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Apparently, I live in a hovel.

I came to that conclusion this weekend, after a friend invited me to join her on the Kingston Symphony’s annual Music Lover’s House Tour.

What’s a Music Lover’s House Tour, you ask?

Why, it’s the day when all us snoopers and gawkers can wander through really swanky houses in our community to see how the other 5% (2%?  32%?) live.  There is some super cool, vintage real estate in my town, since it’s one of the oldest cities in Canada and all limestone-y and such.

On the symphony House Tour, we enjoy live music at each house, remove our shoes (or put on little blue booties) and wander around, mouths hanging open, with choruses of whispered sighs and gasps emitting from our enchanted lips.

It’s good exercise for the diaphragm.

First stop was at 44 and 46 Colborne Street:

Brick 19th century townhouses

[photo credit:]

Both 19th-century townhouses are quite unassuming from the street.  In fact, you would probably walk right by them, if you didn’t know to look (unless you are a window gawker who lives for the nights when people are in their kitchens with all the lights on, like I am.)

I know it’s rude, but I can’t help it.

It’s even ruder for me to comment when the unsuspecting homeowners have their art and pictures hung too high on the wall (which they almost always are) but such was not the case at 44 and 46 Colborne Street.

They had the kind of art Practical Man dislikes:  that is, lots of swoops and smudges and layers of paint, all abstract and mysterious in a way that makes his face crinkle all up because all he asks for is some real, ahem, talent, for pete’s sake–something that resembles…something!

The irritating-to-some art was all hung at the ideal height on the walls and surrounded by many other beautiful things:  steel staircases and a living roof, art deco yellow and chrome chairs, penny-tiled bathroom floors and a covered patio perfect for dancing in bare feet with a sweetheart.  In the living room, as this was a Kingston Symphony event, a tousle-haired teenage boy played achingly beautiful piano music from the score of Pride and Prejudice by Dario Marianelli.

Swoon, swoon, swoon.

Then, we moved on to Centre Street, where we visited an historic “cottage”–in the manner of “cottages” of the type owned by the Bill Gates-types of the 19th century–that is, to say large, with fireplaces, chandeliers and antiques abounding.

Object in picture is larger than it appears.

limestone house with centre peaked roof

[photo credit: Google maps]

A trio of musicians played in the salon as I oogled the place up and down, admired the gardens and wondered what was inside the Tiffany & Co blue box perched on a daughter’s dresser upstairs.


On to the next house, which was not vintage so it barely warrants mention here except to say that it too, was beautiful and had a “mast” running from the basement to the top floor.  But, I really can’t understand how a family actually lives in a kitchen with 8 base cabinets and no shelves, no pantry–absolutely nowhere else to put dishes or food.

I think at least one of the home owners was from France, so that must be it.   The French are very clever (and thin, come to think of it.)

They also had a LiebHerr fridge.

Liebherr construction equipment

[photo credit:]

LiebHerr!  The people who make giant construction equipment.  Apparently, they also make stainless steel “petite” fridges for the clever and French.

A woman played a soothing piece on the recorder in the living room while a harpist set up.

House number five on our route was the heartbreaker:  a vintage 70s masterpiece on Riverside Drive that had been completely gutted and renovated in 2014.

Riverside Drive

[photo credit: Google Earth]

I wanted to hate it.  They had divested this St. Lawrence River lovely of all that was retro and vintage and cool about the place and replaced it with…

Serenity.  Beauty.  A luscious solid walnut dining table that I couldn’t stop touching.

I have no idea if there were musicians.  Seriously, I was getting into an unhealthy relationship with that table.

Everywhere you looked were calm, neutral colours and windows, windows facing the river.  When I could tear myself away from the table and the windows, I fell in love with the light fixtures.

Swoony, swoony light fixtures.

Finally, to a house on Treasure Island (and yes, that’s every bit as fun as it sounds).    Built on a cottage lot recently, the house was peaked of roof with the requisite “sea-side” (although it was St. Lawrence river-side) cedar shakes and a second floor that was entirely master suite.  They too, had a fridge made by Someone & Someone (I can’t remember the exact names but it was a company I’d never heard of, let alone as a fridge manufacturer) but who cared about the fridge when there was a gorgeous view of the water from every window?

More swooning.

And then, it was over.  Both gnashing our teeth just the teeniest little bit, I bid my friend goodbye and drove home to my house.

You may remember my house:

  • Full of garage-sale, thrift store style (not designed by a professional) that could use a serious de-cluttering (and dusting)
  • No stainless steel or construction equipment-manufacturer fridge (lots of cupboards for chubby people like me)
  • Close to (but, not overlooking) the water

Apparently, I live in a hovel.

brick house (mine)

[Our house]

Well, okay, maybe not.

