The Highway Book Shop

My family’s roots, on both sides, are in northern Ontario. My mother was born in Cochrane, my father in Fort William (now part of Thunder Bay). While my father’s parents came south in the 1940s, my grandparents on my mother’s side lived in Cochrane all their lives, and when I was young we would drive up Highway 11 to visit them once or twice a year.

Highway 11 is really just Yonge Street in Toronto. It just keeps on going and going and going, through North Bay, up to Cochrane, where it ends.

Along the way, you pass through Cobalt which, in addition to being the home of the band Grievous Angels (here’s a really, really poor fidelity song from their first album) is also home to the Highway Book Shop.

This bookstore formed my original conception of what a bookstore was. It’s where I bought my first book (a biography of Amelia Earhart; my father tore a strip out of me for buying a book that “I could have checked out of the library”). The store is a huge, rambling building. Filled with books. New, used, and ones that they’ve published themselves.

If you are driving by Cobalt — and driving by Cobalt is something every Canadian should do once in their life — you should set aside half a day for a visit to the bookshop.

If you can’t make it to Cobalt, you can buy their books online from ABE.

Comments

Marcus's picture
Marcus on March 26, 2004 - 00:24

Highway 11 is really just Yonge Street in Toronto. It just keeps on going and going and going, through North Bay, up to Cochrane, where it ends.

Yonge Street/Ontario Highway 11 ends in the town of Rainy River, not Cochrane. See Ken Wiwa’s G&M article Yonge and restless as well.

Marcus's picture
Marcus on March 26, 2004 - 00:34

<font size=”-1”>If you are driving by Cobalt — and driving by Cobalt is something every Canadian should do once in their life — you should set aside half a day for a visit to the bookshop.</font>

Cobalt is also famous for being “winner of TV Ontario’s Studio 2 Most Historic Ontario Town contest.”

I discussed this with my Ontario friends, since we’re all history buffs — most would think Kingston, or even Bytown/Ottawa, Cornwall, Niagara/Niagara-on-the-lake, etc. but no! Ontario would be nothing (or at least a hell of a lot less) if it weren’t for the humongous kick-start that the mining industry in the north provided to the province’s economy, and consequently the raw materials for its manufacturing sector.

Just imagine if York, Durham, Peel and Halton counties were all just pleasant farmland on the drive between Montreal and Detroit….

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on March 26, 2004 - 02:25

By gum, you’re right: Highway 11 does end in Rainy River! In my life, for all intents and purposes, the world ended at Cochrane, which is why I thought the highway did too!

Ann's picture
Ann on March 26, 2004 - 21:16

Peter:
As far as I can tell (and it’s pretty far) Marcus is right about everything.

Ari Brodsky's picture
Ari Brodsky on July 9, 2004 - 21:32

I believe Yonge Street in Toronto is no longer known as Highway 11. The Harris government downloaded many highways to the local municipalities several years ago. I think Highway 11 now starts only where it branches off from the Highway 400 near Barrie.

Lorraine's picture
Lorraine on May 12, 2005 - 04:13

Speaking of Highway Bookshop, I was editor there back in the mid 70’s. Oh my, about 30 years ago. I can still smell the printer ink and I can still see Mr. Pollard coming into the back in his dark suit and white shirt wanting to discuss punctuation. Came across this site by accident. Thanks for the flash back. If Highway happens to come across this, well hello from Lorraine and hope this finds you all well.

Audrey Cheadle's picture
Audrey Cheadle on February 24, 2007 - 16:14

I grew up in the north meaning Belleterre, New Liskeard, Haileybury and was born in Sudbury. I have driven Hwy 11 north many times. However, I have lived in Owen Sound for 53 years with te odd trip back to my ‘homeland’.
Several years ago I heard about a book written by a native of South Porcupine about that community back in the hey day of the MacIntyre mine and your bookstore had it. That summer (2003) I intended to find it and buy it at your Hwy Book Shop but sorrow intervened. My husband died that summer and I have not been looking for it since.
Now, I’d like to find it. My mother and father met and married in Schumacher, both working for the McIntyre mine and my brother ,Ben was born in 1927 in South Porcupine. My dad, Ben Budgeon, was a mining engineer for many years in the north and altho I’ve read much about the time and the place, I have not read the book that captured my interest after hearing the author interviewed on the CBC back in 2003. Can you throw any light on this? I would really appreciate it. Sincerely, Audrey Budgeon Cheadle

John de Blois's picture
John de Blois on May 9, 2007 - 17:03

Peter was right in one sense — I am from Cochrane myself & highway 11 NORTH does end in Cochrane, then it becomes highway 11 WEST.

Lee Mathers's picture
Lee Mathers on April 12, 2011 - 22:37

Thanks for the comments. I’m a proud Cobalter and can reinforce the statement, about everyone needing to visit. I’ll take a line from the Cobalt Song, If you don’t Live there it’s your fault.

Now that the Town has been official recognized we need someone to create some education curriculum that can be used to educate people. If it were not for the mines of Cobalt Ontario. Bay Street in Toronto would not exist. Especially true the Venture’s exchange. Several multi billion dollar global enterprises have been launch from this town. Think Aginco and Teck just to name a couple.

Be sure to find out more about us in Cobalt.

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