Tales from down in the dumps.

(Tribune September 2005)

Today, you need an engineering degree to sort your trash. It has not always been so complicated.

The old Village of Fonthill had it’s own garbage dump on Rice road, just north of Highway #20. This dump was not in the village, but was actually in the old Township of Thorold. The wise Village councilors had the foresight to lease a few acres outside the municipal boundaries, therefore establishing the "not in my backyard" mindset.

Fonthill had garbage pickup but there was no such thing as recycling. Everything went into the garbage can (trash bags were not yet invented), which was emptied into the open garbage truck, and subsequently dumped on the pile in Thorold Township. The prevailing winds carried the stench safely away from our pristine Village. All was well in our world.

In my youth there was absolutely nothing to do in Fonthill on a summer Saturday night. The only action was at the dump. Here is where the boys, with their 22’s would gather for an evening of fun shooting rats. Someone always brought a searchlight, (remember the lights on the driver door of the 50’s cars?) and as soon as a rat peeped up from the trash, a volley of shots would send him scurrying for cover. There were not many casualties in the rat world because the boys were not very good shots, but generally, at the end of the evening, everyone was convinced he had a good time. I think the rats even enjoyed the sport.

Some time in the future, I am sure an archeologist will dig up the hundreds of spent bullets and the government of the day will establish a park to commemorate the previously unknown "Battle of the Place Just Outside Fonthill".

Things were a little different in the old Township of Pelham. That dump was on Centre Street, also just north of Highway #20. There were always a couple of guys hanging around the dump who did their own ‘recycling’. Guess you could call them "dump groupies".

The Township did not have garbage pick up, it was a "do it yourself" operation. My father-in-law of the day was a Pelham cherry farmer, and there was always a truck available at the farm to use for the dump run. Periodically, when the trash was ripe, I would pick up a truck, (keys were always left in the ignition), load my in-laws’ garbage, pick up my own discards at home and make the run up Centre Street.

One summer day, after loading our own trash, I was called from an upstairs window with a reminder to not forget the stuff in the kitchen. I ran in, picked up the bag in front of the refrigerator, and completed the run. On my return I knew I was in trouble. By mistake, I had taken the bag of groceries from Klager’s and had trashed two beef roasts, six lamb chops and four pounds of ground round.

Now picture the sight enjoyed by the dump groupies. They watched as a "snooty Pelham yuppie" pulled up in his shiny new red 1963 Dodge 440 convertible and started to rummage through the trash with a long stick. " What ya looking for Jimmy?" There was only one answer. "Fresh meat to cook for my supper!" I never found my groceries but I suspect that the groupies had a feast.

Now, let’s jump to our present garbage world. No shooting rats, no permission to rummage, just organization and inflexible rules. It is fashionable these days for old guys to complain about such changes and to pine for the "good old days". I will not do that this time because in general, I support recycling and our better methods of waste disposal.

However, some things do bug me. We all know about "hazardous waste" and have been trained to line up in our cars to deliver this unpopular product to the garbage police. I am short-tempered so waiting in line is not my thing. The last time I attempted to dispose of three cans of paint and a Mason jar of used lawnmower oil, I waited in line at the Welland Arena for over an hour with my motor running. Finally, losing patience, I got out of line, returned home, and stashed my dirty trash back in my garage.

There had to be a better way. A little research showed the Region has a year round hazardous waste facility off Grimsby Road 12, near Smithville. One sunny day I called a friend and we loaded my truck with our small collection of nasty stuff. The trip through Smithville was pleasant and the road signs to the HW facility were clear. There was no waiting at the scale house and no delays when we transferred our collection to the totes and pushed them into the recycling building. I probably used less gas than I used waiting in line at the Arena.

Any victory over adversity should be celebrated. We knew that north of the HW facility, in Grimsby, there is a traditional chip wagon just behind the local hardware store. We finished our successful dump run sitting on my tailgate, enjoying chips and a Pepsi. Could be that we might find people who would pay us to do this. Two old retired guys may have just discovered their second career.

No engineering degree required.

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