Friday 8 April 2022

Uncovering the Past

    It was a beautiful, but very windy, spring day yesterday.  I was out doing yard work.  I had cut down a dead lilac tree last fall, leaving some debris on the ground.  Yesterday I was raking up those scraps where the lilac was and noticed an old board under the leaves.  I pulled it up and discovered that it was an old cedar sign I had made, shortly after moving to McBride.  It said, “Alpine Cafe”. 

    The old sign brought back memories of the time when we had first moved to McBride.  I had been teaching in one and two-room schools for four years prior and we had managed to save enough money for us to buy a house somewhere.  We liked the small village of McBride, surrounded by pristine mountains, and bought the small hobby farm where we still live.

    The big problem for us at the time was that although we now had a house, I no longer had a job.  I put my name on the substitute teacher list, but that was irregular employment, so I scrambled around doing odd jobs for money.  I unclogged sewer lines, did farm work, painted houses, and made signs.

    Some signs I painted, others I routered out of cedar planks, darkening the background with a small propane torch.  That is how I made the Alpine Cafe sign.  The sign is missing the board that went under it that proclaimed, “Chinese and Canadian Cuisine”.

    Most western Canadian towns have a Chinese restaurant, and in McBride it was the Alpine Cafe which had opened up shortly after we moved there.  It was on Main Street, and they asked me to make the sign that hung out front.  We rarely ate out because of our finances, but I remember that one of the foods they offered was “Deep Fried Ice Cream”.  Unfortunately we never got to try it.

    The Alpine Cafe on Main Street burned down one afternoon, but later reopened at the location in what is now our Post Office.  The sign I had made had survived the fire and was re-hung at their new location, however, eventually the Alpine Cafe closed for good, and I took the sign down and brought it home.   There it was shuffled around, eventually ending up on the ground under the leaves, where I found it yesterday.

    Amazingly, while it had certainly aged in those 40 years, it is not rotten, thanks to the cedar wood which is known for resisting rot.  

    I took the old sign and nailed it to my barn to display it as a curiosity and to keep it from deteriorating further.

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