Friday, March 15, 2013

souvenirs from a faraway time

Everyone needs a place to think and to dance to fine music. A cozy place where one can create something from found items and display on sturdy shelves a few items that catch the eye or add meaning to tight surroundings. 

["Everyone needs a quiet place to work"]

In my case the place is a backyard workshop that was once a dirt-floored, 1920s-era, one car garage - barely wide enough for a Studebaker - but now suitable for one Hobbit-like fellow and his tools, birdhouse building supplies and bric-a-brac. Look closely and you'll spy a bicycle seat from a 1951 CCM bicycle, a decoy carved by a great-uncle and a unique door-knocker.

("Knock loudly so I don't startle when you open the door")

Look closer still and you'll notice, here and there, meaningful souvenirs from rare trips to places faraway from my shop door. For example, before one enters - through a door from my father's barn -  two special mementos have been attached to an outer wall and each is framed by lumber that would make my father smile, and remind him of a roaring tale or two.

["A Navy man would know what the plaque means"]

Though my shop is not decked out to resemble a ship, my father would catch the drift of a plaque to the left of his old door. The tiny floor space and tight quarters would remind him of many a ship where he laid his head at night and where he waited for the sound and motion of the waves to put him to sleep.

Above the plaque rests a brass anchor found on one of my travels and it seems the right thing to sit beside his oft-used door. More meaningful still, however, are the bits of wood to which both items are attached. Few would catch the drift without a bit of a story of my own.

Last spring, at about this time, I travelled by train to Vancouver, British Columbia (4,500 miles from the shop door) and then to the small town of Comox on Vancouver Island, among other places. And at Comox I walked the beach part of the way around 'Goose Spit', i.e., a point of land - with a long neck - that was once home to many Navy boys, including my father, during the second world war. 

It is still a military establishment (I was not allowed on the base, but could walk around the edges), but new recruits and assigned staff of the Navy are no longer required to pass muster and board a freshly-built Liberty ship (as seen in the sepia photo above +) to get to Comox for a beer, or to Courtenay (down the road a few miles) for a Saturday night dance or movie. While in Courtenay I met two women in their 90s who remembered boat rides with my dad to Tree Island. (He had access to Navy barges and planned picnics and swims with the local ladies.) "He liked to liven things up," one woman said. 

As well, while quietly walking the beach last April I stopped many times for photos (I think some buildings remain from the war years) and on two occasions I stuffed a small piece of wood into my backpack. I felt they'd be good for something, at least as a souvenir of my trip west, and now they have bits of brass attached to them and adorn the entrance to my shop.

["Doug H. center, on the beach at 'The Spit', 1944 or '45"]

Good little trip, I say. Good bits of wood, I say, from a beach where once roamed my dad in a faraway time. And I recall these things while working in my shop, so... good little shop too, I say.

Photos by GH


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