Tribute to a Friend

I asked Wendy, about a month ago, if I might write about her on my blog.  She said, “Well, what is there to write about?  But, yes, sure. That would be fabulous.”  ‘Fabulous’ was something that Wendy said…about good food, beautiful places, and even about a wild flower found along a trail.  As I pour over the myriad of wildflower images that I snapped along our various walks and hikes over the years, I selected these two because today, they seem to mark my feelings best and capture the magic of what a true friend is. The first flower is a wild orchid. We were always so excited when we spotted a variety of orchid….typically hidden and not very showy…just remarkably beautiful and tucked away in some rich loam under a bush, usually in the shade.

Yesterday morning my sister-friend slipped out of this world and moved mysteriously into the next…and she did this without ever seeing my words written down.

I’ve decided to sit with thoughts of Wendy this morning, while the sun shines bright on the snow.  Somehow it feels warmer today.

I attended the concluding evening of a church mission that was hosted in our parish last evening, prayed for the peaceful repose of Wendy…for the journey that my brother is taking…for my family and dear friends.  The priest shared something interesting, once finishing up the Gospel reading about service…the one that’s read every Holy Thursday about Jesus bending down and washing his disciples’ feet… he said, serving one another does not always mean saying a whole lot…sometimes it means just sitting and being with the other.  So, this morning, I’m sitting with thoughts of Wendy and I’m not going to say a whole lot.

There will be a whole number of people who over the coming days and weeks, months and years, will talk about Wendy’s accomplishments because she was indeed, an accomplished woman, coach, teacher, political force to be reckoned with, orator, curriculum writer, baker, crocheter, wife, cadet…she was all of that and more, but this morning as I contemplate why the huge ache in my heart, I realize that it was the enduring presence that is Wendy, the friend, to me that I most celebrate.  So, I will not let this post be about anything but that, her love and wisdom and friendship.  What I wish to most strongly communicate is Wendy’s courage and fortitude and extreme vulnerability…those qualities that Wendy gave through her presence with me and with our group, affectionately named the Ya Ya sisterhood.

The other sisters; Val, Darlene, Carla and Cathy; had the blessed opportunity to work with Wendy some years before our first meeting.  It was Val who invited me to join in the regular gatherings with her circle of friends in order to enjoy food, drink, lively conversation and a hot tub now and then at Darlene’s.  I was a very vulnerable person at the time, digging deep in order to stay afloat, raising three children on my own, all the while trying to do a great job as a teacher. I am forever-grateful for the friendships that were established at the time and how they have continued to change my life for richness of experience, knowledge and love.

Our activities included regular hiking, gourmet dining hosted by Wendy and her husband Darren and wonderful daughter, Becca…basement movie gatherings and themed photo opportunities.  We consumed, voraciously, the times we had together, always rallying around the person(s) who was/were feeling most overwhelmed at the time, offered genuine support to one another, invaluable advice and resource-sharing.  Wendy gave me confidence.  She also had one heck of a sense of humour.  She was a straight-shooter and never muted a point.  Her determination and will was contagious.  We have, over the years, all benefited from her drive and her commitment.

Wendy had an ability to roll with the punches.  She lightly jested that she was much like a unicorn because her health matters that gradually grew to be insurmountable were uniquely challenging.  I admired how hard she pushed against every obstacle and I was inspired by the strength of her family and the love that the three of them shared.

On Monday, I sat watched Wendy enjoy a bowl of Thai Soup while I ate a Greek Salad in the Fanning Center cafeteria.  It was all so ordinary.  We said ordinary things with one another.  And, I’ve decided that this is what life is, a long string of ordinary moments.  It is right to enjoy each of those.  A cup of ice.  Saying hello to the other person in the elevator.  Advocating for support.  Leaning down for that embrace at “Good-bye”.  Laughing at the ritual of asking a complete stranger to take a photograph…

Late that night, my cell phone rang…I didn’t get it in time.  It was Wendy’s number on my phone.

I called back and Wendy didn’t pick up. I’ll always wonder what Wendy might have said.  More than anything, I will remember.

Oh what a treasure to have shared the mountain air with Wendy…fabulous food…nice drinks on a back deck, laughing and talking and looking up at the stars.  I will love you always, dear friend…and nothing will take these years from me.

It is 4:00 in the afternoon, on Valentine’s Day.  It has been a blessing to look over photographs and to think about all of the wonderful times we have enjoyed.  Good-bye, good and faithful servant.

