OWEN SOUND, just under 200km northwest of Toronto and 130km north of Goderich, occupies the ravine around the mouth of the Sydenham River, at the foot of the Bruce Peninsula. In its heyday, Owen Sound was a rough and violent port packed with brothels and bars, prompting the Americans to establish a consulate whose main function was to bail out drunk and disorderly sailors. For the majority it was an unpleasant place to live, and the violence spawned an especially active branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Organization, whose success was such that an alcohol ban was imposed in 1906 and only lifted in 1972. The town was in decline long before the return of the bars, its port facilities undercut by the railways from the 1920s, but it’s managed to reinvent itself and is now an amiable sort of place well worth at least a pit stop, though navigation can be confusing: avenues run north–south and streets east–west, while the river, which bisects the town centre, separates avenues and streets East from those marked West.
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