In the spirit of American Idol and all of those popularity contests cleverly disguised as ‘talent competitions’, if there ever was that kind of vote amongst back lanes in St. Vital, ours would be the Philip Phillips of back alleys, hands down.
Driving through our narrow but fairly paved road to get to Des Meurons Ave, one would assume that almost every house on the street is holding some garage sale of sorts- what with their old tube TVs, mattresses, and broken washing machines and dryers outside people’s backyards. Old, honking computer monitors circa 1980 jostle for position amongst recycling bins, aluminum garbage cans, and other trash. It is a sight for sore eyes, I tell you.
Historically speaking, back alleys in the US existed in both commercial and residential areas that were built before 1950 as a means to allow for waste collection and parking, as well as to help ease vehicle and foot traffic in the neighbourhood. Garages located at the back of people’s houses extend towards the back lanes, while also serving as access to fire trucks during emergency situations. Currently, urban city planners may not necessarily integrate the creation of back alleys in new residential development , so some may just be dirt roads or, if you live in an older neighbourhood like I do, somewhat paved and can handle one-way traffic.
On a smaller scale, though, given that summer has been in full swing and all of us can see each other’s properties as we walk or drive by, it is important to remember that the backyard- and your part of the back lane- is much a part of our homes as is the front. Keeping it clean, well-lit, and free of junk ensures that it does not attract unwanted attention from criminal elements, who would not hesitate to invade your house at a moment’s notice, especially after seeing that you’ve just thrown out a ton of old appliances to make way for, say, a 60-inch plasma TV. I have seen some not-so-pleasant characters combing through these items on several occasions, and I don’t know about you, but I will not have anyone threaten my family’s safety over a couple of broken toilet seats, when the neighbours could have just as easily driven them to the dump.
A bit of philanthropy doesn’t hurt either, as non-profit organizations such as The Salvation Army may take your used electronics and mattresses, and sell them for cheap. You can inquire if they do pick-ups, or just drop them off at any of their Thrift Stores within the St Vital/St Boniface area. By helping the less fortunate through these in-kind donations, you do receive a tax receipt, with a clean backyard to boot. An all-around win, if I may say so!
Aesthetics plays an integral role in the progress of a community. Cleanliness and maintenance of our share of the back lanes is not a difficult task. As residents of St Vital, it is our duty to contribute to its overall continued success by starting within us and our homes, within these alleys that actually matter, even if others think they don’t.