Remember when…? – Bad neighbours

I spent the first 10 years that i remember, in the same apartment, on the same street, in Montreal. I had friends all around: in the house on the left, the house on the right, the houses behind, the houses across the street, and more.

Most neighbours on that street were quite friendly except for one. But it was not one person, it was one household.

For as long as i remember, the “Italians” were source of trouble and mischief. I just remember that one was called Gracia, but otherwise, i didn’t know any of their names. (this has nothing to do with discrimination but they happened to be the only Italian family in the neighbourhood, which is probably why they were identified as such).

A full house

On that street, most dwellings were side by side duplex. That family took a whole side, using the two (or maybe three) apartments of that side. They were a family of 7 women (no children). There was a grandma among them and she used to smile to the kids around but she never talked to us. In fact, most of them never talked to anyone in the neighbourhood except to yell and complain (and scare us, kids).

An old law

Whatever they could do to cause trouble, it seems they did it. One obsolete law in that area was that a car was not allowed to be parked on the street for more than two consecutive hours. Well, in a residential neighbourhood with only one garage for 2 or 3 families, can you imagine following that law overnight? Where would you keep your car? But that still was a law and Gracia knew about it so when she was upset at someone (and that was often), she would call the police late in the evening, complaining that vehicles were parked too long on the street.

And down came the cops

Following a complaint, the officers HAD to come by and enforce the law. How could they know that a vehicle had been parked in the same place for more than 2 hours? Their trick was simple: they would draw a line with a white chalk on the pavement right behind one tire. They would do that for a certain number of vehicles around her dwelling. Then, they would come back 2 hours later and see which vehicle still had the chalk mark in the same place

Neighbourhood watch

Lucky for the “good” neighbours, many people worked at various hours and some of them would come home later than others, and mostly, later than the first police officers’ visit. If one person noticed the chalk mark behind any vehicle, that person would phone all the other neighbours who would immediately go to their car, start it, and back it about 6 inches, just enough to cover the mark! And everyone was saved from a parking ticket!

Cops are friends

Gracia had called the police so often over this (and many other issues) that the officers actually became friends with most families in the neighbourhood. I even remember one night when they came at our place and had a chat and a coffee!

That household has caused so much trouble that they had become a legend, and i am sure some stories about them are unfounded, but as kids, we probably believed them.

Do you want more stories about the “Italians”? Listen to Debbie Hodge’s podcast later this week. I will relate a few more fun stories about them.

How about you? Did you ever have bad or simply odd neighbours? Did you ever hear of some silly disputes between neighbours? Share your stories in the comments below.

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6 thoughts on “Remember when…? – Bad neighbours”

  1. I have not had problems with neighbours but we did have a problem with a couple on one of our 4WD tours, so I suppose they were sort of neighbours.
    This couple were the sort that think they know everything about the subject, in this case 4 Wheel Driving. They also believed in “value for money” so as they had paid for their meals on the trip they made sure they ate everything put in front of them, even if they were full!
    A particular issue arose when one of the other cars broke a U-Bolt (don’t ask me what that is but it was a needed part of the car!). Geoff, the leader, asked if anyone had a spare that would fit. Turbo 10-Speed (our nickname for him) replied that he did but when Geoff asked to borrow it – meaning to replace it at the end of the journey – he said no. As you can imagine this wasn’t received very well as it could have meant that the others would have to cut short their trip but eventually, after unsuccessfully trying various other ‘bush mechanic’ remedies, Geoff insisted and we were all able to continue the trip.
    Turbo and his wife continued to complain and generally make life difficult for the rest of the two weeks but we found ways to torment them as well. On one occasion we were going to camp by a salt lake to celebrate the Full Moon and everyone was told that if you didn’t want to party you should camp well away from the main fire. Turbo of course did this, however the boys designated to dig the toilet hole waited until they were set up then dug the hole – upwind!
    When we camped each night everyone would set up their tents then put their chairs round the main camp fire to socialise while the evening meal was being cooked. Turbo had a picnic table (table with two attached seats on each side) which took up a lot of room. One evening he put this right by the camp fire, in front of chairs already there. Nothing was said but various people started stoking up the fire, higher and higher, hotter and hotter until eventually they had to move back. Naturally the fire was allowed to die down then.
    At the end of the trip was a huge sand dune called Big Red which we had to cross. There were two ways, the easier way or straight up and over. Big Red varied according to weather conditions, sometimes easy, sometimes very hard, and this occasion was very hard. The first car (us) got over ok, then we sat and watched everyone else try, egged on by ourselves and the 5 kids in the group. “Come on” we cried each time, “you can do it” and “oh what a shame” when each car failed, until Turbo’s turn: “Stop, stop” was the call and “Yes!” when he failed, not once, but twice. Karma perhaps?
    The funny thing was, at the end of the trip he was presented with the replacement U-Bolt and he made a speech about how wonderful the trip had been and how nice we all were!! Thick skinned perhaps?

    • Hehehe… this made me smile. I wish I was a fly around camp to see all that!
      I think it would be a fun layout to do even without having photos of the trips since there are so many other images you could use (vehicles, campfire, etc.)

    • Go for it. Share some of the good ones. As for the bad ones, well, it is up to you if you feel you can or should share them. But either way, make sure you document them in writing somewhere!

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