”

Another woman living on Hoskins Crescent and almost directly across from the scene of the explosion said, “everything vibrated,” when the blast shook the neighborhood.

“Within a matter of minutes, the whole place was up in flames.”

About a dozen tenants living in -nearby townhouses were evacuated from their homes during the fire as a safety precaution.

Lorraine Randell, of 1551 Hoskins Cres., was the first person at the scene to try to help.

The shaken woman said she felt “totally helpless” as she heard yelling from inside the unit where one woman perished, saying: “Get the hell out, get the hell out.”

At the same time she said she saw activity in the second-floor -window of the townhouse, and moments later there was a woman on the garage roof.

Randell, who hadn’t gone to sleep, said she was alerted to the fire and blast when the pictures in her home fell off the wall.

“The first sounded like a gunshot, the house shook and then I thought a truck had driven into our home.— She said she first went to her son’s room, then woke her husband and told everyone to get out.

Randell said she knew Marielle Lalonde, saying she only moved into the house about a month ago to keep her mother company.

About a minute after she got outside, the street was filled with panicking neighbors.

“It was pandemonium out there.”

Randall complained of the -units’ thin walls, saying that she -can hear her neighbors yawning.

Other residents in the area have said they can hear people clear their throats and sneezing in adjacent townhouses.

Denise Kiebert, who lives about a block away, said she was awakened when her water bed began to shake.

“By the time I got outside, I saw that the entire house was engulfed in flames.”

Claude Allard, who lives directly behind the two destroyed townhouse rental units, said he beard a bang then ran to his back window and saw “an entire wall had blown out.

“The fire had just started and seconds later there was a big ball of fire. Debris was blown everywhere.”

Allard said before he and his wife could even get dressed, neighbors rapped on their door and told him to get out.

He said the explosion embedded debris in neighboring townhouses. He said the house beside his had its patio door blown out by the blast.

Donna Deans said her husband Stuart was just coming home at the time of the fire. He told her that he could see the flames for about a mile away at St. Joseph’s Boulevard and Tenth Line.

Deans, who lives about a block from the scene, said she and other women in the neighborhood are organizing a relief fund today for the victims of the fire.

Lise Larocque, a cousin of Marielle Lalonde, who lives in the same row of townhouses, was devastated by the news.

“I’m just in absolute shock,” said Larocque.

Larocque lives three units from her cousin and aunt and said she was awakened when “everything in the house shook. Everything came off the shelves and landed on the floor. The drawers fell out of our dressers.”

She said she awakened her three children — two girls and a seven-month-old boy and got out of the house with her husband.

It was then that she heard screaming from the two blazing homes.

“I saw Marielle’s computer out on the street. It must have blown out there by the blast. Their garage door had been blown across the street.”

Larocque said her aunt and cousin had moved into the townhouse in October.

Nicole Roberts, who lives in a unit at the corner of Canotia Drive and Hoskins Crescent, said she was in bed with her husband when the blast went off, “and I thought a car had hit the house.”

She then went to a rear window and looked out onto Hoskins to see a woman standing outside one of the burning units and screaming.