These images are a small sampling and many moments are buried in my archives or sitting on some one else’s camera…but these offer the gist of a remarkable friendship.

Hikes:

Kath's Canon June 28, 2015 Flower Walk 073

 

 

 

Food…

 

Photo Booth

Finding Nigel

Truthfully, Nigel found me!

We just hosted Christmas dinner and Nigel and Angela were with us.  I have to write this down because, given the experience of being swept up in gravy and my grandson, there wasn’t a single photograph archived of my dinner guests.  You know the one…the one where everyone is gathered into a collective and asked to say CHEESE!  There is always only one person left out of that photograph.  Well, this year…well…no need to get redundant.

12/6/17, 4:11 PM  I received this message.

Dear Kathleen, I will always remember you as “Mrs Hanrahan”. I don’t know if you remember me, but you taught me grade 7 art some years ago. I have been searching for you for some time, but it is only appropriate that I should find you now, as I am about to embark on a new adventure; teaching art. Would you be interested in a get together and perhaps imparting some of your wisdom to me?

NIGEL????  Remember you???

Of course, I remember you!

Following our reconnect were stories of remembrance of the Junior High variety…students working things out in my storage cupboard…stuff like that.  As I revisit those years, Robbie Fernuk isn’t far away.  He was a big part of the creative energy that lived in that particular art class.  So was Nigel.  Oh, how the years have sped by…

Photos from our first get together, when I got to meet Angela.  Oh my goodness!  It was as though we had never been apart.

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I treasure our friendship.  Nigel is life-giving.  He is kind and smart and funny.  Angela has  become a new friend and I hope that we have the years to build memories and share experiences.  Both Angela and Nigel are animal whisperers, brilliant, well-read and artistic.  I love them!

 

(looking for Angela’s birthday photograph, but can’t find them in my archives…sheesh)

(I just ripped them off of Facebook)

 

Nigel and Kath Rumblehouse

Nigel and Kath painting at Rumblehouse

4:00 a.m. wake up

I woke up early.  Not unusual.  I used to thrash around and get frustrated about middle-of-the-night wake ups.  Maybe I woke at this hour because I was speaking with a friend about insomnia and short sleeps, on the telephone, last evening.  Maybe it just happened because something roused me in the night.  I know that sometimes I land in that place where thoughts move in and out of my mind.  I don’t know if they are dreams or actual thoughts.

These days, when this happens, I get myself up, make my bed and put on a pot of coffee.  This morning, before the rest of you were up, I decided to sort that big pile of paper that has, over months, been turning into a mountain.  Why does this happen?

While I was sorting, I came upon this in one of my memory books.

For all of those who sponsored me on my 30 mile Walk for Development when I was sixteen years old, “Thank You!”  Did I actually collect?  I’m looking at the list of people.

Well, Ramona, you were a bestie…so, the fact that I walked all 30 miles at 5 cents a mile, I  collected $1.50 from you.  That was a lot of money in the day, right?  (I received your Christmas card…thank you, dear friend.) And, Veronica, it’s been so nice to reconnect and follow your beautiful family photographs shared in social media. Kyle Harlan, well, you just pledged money out of guilt, didn’t you?  I will never forget how you tripped me as I walked down the aisle in geometry class?  Did any of my readers witness that?  I was wearing yellow fishnet stockings held up with a garter (I’m not kidding you) at the time…and a mini skirt!  All the rage in the day.

We lost wonderful Jeff Marshall just recently to cancer.  I always loved your wit and humour, Jeff, but 1 cent a mile???  Really? Your sense of humour…again.

Dan Hinkin passed away in 2013, the year of Mom’s passing!  10 cents!  Now, we’re talkin’.  I had such a huge crush on you, Dan! Honestly, though, I’m sure that I likely went about with butterflies in my tummy for the entire day that you pledged 10 cents a mile for my Walk for Development.  I’m guessing that on the day of the walk, that pledge likely carried me around the route, floating.  Hmmm…Nope!  I remember the blisters!

Allan?  Honestly, I don’t remember you.  Mike Dial, I got to know you through student politics.  Thank you.  2 cents a mile…wow…so, at the end of my 30 mile walk, did I collect on that 60 cents?  What was I doing, any way?  Mr. Winenger…my art teacher…(spelled wrong…again!), really?  5 cents???  How many students were asking you to sponsor them?  Certainly isn’t like putting out for Simple Simon Pies or cookie dough, though, was it?  Marc Bauer…well, this was a bit of an insult.

