Dain City won’t be Port Robinson, says Pi­etz

New bridge ‘a must,’ says for­mer Wel­land mayor

The Welland Tribune - - Local - JOE BARKOVICH Joe Barkovich is a long­time Wel­land res­i­dent and re­tired jour­nal­ist. wher­erail­sand­wa­ter­[email protected]

A bridge prob­lem in Dain City isn’t any­thing new for a for­mer Wel­land mayor, Al­lan Pi­etz.

He re­called “a neigh­bour lady” tak­ing him across the canal in a small boat to at­tend a Christ­mas concert. He guessed it was the late 1920s, be­cause he was born in 1925 and he was still a lit­tle kid at the time, not yet go­ing to school. He was prob­a­bly four or five.

Per­plexed, I asked why they hadn’t used the bridge.

“The bridge was knocked out. A boat hit it.”

This was the third Wel­land Canal, he said. The bridge was in the same spot as the cur­rent and be­lea­guered Forks Road bridge, built dur­ing con­struc­tion of the fourth Wel­land Canal.

Pi­etz is ef­fer­ves­cent as ever, ea­ger to dredge up me­mories for any­one in­ter­ested in lis­ten­ing, me­dia in­cluded. He lives in a mem­o­ra­bilia-filled ground-floor suite at Sea­sons First Av­enue. Ninety-three and for the most part fit, he still flashes the same killer smile he did decades ago, when he was Wel­land mayor for seven two-year terms, 1965-78.

He was a “Dain City boy” un­til a few years ago when he moved here af­ter the death of his wife, Alice, in 2014. The Pi­etz fam­ily, headed by his fa­ther, pa­tri­arch Paul, was such a fix­ture in Dain City a stand­ing joke had Pi­etz “mayor of Pi­etz-burgh” be­fore mak­ing it here in the bigs, even­tu­ally be­com­ing a one-term mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, 1984-88.

He basks in the af­ter­glow of a life in pub­lic ser­vice kept front and cen­tre in clip­pings, signs and pho­to­graphs on walls of his liv­ing room.

Why, he beamed, he has three pho­tos of him­self with three Cana­dian prime min­is­ters: one with Dief the Chief, John Diefen­baker from 1962 when Pi­etz was a can­di­date in the fed­eral elec­tion; a sec­ond with Brian Mul­roney in 1984, taken at Pi­etz’s swear­ing-in cer­e­mony as new MP for Wel­land; and one with Stephen Harper, taken just be­fore he was de­feated in 2015.

“Ev­ery­one was telling me he was de­feated be­cause he came to see me,” Pi­etz said, the killer smile ab­sent from his vis­age.

But it was the bridge I wanted to cross with him, even if just in mem­ory. As ex­pected, me­mories abound.

“I was there when the Fourth Wel­land Canal was of­fi­cially opened,” Pi­etz said turn­ing back the clock to 1932. He didn’t re­call the date — it was Aug. 6 — but he did re­mem­ber gath­er­ing with other kids at S.S. No. 4 (Dain City) school and wait­ing for the grain­car­rier Le­moyne to ar­rive.

“We were wav­ing Union Jack flags, ev­ery one of us had Union Jack flags and we were wav­ing them. The bridge looked grand.”

Be­fore that oc­ca­sion, he re­calls the bridge un­der con­struc­tion.

“I re­mem­ber see­ing it laid out on the banks, it was orange, I think, but when it went up it was black. The colour sur­prised me.”

The pa­tri­ar­chal home was on a side road (now Pi­etz Road) two miles west of Dain City.

“I had to cross the bridge to get to school and some­time the boats would come and made me late. They would ask why other kids made it across in time and I didn’t. I started out later, I guess.”

He and Alice built their home on Forks Road lit­tle more than a stone’s throw from Forks Road bridge. They lived there 60½ years, he said. It was like a neigh­bour.

There were many good times. They got to know the bridge ten­ders. When com­pany vis­ited and there were bar­be­cues in the yard, a tasty treat for the bridge ten­der was fare for pas­sage aloft in the bridge ten­der’s cabin to watch ships pass un­der raised span.

“I loved look­ing down on the smoke­stacks of boats go­ing by be­low.”

Pi­etz said the im­por­tance of this bridge to the small but in­tensely loyal Dain City com­mu­nity can’t be taken for granted.

“It’s a life­line. It’s an im­por­tant artery,” he said. “All the peo­ple who worked in Port Col­borne, they used it. It was and still is a pop­u­lar bridge.”

Pi­etz pooh-poohed a sug­ges­tion mak­ing the rounds in at least one cof­fee klatch: that a fate com­pa­ra­ble to Port Robinson’s may be in the cards for Dain City if re­place­ment costs are deemed pro­hib­i­tive.

Is a ferry ser­vice in Dain City’s fu­ture? What? That would never be­come wa­ter un­der the bridge, never, not ever.

“Won’t hap­pen,” Pi­etz pre­dicted about such an out­ra­geous out­come.

He said: “A new bridge is a must. I don’t see any other an­swer to it .”

JOE BARKOVICH SPE­CIAL TO THE WEL­LAND TRI­BUNE

Al­lan Pi­etz in his liv­ing room shows a por­tion of his photo col­lec­tion. Pi­etz, 93, cher­ishes me­mories es­pe­cially from his time in pub­lic ser­vice.

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