Saint John — This past week, the city of Saint John marked its 230th birthday with a combination of both fierce pride and considerable embarrassment. Saint Johners have a long tradition of being enthusiastic promoters of the city, although their zeal is often dampened by shame over the city’s many flaws. This dichotomy has become the defining characteristic of the city’s citizens, who love their home but are frustrated by its many quirks and issues.
The Manatee sent a correspondent to the city for a few days to get to know Saint John on the ground-level, by having everyday citizens tell us what makes the city such an exceptional place in New Brunswick.
“I just love Saint John,” exclaimed Sarah Hicks, a lawyer at a Saint John firm. “The architecture in the uptown is breathtaking… when you can see it through the fog, that is. If you want to feel like you’re walking in the clouds, Saint John is the place to be! It’s foggy… a lot.”
“In the dead of summer if you don’t like to be hot, or even warm really, then you will love the Saint John weather,” said Claire Connors, a resident of the uptown core. “And don’t think that means you get more temperate days in the winter though; it gets plenty cold, bitter even! So Saint John has lots to offer people who love to be cold all of the time.”
“I love living by the waters of the Bay of Fundy,” smiled Hugh McCavour, a customer at the City Market. “The other day I was out walking and there were seals playing by the shore. It was an amazing sight!” When asked what else McCavour liked about the water in Saint John, he said, “I don’t really drink Saint John’s tap-water. It sort of tastes like gargling mouthwash and batteries. And, they took out the fluoride. Now I’m getting more cavities than I used to,” he muttered.
“Saint John has a lot of notable firsts!” bragged Ken Miller, a patron of the Tim Hortons on Waterloo Street. “The first chartered bank in Canada, Canada’s oldest public high school, and Canada’s first public museum! And, of course, Canada’s first incorporated city… although no one else in Canada really knows what that means or gives us any credit for it.” He paused. “Also, we had the first quarantine station in North America to greet sick and dying emigrants, so yay us for that,” he finished quietly.
“Saint John has a lot to offer to young families — great schools, the museum, churches, organized sports, parks, recreational facilities — the works!” said mother of 3 Lindsey Leblanc. “Saint John is terrific for kids… unless I suppose you’re one of those 29 percent of kids who live in poverty, the highest percentage in the country. If you’re one of them, I’m not sure what you enjoy. Not much I guess…” she trailed off.
“We have great nightlife and restaurants in Saint John,” said local bar proprietor Sam Jenkins. “From fine dining to casual fare, the City Market, lounges, bars and cafés, we have some of the best food in the country! We didn’t get to be the fattest city in Canada by accident! We are up there with the big boys… literally!”
Saint John planned to have fireworks to celebrate the milestone, but due to the budget crisis they can’t afford it. Instead they will probably buy an extra-large cake and treat everyone to a big slice, maybe 2.
– With files from Debbie D. Owner