To all of you, who sponsored me, thank you.  This archive serves a single purpose for me this morning.  It reminds me of how naive I was.  How much did I raise for world development, in the end?

Oh!  I’ll let my readers figure it out!  I’m going to turn off my 6:00 a.m. alarm!

Alberta Culture Days in Claresholm!

Donning my orange shirt, I got Max out for a quick walk on city sidewalks, dropped him home to a delicious breakfast (yeah, right?) and hopped in the car for a road trip to Claresholm, Alberta.  My friend-descendants of British Home Children were gathering for a display opportunity in the Claresholm Exhibition Hall and I really wanted to join them.  Yesterday was the first National British Home Child Day and I felt very pleased for the recognition and the remembrances that were shared yesterday by descendants who had grown up with mystery, secrets and shame around their ancestry.  I think that the disconnect from any roots at all is likely the most upsetting aspect of growing up in home child culture…very few children ever found solace in a relationship with siblings or Mom or Dad.  There was a helplessness there, a disconnect and a sense of true abandonment, often in powerlessness against abuse of all sorts.

In Canada, so many years later, families are hard at work, trying to unearth unspoken histories and share narratives that have been revealed via contact with the people who continue to house the files and reports on our ancestral family.  At a price and with great patience, piece by piece, we are all discovering who our people were, though most will discover that, at a point, the information will drop off.  Never did our ancestors show up on a Canadian census unless they were working as domestics in very wealthy homes.  I know that I have not found my great grandfather on any binding document between ages 13 and 21.  Those eight years are gone, although the families under which he was employed are well-documented in the foot prints of time.

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On a lighter note, I was so pleased to find Bruce and Connie, Hazel and John gathered before a beautiful display.  Hazel worked very hard to establish our representation at the open house and I have much gratitude for her efforts and her lovely display.  I appreciate that Bruce collected both Connie and John for the afternoon drive on such a cold and blustery day.  And I thank Bruce for the lovely addition to our Western Canadian collection, the poster featuring our new logo.  Excellent.

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Although I have other photographs of my four friends, I enjoy the fact that John Vallance’s true personality is showing through here and that Connie is taking it all in.  If any of you would like a more formal photograph for your files, just contact me.

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The woman who did the physical work here…and a visionary for BHC in the west, our Hazel Perrier.

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The program that the Claresholm museum hosted was fabulous!  I want to thank the town and its people who extended their hospitality.  I know that it was a cold and grey day, but the events and the people created a warm and happy experience for all in attendance.  I really enjoyed the sincere presentation/words and hoop dance performed by Sandra Lamouche. Due to lighting, very few of my photographs give justice to her performance and I hope that my readers will take a look at her website.

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At a point, Bruce, Connie and I went for a cup of tea in a neighbouring restaurant and we enjoyed a very yummy lunch.  It was nice to catch up with Bruce and Connie.  They are great people and I am so happy that they are in my life, with a common interest of family research and history.  I also had the opportunity to wander both the exhibition hall and the museum.  There is nothing like a focused wander through a museum, especially one with an RCAF display!  I enjoyed conversations with two ‘hookers’ who produce amazing works in the tradition of East Coast hooking and a lady who descends from family in Norway.  Very interesting stories and generous contributions!

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When I pulled out of my parking spot to head home at 4:30, I could still hear the ringing of beautiful music coming out of the concert tent.  Today was a perfect day and I’m grateful for the opportunity to enjoy another Alberta Culture Day.

Remember…please…Leave NO CHILD BEHIND!

Hazel, John, Kath, Bruce, Connie

 

Doors Open YYC!

I’m feeling a little reflective tonight.  And once reflective, I write.  It’s what happens.  I’m close enough to enjoying the deposit of my pension into my bank account, as well, that I stopped off and bought myself a bottle of wine, so I’m sipping a glass, gratefully…and that also causes me to write.  I anticipate that very soon my go-to medium will be paint…but for tonight, this is awesome.

As for the reflection…

When someone gets physically ill, friends swoop in to help.  Sometimes meals are prepared or sometimes a person drops in for a visit.  There is evidence of injury or illness and it is apparent that that someone might need support.  The last while, I’ve suffered a different sort of illness…I’ve had a lot of struggle and as yet, I don’t even know how to describe it.  But, I’ve not been well.  I don’t think that the people I encounter in my day can even see it.  It rides beneath the surface, though, of pretty much everything.

