Saturday, March 21, 2020

the last book I ever read (Cabbagetown by Hugh Garner, excerpt thirteen)

from Cabbagetown by Hugh Garner:

That “foreigners” were dirty was an axiom among Cabbagetowners, when the direct opposite was true. Most European immigrants lived in the West End of the city, and few citizens of Cabbagetown knew any non-English-speaking families at all. The only “foreigners” around their neighbourhood were the Jewish storekeepers on Queen and Parliament Streets, and the Central Europeans who lived in a colony to the south near King Street. These people, mostly immigrant males without familes in Canada, also congregated in their own restaurants near the corner of Parliament and Queen, where they are outlandish-smelling meals and spent their days arguing over Balkan politics or playing cards.

The “foreigners” were just beginning to spread into the city’s East End, but it would be years yet before they ousted the Anglo-Saxon majority from the district immediately west of the Don River. When this happened some of the Cabbagetown women, who still could not be convinced that foreigners and Jews were not dirty, used to watch the European immigrant women washing down their front porches and steps every day, and put it down to showing off or being clean publicly to hide their houses’ inside dirt. The sight of an immigrant woman placing her mattresses outside her windows to air them was looked upon as being a filthy and unhealthy habit. Most Cabbagetown housewives lived their whole lives and went to their deaths believing these things.

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