Final Curtain Call at Hart House

Hart House has been sold.  
If only the walls could talk. They can’t, so I will. To that extraordinary old house I’d like to say, thanks for the  memories. Growing up in the world of pro wrestling was zany and chaotic but Hart  house was always, to my earliest memory, a safe place. It was home.  The sturdy mansion was built in 1905 by Edward Henry Crandell, a brick  and masonry baron who came west from Ontario to settle in Calgary in 1899.

After the Crandell children were grown the house became a refuge for orphans  and convalescing children run by the Red Cross until they gave up the lease. Crandell’s son moved back in with his own family until the brick business  collapsed in the 30’s and Crandell turned the already quarter century old manor over to Judge H.S. Patterson, who raised his own children there until putting it on  the market in ‘51.

In the late summer of that year my father fell in love  with the estate on first sight and bought the house, along with the thirty acres  upon which it sat perched atop Patterson Hill, surrounded by woods and  wildflowers, and an exquisite unobstructed vista of downtown Calgary, seven miles  distant, framed by the meandering Bow and snowcapped Rockies.  It wasn’t long before the Harts turned this house of distinguished  lineage into a cross between the Beverly Hillbillies and the Munsters - filled  with a cast of characters that Barnum and Bailey would be hard pressed to top!  

Maybe not so oddly, the house was always very much a reflection of my  father. Strong. Sturdy. There for you in times of trouble. Warm.  The heart of Hart house was unquestionably the dining room. Every  Sunday for fifty years ( fifty years! ) my mother and father delighted in  throwing lavish feasts for anybody who dared to show up. The Hart kids  literally chewed the fat with an endless and ever changing assortment of freaks,  musclemen, midgets, giants, and tough guys - who found out that at Hart house  they were more normal than they thought.
The rest of the time the Hart kids generally did our eating in the  kitchen, which Stu had equipped with the finest in second hand restaurant ware  from Calgary’s best steak houses and hotels. Just to set the record  straight, dad did the cooking, mom ran the office. When I think of the expression,  “out here in the fields, we fight for our meals ...” all I can say is I won more  than I lost. Stu grew up in the dirty thirties and having known hunger he  was more than strict about wasting food. Every night he got great satisfaction  in piling twelve dinner plates high, the older the kid the bigger the  portion. Then he’d call us to dinner and all the Hart kids would come out of the  woodwork in a race to get there first. It wasn’t that we were hungry, it was  because the heaping portions were way too big for any of us so the older boys  would grab the smallest dishes and the smallest kids would be left sitting  there, for hours, having to finish off plates of spaghetti that you could barely  see over, while my father stood guard. Nobody went hungry at Hart house. After years of utter frustration my poor mother completely gave up on  trying to be Susie Homemaker and us Hart kids knew as much about housekeeping  as we did about rocket science. Most of the bedrooms were always knee high  in clothes but that didn’t matter, I always figured if you didn’t step on them  they were clean!

I slept in a room with five beds and as many brothers. Trying to sleep  on school nights, or any night for that matter, was a lost cause. It was  all part of the routine, dad slamming his hand on the wall the office shared  with the boys’ room telling us to knock it off.  

Undoubtedly, the room that will always be the most famous is the  infamous dungeon in the basement. Now if those walls could talk, they’d be screaming uncle!

Of course I’ll always remember the once spectacular view of the city  from the picture window in the living room. I hope all those people living in  those crappie matchbox condos are enjoying that view now. It helps me to  feel less guilty about their back view of dead Cadillacs piled up in Stu’s yard  for oh so many years.

So, after over fifty years of celebrations, victories, and losses  .... the credits are about to roll at Hart House. There’s only one more whoop  up before the final curtain call. And in keeping with my parents’ long  standing open door policy, you’re all invited to come by! On August 14th from 2-6 a  cover charge will benefit The Stu Hart Amateur Sport Foundation and space is  limited. For tickets and information call Frank Sisson’s Silver Dollar  Centre 287-1183.