The hero around the corner


Original article published in November, 2018.

Lewis Johnstone Burpee, one of those who died during the famed Dambusters’ Raid, was from a neighbourhood called the Glebe in Ottawa and a graduate of nearby Lisgar Collegiate Institute.

A neighbourhood of ghosts

It’s springtime in the Glebe. May 14, 2018, to be exact.

The sun shines with a new intensity. The breeze billows through the screen window of my office, wafting paper across my desk. Tonight is one of those evenings in which it is very good to be alive.

My office is on the second floor of a small building at the corner of Third Avenue and Bank Street in an area of Ottawa known as the Glebe. Bank is what you would call the high street in England, the main street in North America. It draws down from the north near the Parliament Buildings and continues on uninterrupted until almost the St. Lawrence River, 100 kilometres to the south.

I suspect that Bank Street in the Glebe is much the same as it was 75 years ago in May of 1943—save for the nature of the businesses, the highfalutin’ quality of our new-age restaurants and their fancy outdoor terraces, and the style of the automobiles. Today, pricey Glebe housing means that the people of the Glebe are uniformly in a higher income bracket, but in ’43, the Glebe had three distinct layers: the wealthy, the middle class and the working class. I have lived in the Glebe now for 46 years, all of that time in former working-class neighbourhoods. It has been a very…

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