Catching up with the Old Eights over dinner at The Cove

August 27, 2011

Proud graduates of Westport Public School in 1963, the Old Eights claim to be the oldest grade eight class in the entire world which remains intact and in touch.  We got together for dinner at The Cove in Westport last Friday night.

David Roberts and his wife Jane were in town for the memorial service for his sister, Jill Greene.  David told me that they have kept things very quiet for the last year in preparation for next year’s bucket-list expedition to China, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Stephanie Ford-Forrester exhibits her work each year at the art show, so that brought the Forresters to town.  After a catastrophic motorcycle crash in Wyoming last summer, Jim seems to be in decent form, but has a way to go before getting onto a motorcycle again.

Nancy Jane Genge lost her father Drury last fall.  She remains reluctant to give up her role as a nurse in the operating rooms of the Hotel Dieu and Kingston General Hospital, and is enjoying her young granddaughter.

Don Goodfellow is still quietly observing the town, riding his bicycle, and keeping track of news of northern development, particularly in the mining field.

Jackalyn Brady is active on town council, fresh from the latest round of house renovations and planning another.  She’s off on a bus tour of Italy this fall with fellow retired educator Ruth Pedherney.  Apparently Ruth’s husband Bob doesn’t feel up to traipsing around ancient cities.

My former classmates offered their support when I mentioned my new gig as regional correspondent for The Toronto Star during the fall election campaign.  Nobody seemed all that amazed.  They were more impressed, though, with a few pictures on my camera of the new workshop and its wooden siding.

I hadn’t seen Barb (Wing) Graveline since high school, but I recognized her the instant our eyes met inside the door of The Cove.  Barb was a year behind the Old Eights, but she and her husband Gerry came along this year as Jacky’s guests.  They are still reeling from Barb’s second cancer scare and look forward to getting clearance to travel again to Minneapolis where their grandkids live.

The anecdote-of-the-evening award goes to Barb for her account of her second day of work in this very establishment, then called the Tweedsmuir, where Wes Haughton had hired her as a dishwasher.  From what I could hear it seems that her career as a summer food services worker began at the height of the wet-dry conflict in Westport.  Veteran CBC broadcaster Norman Depoe had come to town to report on the lead-up to the referendum and was staying at the Tweedsmuir.  Wes sent Barb out of the kitchen on her second day on the job, entirely without preparation, to wait on the legend.

As she told us the story Barb’s eyes widened and flashed, the years dropped away, and she reverted to the ingénue who had kept us in stitches throughout high school:

“At the time Wes offered quite a sophisticated menu in the dining room.  Mr. Depoe picked chateaubriand for two.  I asked if he had someone else coming to the table.  Mr. Depoe said no.  I told him I didn’t know if we could do that, and would have to ask the chef.  He said that would be fine, and would I bring him a glass of Bristol cream while his meal was cooking?

“I could find plenty of regular cream in the refrigerator, but I couldn’t find any Bristol cream.  I even got down on the floor and looked on the bottom shelf, but there wasn’t any.  I asked Wes at the bar.  He harrumphed, reached back and took the bottle off the shelf, poured a glass of it, and sent me on my way.”

She told us that Wes then explained to her how to deliver the chateaubriand, which had to be sliced and served at the table.  Much to her guest’s amusement, Barb found her way through her first encounter with haute cuisine.

“Mr. Depoe wanted to talk about the wet-dry vote, and asked me if I knew anything about it.  I told him that I heard about it every Sunday in church.

“He wanted details about the arguments I had heard, so I explained that a wet vote might get some of the wives and kids out of the rows of cars and pickup trucks parked outside the Tweedsmuir and the Westport Hotels each evening.  At the time only men were allowed into the beverage rooms.  Family members waited outside.

“His bill came to $12.00.  He took out a hundred-dollar bill and placed it on the table.  I asked if he had anything smaller.  ‘No, the hundred is for you.  This meal was the most fun I have had all day.’”


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