The Localist

Spruce Grove

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I will revisit Gunn and the County of Lac Ste. Anne (refer to my previous postlater. Firstly, I feel I must follow my geographic life in chronological order, and introduce you to Spruce Grove.

As I grew up, it soon became obvious to everyone around that Gunn was too small to contain me. So at the age of 18 months my parents, my 2 older brothers and I moved 30 minutes south to the town of Spruce Grove. I was no longer a Gunn­ian… Gunn­er… Gunn­innite? Whatever. I grew up a Spruce Grove­ian, a place commonly referred to as “The Grove”.

For the first 2 years of my life in Spruce Grove I don’t remember anything. So I am gonna say that until 1986 Spruce Grove was under attack by aliens. Go ahead and try to prove me wrong.

In 1986 I had my first memory: I zipped up my onesie a little too fast in the bathroom. I should have seen that as a sign of mishaps to come in that general area for years to come.

I spent most of my early days in Spruce Grove eating breakfast with my brothers before they went to school. Then I would get to watch Ghostbusters or Star Wars for the rest of the morning. Lunchtime meant grilled cheese sandwiches and Teddy Ruxpin, and after that I was sent off for a nap, but I would usually sneak into my brother’s room and listen to cassettes of N.W.A, Twisted Sister or my personal favorite at the age of 4, Andrew Dice Clay.

See, Spruce Grove sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it.

Kindergarten started the next year and Spruce Grove gave me 13 years of pretty awesome childhood memories. I am almost 100% sure John Hughes used Spruce Grove as a template for all of his teen angst films. In the mid 90s Spruce Grove probably had a population of about 10,000. If you played hockey, as I did growing up, you knew almost every family. I could get to any of my friends’ houses in 7 minutes on my bike, it didn’t matter where in town they lived. There was a small forest in the middle of town, and its number one purpose was for teenage experiments. Spruce Grove had Canada’s number one teen pregnancy rate and the most liquor stores per capita in the country…. no that’s not ironic, shut up. Those are just separate facts.

Today Spruce Grove is a thriving city that has public transport to and from its neighbouring metropolis of Edmonton. It has more than double the amount of schools it had when I was a child and the fields my friends and I used to go catch frogs in are now residential areas with pre­fabricated homes. I don’t live there anymore so it doesn’t bother me that it has grown so much, but it is odd to come back once or twice a year and see more and more major infrastructure being built.

When I was growing up, children from Spruce Grove had a very Springfield VS Shellbyville­esque rivalry with Stony Plain, a small town west of Spruce Grove. The only thing that stood between the 2 towns was 5 kilometers of highway and a bitterness towards each other worse than a bitter January wind in Butt­Fuck Nowhere, Northern Alberta. It was a healthy rivalry to have as a child. Today there are 3 stop lights along that 5 kilometer stretch, and the two towns are now both cities that are pretty much connected.

It’s not all bad though. The Mayor is a personal friend, father of a childhood friend and the best hockey referee Spruce Grove has ever seen. I am not gonna say he was a homer (a referee who favors most calls to the home team), but I am pretty sure all the players and parents from other towns would and did say that.

My childhood elementary school, which allowed the use of “The Strap” for disciplinary purposes, has been torn down and a health care unit built on the land. See now, that’s irony.

Hamburger Hill is still around for kids to go tobogganing, a few of the local bars that welcomed us as underage drinkers are still around, the one liquor store you could also buy drugs from is still open and, most importantly, my childhood hockey arena still stands with the names of my brothers and I on banners in the rafters and on the wall of fame. I have not stepped foot in there in about 6 years so I may actually have been bumped off that wall of fame.

Now that I have set the scene and described the 2 places that encompassed most of my life before I was 18, you can expect specific tales of one or both or surrounding areas in my next few posts. Information that would be absolutely critical to anyone planning to visit Butt­Fuck Nowhere, Northern Alberta.

Polak oot.

MEET THE LOCAL: GREG POLAK

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