- by Dennis Thompsett

Murder alley. What a great name.   Sounds like the name of a gritty, hardboiled detective novel.

But yes. It did  exist in Owen Sound. Still does, in fact.  My my two step uncles were born there in the 1920s so the name must've been around for much longer than 100 years. 

 In truth, Murder Alley was over by that place that sold Bear Wheel Alignments. Behind Kennedy's somewhere.  Hey it was on the West side. Who cares?  The only thing  over there of any interest was Ted 'n'Grace's.

Lynne Hill, wants to be more specific, however. Murder Alley was 13th Street West, between 1st and 2nd Avenue. And she should know. Her father was born in Murder Alley and took the family  over to see the house he was born in.

Applause here for Anne and her team at the Owen Sound Hub for bringing local stories like this to light. Pity they'll be gone at the end of October 2023.

The days of Murder Alley  were a long time ago. Back in that time Owen Sound  was not the cute Scenic City at the Heart of the Blue Water Country.  It was CORKSCREW, the most wide open and raunchy port on the Great Lakes, worse they say than than even Detroit and Chicago. So there was lots of skulduggery and you could find any vice, any crime and any deadly sin there without searching too far. Not to mention how toxic and smelly it was. There  were tanneries, meat cutting places, and  bars and bawdy houses  who all  threw their  trash in the harbour. The ships came in further down and went to Piers at the various factories and threw  even more horrible stuff in the water.

Almost everyone has heard of Damnation Corners, with four rowdy saloons - one of which was the Bucket 'o' Blood.  And a block away Amen Corners,  with four grand stone churches. (Must have been some healthy, unChristian competition among the four congregations back then). So the whole situation, where the rule of law went on vacation, could easily take in a murder alley or two. All streets had names in those days and Murder Alley may have been the official street name.

For a long time the city fathers tried to hide our raunchy past, and cool names like Corkscrew and Mudtown, but now people are actually becoming proud of our wild. So long as we  don't have to live in it. Because the living of those days was probably not very comfortable. There was no electricity, no antibiotics and no running water. We know people were getting diseases from the trough of water down by the harbour, people were starving and the streets were piled high with horse buns and spitting tobacco.

So - Murder Alley eh?- sheesh, That'll be sure to attract  the tourist business.

Just thinking about it, it probably will.

Maybe we should put up a sign.

This is another Just Have To's of The GreyBruce. If you're  in the area, you Just Have To stand in  Murder Alley and imagine Owen Sound when law and order had left town. 13th Street West, between 1st and 2nd Avenues.

Maybe stand under the Murder Alley sign?


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