Ma Lalonde’s and the 10-cent burger

Mac's Musings—Claude McIntosh
Ma Lalonde’s and the 10-cent burger
Mac's Musings

Back before the Big Mac and Golden Arches came to town, a quintessential hole-in-the-wall eatery on Pitt Street, across from the old Cornwall Tire Store and the bus terminal, was cooking up a storm.

Ma Lalonde’s, owned and operated by George and Florence Lalonde, assisted by daughter Gert, a future owner-operator, became famous for the 10-cent burger. The place (you had to take two steps down to get through the door) was a Cornwall institution. It had a short counter with a handful of bar-style stools. Not sure if it had a more official name, but Ma Lalonde’s it was.

Nobody could beat the price or the taste. The place was a burger mecca.  Kids would sell a wagon full of newspapers or scrap metal next door at Miller’s junk yard on Saturday morning, then head over to Ma’s with part of the proceeds to feast on burgers; the rest probably went to buy a Saturday morning ticket at the Palace Theatre.

It wasn’t unusual for single take-out orders of 12 to 15 burgers. And Ma Lalonde’s was recycling before recycling. Boxes the buns came in were used for take-outs.

To this day, former customers will tell you Ma’s burgers, cooked on the hot grill covered with heaps of fried onions, were the best. For added flavour, buns were warmed on top of the grease from the patties and onions.

The place sold so many burgers, the bakery in Alexandria had a special production line for Ma’s custom-made burger buns.

In July 1971 the burgers were still coming off the grill but under new ownership. It had been re-branded as Tyler’s Place, although everyone still called it Ma Lalonde’s. And the day of the 10-cent burger had passed. They were now 20 cents.

ALSO BACK IN 1971: It took 44 sticks of dynamite strategically placed around the base to bring down a 200-foot smoke stack at the former Courtaulds plant. After three ear-piercing blasts from a warning whistle, the dynamite sticks were ignited and like the walls of Jericho, the stack came a-tumbling down. A crew of bricklayers laboured for two months to build the stack 33 years earlier. It came down in a few seconds.

Air pollution in Cornwall was off the charts in July 1971 when it came to sulfur-dioxide. The provincial department of energy and natural resources reported that its testing of air in the city in the first three months of 1971, showed sulfur-dioxide contamination in the city surpassed the minimum standards on 12 days. In one 24-hour period, it exceeded the recommended level 66 times. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and fluoride levels also exceeded provincially-set standards.

The department expressed concern. Incredibly, the silence at city hall was deafening.

Meanwhile, an air quality monitoring station at Memorial Park was still not in operation almost a year after it was built. Something about a lack of trained technicians.

ALSO IN JULY 1971: George Stiles, city lawyer who served as a fighter pilot in the Second World War (1940-1945) was named county court judge for SD and G…The voting and drinking age in Ontario was lowered to 18 from 21…The 518 secondary school teachers employed by the SD and G Public Board were given a $450 annual pay increase. Salaries ranged from $7,850 to $13,750. The 20 principals and vice-principals were rewarded with $1,000 increases…City firefighters negotiated a $1,200-a-year pay hike, raising the salary for a first-class firefighter to $9,400. Council approved the hiring of four new firefighters…CNR donated an electric locomotive acquired from Cornwall Street Railway to the city for display…Ald. Doug Fawthrop, chair of the finance committee, told public works that it would have to get by with $15,000 instead of the $30,000 it said was needed to repair all the potholes in the city. Fawthrop, nicknamed the ‘Hatchet Man’, said he might consider the $30,000 if another project could be cut from the budget…The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced that 22-year-old Margaret Trudeau, wife of the Prime Minister, was expecting the couple’s first child in December. They married in a secret wedding on March 4..City businessman Bernie Racine said he was prepared to build a 3,000-seat arena on land he owned on Eleventh Street East…Cornwall Royals announced that Orval Tessier had been hired as head coach to replace Ralph Hurley. Tessier had spent two seasons as coach of the St. Lawrence College Roadrunners…Maurice Croteau piloted the CJSS craft to the International Seaway Bathtub Derby grand championship. Thousands lined the banks of Cornwall Canal to watch the races. When the canal was filled in, the popular event died.

THIS AND THAT: There’s only one word for Joe Biden’s performance in Thursday night’s Great Debate: Sad!…Seems that the more money our ruling federal party hands out, the worse things get…Ed Lumley could have continued in politics after his stunning defeat in the 1984 federal election. He was offered a Senate appointment but turned it down. Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney made the offer despite the fact Lumley, a rising star, had served in the Liberal cabinet. Lumley viewed the Senate as a ‘‘retirement“home.

TRIVIA: He was a famous Canadian actor. His father-in-law was a Baptist pastor who became leader of a Canadian federal party. Who were they?

TRIVIA ANSWER: The steeple at the Parkway Hotel came from St. Paul’s United Church (First and Sydney streets) which was torn down to build Cornwall Square parking garage. The St. Paul’s congregation merged with Knox United.

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