Comes a time in even the most trusting, caring and loving relationships when one partner has had enough and the other just can’t get enough. This can be an embarrassing scenario for both partners and often neither is willing to discuss possible solutions or compromises . Times like this are great opportunities for trial separations where each player can safely and confidently do what needs to be done without feeling like he or she is impinging on the rights of the other. Really, all that’s required is the mutual establishment of a time for reuniting.
In 1928, The Eaton Corporation announced plans for the largest retail and office complex in the world to be constructed at the corner of Yonge and College Streets in downtown Toronto. The department store of 600,000 square feet (56,000 square metres), was completed and opened on October 30, 1930 by Lady Flora Eaton, the matriarch of the family, and her son John David Eaton, the future president of the company.
At the time it was to be the flagship of the Eaton empire however, due to the onset of the depression years the grandiose plans never materialized and the main store at Yonge and Queen Streets continued to operate along with the College St store. Eaton’s became the place to shop and customers flocked from all parts of the country. The company ran a free shuttle bus between stores. It was the era where ladies and gentlemen and their children would dress in their finest outfits in order to be seen browsing the perfumery, jewelry and clothing floors, not to mention the sporting goods section and the toy departments. Then it might be off to the College St store to inspect the latest in household appliances and furniture designs. It would be a full day event, especially for those who traveled from out of town. There were two fine dining restaurants in the College St store and another couple downtown in the main store. Families would meet for lunch and discuss their various purchases over a gourmet lunch served by waiters and waitresses who were all dressed in company designed uniforms.
Usually by this time the ladies and children might wish to go off in search of those personal necessities, not yet having had their fill of all things wonderful. They would leave the gentlemen to fend for themselves. It was also, usually by this point in the day, when gentlemen tired of such mundane activities and looked to retreat to a much quieter place of solace and reflection. So it was with much foresight and thoughtfulness that the designers of Eaton’s College St had included just such a place. Just south of the main store entrance on Yonge St was a small unobtrusive doorway with a very small sign above indicating the nature of the establishment. Upon entering, one ascended a carpeted wooden staircase with a polished brass handrail sturdy enough to support those in need on the journey back down. At the top of the stairway one entered a rather long, oak paneled retreat. A well equipped bar followed the south wall to the end of the room. Comfortable stools lined up at one end while a solid brass foot rest ran the full length. A variety of leather chairs were grouped around tables arranged so that privacy could be had for quiet conversation or simple contemplation. The lighting was subdued and the acoustics were designed in such a manner as to prevent any street noise from disturbing the clients within. A gentleman’s gentleman met guests at the top of the stairs and ushered them to a suitable table where a waiter quietly appeared to wait patiently while the client picked his poison.
I was introduced to this little secret paradise in the early 1970’s and made every effort to frequent it whenever I could during subsequent visits to downtown Toronto. My last visit was in the spring of 1980 and I believe the establishment closed shortly thereafter. Although my patronage was quite infrequent, the maitre d’ remembered me after the first time and even asked me if I wished to have my usual table. Perhaps he had a system; curly hair, blue eyes, table #5, etc. It was a place of refuge far from the maddening crowd.
Anaheim, California Christmas 1989
It was our third day of Disneyland. It was December 25th. It seemed as though Santa had delivered Christmas passes to every local family in the greater Los Angeles area. The temperature was soaring into the high 70’s which was pretty hot for a Canadian in mid winter. Things #1 (age 8) and #2 (age 4) were totally tuned to the hustle and bustle of the place and were leading mom and dad through the multitudes from one ride to the next. Finally mom needed to sit down and dad was ready for an ice cold beer or three. As I walked back to the bench with ice cream bars and a cool drink for mom I happened to notice a couple of guys about my age dart into a narrow doorway that was partially hidden behind the facade of a nut shop. With the crew occupied for a short while I ventured into the darkened hallway. I was met at the other end by a pleasant fellow who, with a knowing grin, motioned me over to a stand up bar where a half dozen other dads were quietly cooling off like lions at a watering hole. We each nodded to one another in all knowing silence. Needless to say, I chugged a couple of chilled ones before returning to the heat of the day to continue with the wild and woolly festivities. As I weaved my way through the crowd I said a silent thanks to Walt for having thought of all the dear stressed out dads.
A friend sent me the picture below which brought back the above memories of those reflective moments of male solidarity.