The doors are locked at Hart House
Yesterday was just another day for most people but it was a monumental turning point for the Hart family. Believe it or not, to the best of my knowledge, yesterday was the first time ever in the entire history of the Hart house that the doors were locked. No one even knew where the keys were - or if there really ever were any! The doors had always been open to all comers. And the phone number that had never been unlisted for all these years
now rings disconnected. What a strange feeling.
My way of saying goodbye was to simply ride by on my bike, the way I’ve done since I was small. A flood of memories came over me. I remember staring up at big husky behemoths quenching their thirsts with my dad’s homemade beer, after tussling for hours in the not yet so infamous dungeon. Some would be sprawled out on the grass but most sat on the stone steps that led to the dungeon.
My brothers and I would often split up into teams for tackle football with some of the wrestlers joining in. I remember waking up to a boarding house atmosphere as busy as an ant hive. Hart kids everywhere. There was one time, when I was about five years old, that I got chewed out by my mom and dad for something. I sulked for a little while and finally made the decision to run away from home. I wandered into the kitchen and chopped off a hunk of cheddar cheese with a butcher knife, grabbed myself a couple of huge red apples and wrapped it all up in a handkerchief. I think I even got one of my brothers to help me fasten the bundle to a broken tree branch - and I headed west!
I followed what was then called the old goat path that wound it’s way up past CFCN tower. There wasn’t much around there in those days, just a few houses scattered here and there. It was a warm summer day and I would have been wearing my nth generation hand me down hush puppies, brown shorts, a brown striped t-shirt, and my prized Popeye sailor hat.
I wandered down the Old Banff Coach Road for what felt like miles, still brooding about getting into trouble in the first place. Finally I sprawled out in a grassy field, not far from where COP is now. As I chomped on my apple and chewed on my cheese I could see the school busses that littered the yard of Mr. Fergusen, who was the bus driver who put up with all the Hart kids.
I thought it was pretty profound that the school busses were the same color as my cheese! I lay there with my hands behind my head wishing that I’d brought some water and wondering what I’d do tomorrow.
I fell asleep.
When I awoke that big old summer sun was still there but I realized that it was getting pretty late. I saw this image in my head of my poor mom crying and my dad shaking his head as they explained to the policemen that they’d been a little hard on me and I’d run away. I could hear the odd dog barking off in the distance. Perhaps, I told myself, they were blood hounds searching high and low for that missing Hart kid. The more I thought about it the guiltier I felt. And besides, my stomach was starting to growl. Enough was enough. After all, I’d only got yelled at. I made my way home expecting to see some sign of police cars and perhaps a few newspaper people, possibly Johnny Hopkins, one of my mom’s friends who wrote for The Albertan.
When I climbed the wooden back steps it struck me that it was awful quiet. I patted old Bing the boxer dog on the head, pushed open the screen door and walked into the kitchen thinking everyone would be crying and upset. I wanted to say. “Ah, don’t worry ...”
All was quiet. Dinner was over. The kitchen table was littered with messy dishes, except for the plate of food that’d been put out for me. My mom casually wandered into the kitchen with the newspaper and said, “Hi dawling.” With all the usual chaos that went on there every day and so many mouths to feed no one had even realized that I’d run away.
I shook my head as I shoveled spaghetti into my mouth and thought to myself, that’s the last time I’ll ever run away. And I never did again. Yesterday, as I peddled away, I found myself humming the long and winding road, that leads to your door, will never disappear, I’ve seen that road before, It always leads me here, lead me to you door ...
So much has changed. Houses fill the fields all the way past Ferguson's farm and they’re making the old Banff Coach Road into an expressway. Hart House, well, she belongs to someone else now. And I hear they’re tearing the old Victoria Pavilion down next.
The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day
Why leave me standing here
Let me know the way