A friend of mine sent some amazing pictures of a place I know pretty well: Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario. I grew up in Buffalo, New York, a stone’s throw from the Falls and can place it in some of my earliest memories.
I remember a long drive, taking either a “scenic route” through a parkway in Ontario or a “stinky” route through industrial scenes on the US side. I remember the “rotten egg” smell on one side as opposed to the pristine greenery of the Ontario route. We always wanted the “scenic route,” for obvious reasons. The route through the US was faster, though, so sometimes we got our way and some times we didn’t.
Niagara Falls, Ontario, is a tourist trap – but a nice one. There’s also a school of horticulture in the area. That accounts for the pristine nature of the greenways, et al on that side of the border. I spent a good chunk of my childhood staring in awe and terror at the cascade of water going over the falls. No little trickle, but a roaring, bubbling torrent that would take anyone to their death before they could even think about it.
We used to drive around and around looking for a parking space. Sometimes we brought a picnic for lunch. We wandered in and out of gift shops, playing with the little trinkets and staring hungrily at the maple sugar candies in the shape of the Canadian flag.
The Falls were the center of attraction, though. They were beautiful and terrifying. We never went on The Maid of the Mist, a tourist boat that puttered its way to the foot of the falls. We also didn’t go through the Cave of the Winds, which had a path directly underneath the falls. We weren’t really tourists in the strictest sense of the word. We were locals who went there a lot because we enjoyed it.
We visited the Skylon tower. We indulged in Belgian waffles with strawberry syrup and whipped cream. We checked out the little shops that sprinkled the area. We looked at Niagara Falls mugs, “Indian” moccasins and tomahawks, postcards and key chains. Occasionally, we did some “real” shopping. I remember my mother buying my sister and I a pair of brightly colored wool coats. They were white, with gorgeous patterns that ran down the front. We occasionally had lunch or dinner out there, too. That didn’t happen as much, since my parents had three kids and money was tight.
We never stayed until the evening. As a result, I never saw the colored spot lights that the city ran over the water. I saw plenty of pictures, but that was a close as I got. That’s one think I still regret – that we never saw the Falls at night. Maybe, this year, my husband and I will go there when we visit my family in the warmer weather.
Anyway, in the early ‘teens of the last century Niagara Falls froze solid. I had no idea until this friend of mine sent me the old photos. People were walking on the frozen water, staring up at falls literally frozen in place.
That absolutely blew my mind. These tourists could practically touch the Falls! I couldn’t imagine doing that, from my perch at the edge of the cascade. I couldn’t imagine something as powerful as Niagara Falls freezing. But, evidently, it did.
I wonder how cold it must have gotten?
Very cold, I must think. But, this is my favorite picture of all. A group of tourists are standing at the very edge of the fall. I’m not sure, but I believe the area to their left (with the house) is Goat Island.
Holy cow. Here’s a contemporary picture of what I believe is the same area, but from the other side.
I guess the 1911 tourists would have been standing somewhere out in the middle of the water, near the edge. Yow!