Yes indeedy, I told Practical Man: all we need is some classical music to swank this place right up.






That old saying, “What goes around, comes around ” isn’t just for schoolyard bullies, mafia vendettas or your uncle Rick’s Hunkahunka Burnin Love chili.

vintage ladies washroom sign

Check out this cool, vintage sign I found at the local arena. Oh wait – maybe it’s more beat-up, than vintage…

Just wait 40 years and that dated, tacky, thinga-ma-bob you have tucked in the back of your closet might magically morph all the way past “normal and boring” to reach the lofty heights of “vintage and retro”.

One of my favourite examples of this phenomenon is the resurgence of Roller Derby.

Kingston Derby Girls logo

Our local DGs!

I already boast a hidden talent for roller skating.

Little did you know.

Growing up before the invention of inline skates, my sister and I had 4-wheeled roller skates that you could fit over the bottom of your shoes.  They had keys that would allow you to expand or contract the size of the skates to fit you as you grew.   We wore ours to skate around the concrete-floored furnace room in our childhood home until our gangly tween feet were sticking well past the end of the skates.

Sometimes, we crashed, spectacularly, into the chest freezer by accident so we saw that as a sign to sneak some frozen brownies out of its frosty depths.  It’s important to stay nourished while roller skating…even when your mother was saving those brownies for Christmas.

vintage roller skates

[Image courtesy of:]

I think inline skates had been invented by then, but where’s the fun in that when you can trip over your own toes and ankles and get verboten brownies as a reward?

I vaguely remember roller derby being on TV in the ’70s.   I recall black eye shadow, helmets, and laughing, slightly intimidating women.  Then, it disappeared, presumably labelled, as many not-yet-old-enough-to-be-cool things are, as dated and tacky.

I myself am a fan of dated and tacky.  And, with my hidden talent for roller skating, I was thrilled to discover that Roller Derby is not dead!

Derby girls at start line

This is one of our local teams “The Disloyalists” preparing to do battle against the Forest City Timber Rollers.

40 years later, Roller Derby has re-emerged as vintage, retro and oh-so-cool.

I go to the local bouts and cheer on the teams (even though lots of times I’ve got only a tenuous grasp of what’s happening and why the jammer is  constantly “calling things off” – commitment-phobe or what?).  I put my hair in pigtails and sport my Kingston Derby Girls merch and dance around in my hot pink-and-black high top runners.  I aspire to be vintage, retro and oh-so-cool.  Like Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page and Kristen Wiig, in the movie, Whip-It.

I am a total derby girl wannabe.

I am also a total goody two shoes.  Always have been.  Probably always will be on account of the fact that I’m a rule follower and a documented fraidy cat.

Albeit with great, derby girl shoes and a history of stealing off-limit brownies.

derby shoes

My derby shoes.

My friend Smiley (not her real name), whose derby name is Luci Fleur, is not a documented fraidy cat.  She is a totally vintage, retro cool DERBY GIRL!

Derby Girl Lucy-fer

I bow down to her vintage, retro cool-ness!

Check out her tattoo, knee pads, sparkly hot pants and BIG SMILE!

I have the same t-shirt so I pretend I’m her, sometimes.  Y’know, when I’ve had too much caffeine and am more delusional than usual.

Luci Fleur does some announcing when she’s not playing and then she heads into the fray to do her derby deeds.  During the bout, there are jams and jammers, blockers and people in the penalty box.  From the stands, the announcers calling the play-by-play sound like Charlie Brown’s parents but that’s okay.  Part of the fun is the mystery of not really knowing what’s happening.

the girls lined up

There’s Luci Fleur in her pink helmet!

I aspire to be tough and cool enough to end up in the penalty box.   Luci Fleur is there frequently and she encourages me (when she’s had too much caffeine, I think) to try out for the team.  Even though Smiley knows me, she seems to think I could  handle the:

  • skating while remaining mostly upright (my hidden talent for roller skating is 35 years out-of-date)
  • wearing of fishnets and short-shorts/short-skirts/shiny underpants (take your pick because none of them will nearly cover my jiggly bits)
  • pain, pain, and more pain (refer back to fraidy-cat part)

I am flattered to be considered by the vintage, retro cool kids.  I am tempted to sign up, even though there don’t appear to be any brownies involved.

Oh so tempted.

Maybe I will stop hiding in the stands and try out someday.  Especially since I’ve already got my derby name:

“Goody Two Skates”, seems fitting.

Copyright Christine Fader, 2013.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet         You might also like my latest book.