All in all it’s just another brick

The other day I spent a few minutes on the Robbie Burns plaza at the Spring Garden Road end of Victoria Park. We are now super sensitive to statues and recognize that tributes to 18th-century Scottish poets don’t just appear on their own.  At that moment I didn’t care to conjure up why in 1919 this memorial seemed like a good idea. But, while I stood there a white pigeon landed to poop on his head, if that means anything.

My real mission was searching for some special donor bricks that pave the terrace in front of Robbie. The pavers were a fundraising project of Feed Nova Scotia. From about 2000 until 2016, for $60, your name could be engraved in a brick. Wish I’d made the effort to have my name immortalized, like the Hfx Ladies Bicycle Club.

Close examination of the pavers reveals the call to action: CRASH, just below the ambiguous POSTIE BUSTER. Lots of good noticing and speculating opportunities.

A surprising discovery was the name of our former mayor PETER KELLY followed by what could be an apology: SORRY.

My real reason for scanning donor bricks was to locate Marcia Sabowitz and her cats. Surrounding her name in the shape of a diamond are the names of eight of her cats. To allow for no ambiguity, each is headed MARCIA’S CAT. Seven of the names suggest Marcia had a serious affection for musical theatre, as well as cats.

Here are my guesses for the origins of the names:

ROSA: Rosa Melba Ponzillo was an American operatic soprano.

DAISY: American soprano Daisy Newman.

EZIO: Ezio Fortunato Pinza, an Italian opera singer with a rich, smooth and sonorous bass voice.

JUSSI: Swedish tenor Jussi Björling.

SONDHEIM: Stephen Sondheim, composer and lyricist for musical theatre.

JENNY: “Jenny” Lind was a Swedish opera singer, often called the “Swedish Nightingale”.

AMELITA: Amelita Galli-Curci was an Italian coloratura soprano.

BUTTERSCOTCH: perhaps Marcia just wanted a simple, sweet name. Search “Butterscotch cat” and you’ll see many delightful pictures.


      • The Robbie Burns plaza strikes me as an excellent example of placemaking. While I was searching for Marcia Sabowitz, people came and went. Some sat for a while and checked their phones, a couple met to feed pigeons, a mother sat to organize her kids before moving on. And meanwhile, out on Spring Garden Road, a BIG Cat was digging out century-old cobblestones and streetcar tracks at the beginning of the giant streetscaping project. I have high hopes.
        • Do you remember that the Burns statue used to be much closer to the street? If you were holding an anti-Vietnam War demonstration in 1970, you had to assemble behind Robbie’s back, and the photographer could stand on his granite base to get an elevated point of view of the stark landscape.

      • Some time ago one of my Twitter buddies alerted me to Marcia’s cats. If I could remember who I’d thank them publicly.

About the author

Stephen Archibald

It’s Stephen Archibald doing the noticing. I’m a huge fan of Nova Scotia’s material culture and cultural landscapes. Twitter (@Cove17 ) made me realize I could share what attracted my attention (perfect for my very short attention) and I’m gratified when folks enjoy my content. Pleased to meet you on the internet.