the story behind: “back to the hard times”

Crystal Beach, on Abino Bay, used to be home to a 37-acre resort/amusement park. It started as a religious campground in 1888, by the 1940s you could see the Glen Miller Orchestra play in the Crystal Ballroom. There were multiple roller coasters (The Cyclone! The Comet!) on the site. It closed in 1989 and demolition erased all traces of its existence, except for a break wall and pier. This sort of thing happens in lots of small towns – an industry is built up and torn down.

I lived in the nearby town of Ridgeway briefly, as part of a 4-month co-op work term while I was studying Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. I didn’t even know about the Crystal Beach Amusement Park until I started doing research for this album. I was looking for those kind of stranger-than-fiction stories that crop up regularly in small towns and found a reference to Crystal Beach in a Google search. I do remember the beach, because it was one of the places you hang out as a university-aged ne’er-do-well looking for a place to happen (as they say, thanks to Gord).

My time in that area was short, but formative. I met my best friend Steve while I lived in Ridgeway. We met because we were both performers (actors?) in a haunted hayride — I played a railroad worker who got chopped in half. Steve played a mad scientist, and people thought we were brothers; turns out we just had a similar sense of humour. Also, Steve played bass and I played drums, so we would go to the open mic night at this local dive where they had a terrible drum kit and bass amp and we would be the rhythm section for whatever songwriter wanted to get up and play. I tried to find that dive bar when I went back to the area to do research for this song, and I couldn’t find it. Another business built up and torn down.

Most nights we would wind up at the beach, or if it was too cold, at the Tim Horton’s. I mean, it was October and heading into November. Besides those rose-coloured moments playing drums at that dive bar open mic, there were those other kind of moments that every teenager experiences: high drama. One thing about Steve’s group of friends, there were too many highschool sweetheart romances playing out the end of their days. Steve and I were single — embarrassingly so — but at least we only had to watch things go down in flames; we were never a part of it. Things get built up and things get torn down.

Those were the ideas behind this song. That beach has seen much more than I could touch on in one song, but I tried to combine aspects of the grandiose industrialist dreamer who started the Crystal Beach Amusement Park, and the small-town kids who tried their best and got their hearts broken there.

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