, depending on who asked the question.
One of the Tri-Towns. The biggest of the bunch (8000 or so), the
most northerly, the closest to The Highway if not
actually on it. Right on the shores of beautiful Lake Temiskaming, as
the postcards say. Home to Miss Claybelt (the fiberglass cow situated
by Highway 11), the movie theatre, the high school, the New Liskeard
Police, and the Temiskaming Speaker, Northern Ontario's finest weekly
Surprisingly for this far north, there are a lot of farms around here.
A big band of clay was left by a grateful retreating glacier, which just
happened to make strangely rich topsoil. For twenty or thirty
kilometres around there are farms, lots of them, and then you're back to
timber, mines and tourists.
My high school years were spent in orbit around the place. New Liskeard
Secondary School (renamed Temiskaming District Secondary School when it
absorbed the budget-impaired Cobalt-Haileybury High School) was where
I spent grades 9 through 11, busing daily from Temagami; visiting
when I could while stuck in Hearst during grade 12; and attending as
a conquering hero, in my own mind anyway, back from the back of beyond,
during my last year when I lived in Haileybury.
I loved the place. New Liskeard was where movies could be seen; where
you could get wedgies from the IGA next door during lunch, wealthy
beyond belief to be eating such grease and salt in winter; where the
McDonald's was only an hour's walk away, and the mall even closer than
that. You could skip your last class in the third-last month of your
last year of high school and go down to the mini-putt, or get cheap
dark chocolate (all right, I was the only one who did that) from the
Giant Tiger on your lunch break and be responsible. Friends lived
here, or near here, and had parties or went to dances.
I learned to drive here, and hold hands here, and kiss here.
Even the library was bigger. It was perfect.
For a while I adopted it as my home town. When I moved away to go
to university, and when I moved to London, I got asked that question
enough that having a quick answer ("I'm from New Liskeard") was so much
simpler than telling the truth ("I've lived in Bourgette, Kenora,
Nakina, Moosonee, Temagami, Hearst, Haileybury, Waterloo and
London, my father gave me well-intentioned advice about remembering
my roots that really pissed me off because where the fuck, exactly,
are my roots again? and of all the places I've never lived I like the
place I went to high school the best"). The real answer was saved for
drunken conversations with friends that started with "So where are you
I gave it up, eventually, not because of any grand realization but
because the question, and a ready answer to it, and the self-inflicted
anguish over not having a ready answer to it ("O, where am I from?")
just became less important. I moved out to BC; we're
all from Ontario out here anyway -- the important thing is not to
be from Toronto. I haven't gone back to New Liskeard for more
than eight years, and it'll be a few more anyway before I do.
And that's fine. It was always temporary, that adoption, anyway.