Easy! Easy! It’s still not an English lesson, just a rant about the differences between the Twin Cities where I live. I live in Kitchener, Ontario. I am proud to live in Kitchener. I tell people I live in Kitchener. I don’t say K/W. I don’t say Kitchener/Waterloo, and I don’t say Region of Waterloo, which comprises all of, what used to be the entire Waterloo County.
Sparklebumps lives in the Minnesota twin cities. I don’t know how much, if any, differences there are between the two. Here, the differences can be seen from space. Several name-changes ago, Kitchener and Waterloo were just small villages, five miles apart. Each has grown until Waterloo now perches like a boil on the northern ass of Kitchener. Kitchener has better than three times the population of Waterloo. There are several reasons for Kitchener’s greater growth, but the biggest one is, that’s where the jobs were.
The two cities share the same tourist-trapping cow–paths streets, but almost nothing else. Things are slowly changing, but Waterloo is white-collar, and Kitchener is blue-collar. Business owners, managers and supervisors lived in Waterloo. The serfs and peons resided in Kitchener. Waterloo has two universities, and has been the birthplace of four large insurance companies. Until recently, Kitchener has been where the factories are. We have a world-famous Community College that’s as big as their university, but still….Community College?!
Newcomers often fail to realize the significance of signs at the border, and view them as a single organism. They ask, confusedly, how streets in common can have four different directions. These are the least of the differences. When the wife still worked, I would come home after an 11 PM shift, have a bite to eat, discuss our work-days, and tuck her into bed for an early rise. If there was nothing interesting on late-night TV, I might take my motorcycle out for a late ride.
In Kitchener, the pizzerias were open, the sub shops were open, the Tim Hortons and other donut shops were open, the bars were open, lights were on, people were walking the streets. A couple of times, I made the mistake of riding into Waterloo. The good Seigneurs were all abed, the shops were closed, the lights were out and the sidewalks had all been rolled up and put away for the night. I got a coupon from a sub shop, recently opened in Waterloo, and thought I’d try it, to see what it was like. I rode north after an 11 PM quitting time, and found that this place closed at 10 PM.
With its two universities, Waterloo brands itself as “The Intelligent City.” They contracted out the development of the industrial park where Blackberry-making, RIM Products located. They received verbal guarantees that the interest rate would be approximately 5%, and the payback term was 20 years. It took a Kitchener reporter to reveal that the actual rate was over 13%, and payback would take 30 years.
The Berlin Record became the Kitchener Record, became the K/W Record, became the Waterloo Region Record, because Waterloo, with a population of almost a hundred thousand, only puts out a 20-page weekly newspaper, headlined, “Boy loses ball in tall weeds”. Kitchener Transit provided buses in Waterloo, because they had none of their own.
Waterloo residents used to boast of their low tax-rate, which was achieved by providing almost no public services. Kitchener Parks and Recreation finally had to pass a rule insisting that all Kitchener minor sports applicants would be served first. If there were any spaces left, Waterloo residents could apply. They had almost no arenas, soccer fields, baseball diamonds or swimming pools, but filled the ones in Kitchener.
Kitchener resident, and employee of Kitchener’s, Superior Sanitation, Nyle Ludolf, is credited with starting the Blue Box recycling program. He received a letter some years ago from the Federal government, thanking him for instituting the program and allowing Waterloo to be the first city in Canada to participate. He wrote back explaining that Waterloo had turned it down as too expensive, and didn’t jump in until Kitchener, New Hamburg, Cambridge, Guelph and Toronto proved it worked, and they were shamed into it.
It’s chicken-feed in a municipal budget, but a few years back, a provincial agency got an application from the City of Waterloo for a $35,000 grant for having performed various “green” initiatives. A suspicious clerk did some checking, and found that all the claims were for things that “The Region of Waterloo” had instituted. The city hadn’t actually got around to most of them.
On average, the residents of Waterloo have a higher level of education and income than the good Burghers of Kitchener. On average, Waterloonies are also more likely to have a smug, self-satisfied superiority towards Kitchener, and its population.
Kitchener has a business-like “downtown.” Waterloo has an artsy-fartsy “Uptown.” Kitchener stores sell boots and pants. Waterloo stores vend patchouli, beads, and Bubble Tea. At various street-corners and parks, Kitchener has, cleaned and re-painted presses and rolls from now moribund factories, to remind folks of our manufacturing past. Waterloo paid some artist (?) over a hundred-thousand dollars to create a metal sculpture which resembles a large rusty bell, “To evoke the Image of Industry”.
One of the few saving graces about Waterloo, for me, is that two of the downtown Oops, Uptown hotels, have in-house micro-breweries which produce some good craft-beer. Kitchener has a working-man, get-‘er-done attitude. Waterloo is more, “Have the gardener and chauffeur get it done!” You can see how simple and down-to-earth I am. I may be just the slightest bit biased. Your Waterloo experience may vary….but I doubt it.