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June 02, 2009

The Scottish Connection


Anne Gafiuk

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“We really enjoy condo life! We love the freedom,” say John and Marlene Crews, residents of Aberdeen on the Park in McKenzie Towne in Calgary’s far southeast since December 2005.

“We feel proud to bring our friends and family over. We are content here,” chimes Marlene, adding, “we’re gypsies. We like to move. I’m in the business. I’ll say to John, ‘Let’s go look at this.’ So we can never say never about moving,” laughs Marlene, who’s also area sales manager for Aspire Condo Living by Jayman, the project’s builder.

Both John and Marlene hail proudly from Scotland. They moved to Toronto for a few years in the 1960s, but later returned to Glasgow to be closer to family and friends once their eldest of two sons was born. They lived in Barrhead, Scotland for awhile, where their second son was born, later deciding to head back to Canada in 1975 “so our children could have a better life.” They debated between Vancouver and Calgary, but Calgary won out because, as Marlene states, “There was more opportunity in Calgary.”

Aberdeen on the Park, located on Prestwick Drive, is made up of two three-storey buildings with 32 suites in each. “It was exciting,” when this project was being developed. “My family comes from Aberdeen,” notes Marlene. “When Jayman told me I would be selling these units, they asked me to help name the suites because of my Scottish heritage. My paternal grandfather was born in Aberdeen and I spent many summers there.” Their street’s name, Prestwick, also has meaning to Marlene and John. “Prestwick is a seaside town in Ayrshire. We used to drive down there often when we lived in Barrhead, which was about a half-hour’s drive away from our home.”

Their elegantly appointed 1,100-square-foot two-bedroom/two-bath unit overlooks a large park. “It’s perfect for our four grandchildren. They can toboggan down the hill in the winter or skate on the outdoor rink. In the summer, we can see the fountain from our deck. The children have so much fun at the playground.” The cosy master suite and second bedroom/den also share the view of the park.

“We chose this unit because it is an end unit with a bit more room, a gas fireplace, and it has a good floor plan,” remarks John. The pair also has in-suite stackable laundry with enough room for a stand-up freezer. Underground parking is provided, but they had to buy an additional parking space, as both John and Marlene have vehicles.
Ceramic tile and carpeting make up the floor covering of choice for the couple. The tiles are found in the entryway, which holds their office/computer area, and are also located in their galley kitchen and bathrooms. Neutral wall colours and silk and velvet curtains set off their stylish, comfortable furnishings, including the round glass dining table and four Parson’s chairs. They serve double duty for dining and extra seating.

“Our son jokes that whenever we want to change our furniture, we buy a new house.” The Crews purchased a new couch and coffee table for this home. John says, “Our furniture in our other place was too traditional to sit on everyday.”

They also added a beautiful chandelier over the dining room table to replace the standard lighting provided by the builder. “We are thinking of replacing the pendant lights over the breakfast bar as well as the light over the gas fireplace, but we just haven’t found the right lights yet.”
Above the fireplace is their entertainment centre, including a large flat-screen television. “Our living room is the living room,” says John. “It becomes the entertaining room as well as the place where you hang out and relax.

“When our family comes over and that means eight extra people, it’s fun. We’re very creative with our use of space. Recently, six sat around the dining room table. I have a little folding table where John sat with the three youngest grandchildren. I sat at my computer desk.”

Prominently placed in the living area is a lovely display cabinet doubling as a china cabinet, holding precious items from Scotland, including thistle themed glassware, a crystal “kiltie,” wedding china, plus other pieces of china, influenced by Marlene’s grandmother’s Willow pattern. “John bought me these.”

A second display cabinet is nearby, holding Marlene’s precious Royal Doulton “ladies.” “My three granddaughters already have their names on them!” In addition to the “ladies,” another Royal Doulton “kiltie” and “laird” grace the shelves.

The second bedroom has been turned into their flex room, serving as den and guest room. “I have a sister and two nieces who visit from San Diego,” explains Marlene, “and the couch is a queen hide-a-bed.” More collectibles with Scottish and Asian themes are displayed here, including Marlene’s fairy ball, important in their Scottish family traditions.
“We have really nice neighbours. Our next-door neighbour is originally from Glasgow – and his last name is Aberdeen! He had a great salesperson who sold him his unit!” chuckles Marlene. “There are five Scottish couples in our complex. We all got together and had a potluck Robbie Burns supper of haggis, neeps and mashed potatoes—and of course, Scotch!”

“McKenzie Towne is unique. It is different than any other community in Calgary. There are front porches and no front drives. It has a friendly atmosphere. People are out walking. It is a small town within the big city,” Marlene comments. Within a 15-minute walk from their unit is High Street, filled with all the amenities the Crews need, from a florist and grocery store to the liquor store, where they check out the selection of fine wines and Malt Whisky. (They like it “neat.”)

A Scottish-styled pub is also found there. “We can go for fish and chips and a pint for John and a glass of wine for me,” she adds.

Calgary was named after a bay on the Isle of Mull and many of our city’s neighbourhoods celebrate Scottish roots. It seems only right John and Marlene have found a little bit of Scotland in their Canadian home on Aberdeen on the Park in McKenzie Towne.  CL

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