But, enough of that…

What I want to do through this writing is to acknowledge one person who sat with me through this time….there were others and I am so grateful to them…but tonight, I want to write about Pat.  For one, I know she will read this post.  Not many will.  That’s okay.  In 2005, I began to write on a whim…never guessing that 13 years later, I would still be doing this.  I didn’t set up a blog with the intention of being read, but rather for a place to write.

About Patricia…Pat has this remarkable way of loving others…of genuinely caring for them.  Her love is not of the sentimental variety, but rather that of a reliable friend. Her friendship is not easy to describe, but as a single woman in a sometimes-tough world, I’ve been able to now track back through years where Pat has been a support to me.  She has never abandoned me.  It’s as though, at times, I’m sitting on a chair in the center of a room, with my nose cut off….everyone else is thinking it’s weird or ugly or distasteful and so they pull away…but, not Pat.  She’s there.  She’s staring right at my face, where my nose once was, and she is caring and kind and present…present, when many others face outward and away from me.  I wanted to begin this writing, about Doors Open YYC…by announcing my gratitude for Pat.

Her kindness has appeared in a package of home made cookies, wrapped up…just enough for my son and me.  It has been in the form of invitations, even when I could not muster up the means to respond or accept or sometimes, to get out.  It has been in the chatty drives…chats about everything but the big grey cloud that seems to hover over me. Like the cut off nose, Pat chooses to look through the grey cloud…I know she can see it, but it is such a relief to have the darkness pushed away with the gentle stories of a friend.  There are countless acts of kindness that I could mention, but suffice it to say that I aspire to be more like Pat in the world.  I will always be appreciative of Pat’s generous heart.

Recently I received one of Pat’s invitations via e-mail,  to do a day of Doors Open YYC.  I would have Pat all to myself and I thought, “What could be more wonderful?”  And so we went…

…and I enjoyed every moment!

On our list of destinations…Aleppo Soap  , the Calgary Buddhist Temple and Fiasco Gelato.  As I reflect upon the magic of the day, I have to say that the three locations we visited this year, were all about healing, kindness and strength of character.

First stop, Aleppo Soap is a business established and grown successfully by Syrian newcomers.

“Before Sabouni fled Syria, his soap factory was destroyed. His family spent time in Jordan before coming to Canada, where he tried to start the business again, but it wasn’t a success.

Now, he’s grateful he, his wife, and four children — his youngest son was born in Canada last year — have a chance for a fresh start.

“The Canadians come to support us, make me so happy … I want to say thank you Canada because I am grateful because it gives me and my family a new chance,” he said.”

We enjoyed a lovely tour of the soap factory and Pat and I both purchased some products afterwards.  The soap is so exceptionally beautiful.  There was, in the context of Aleppo, pride, generosity and hospitality.  I was so happy to see this venue well-attended by Calgarians.  I am in awe of the courage and hard work of the folk who have manifested their vision here in Canada.

 

Next, we headed for the Bridgeland area and enjoyed the hospitality of a Buddhist Priest at the Calgary Buddhist Temple.  Again, we were given a brief history and a simple explanation of the rituals, bell ringing and chants.  I found the temple to be very beautiful in its simplicity.  Those responsible for the tour were very generous with their time and reflections.

“The Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism was founded by Shinran, a monk who lived in Japan in the 13th century. Jodo Shinshu means “true essence of Pure Land Buddhism” (or, literally: Jodo, meaning Pure Land or realm; Shin, meaning True; and Shu, meaning religion).”

Finally, we headed for Fiasco Gelato!  This was a very popular tour!  Fiasco Gelato is a story all on its own!  I was amazed by this place and really suggest that if you haven’t made a stop at the store, that you do!  What a positive approach to business.  Things haven’t come easy for the visionaries behind this place, but they have persisted and have created an amazing place…a great product…and a community-engaged enterprise. They have built something that matters!

“Fiasco is built on empowerment, innovation, forward thinking, strong relationships, passion, and the best customer experience. We are people focused and so little of what we do here day to day has to do with our product and more about doing great work and making people happy. We are here to do things differently, think differently and challenge the norm. We want people to be the best versions of themselves and think in terms of work and life blending together rather than segregating from each other.”

All three venues explored by Pat and I were places that nourish the spirit and sooth the soul.  The day could not have been better!  As I dipped into my container of Passionfruit Lemonade Gelato last evening, I was thinking back on how blessed we are in our city…how blessed I am.  I hope that every person who feels weary or sad or overcome with difficulties, grief or illness will find, in their lives, some one who is kind.  I have that in my life.

 

Quiet Like Watercolour

My son and I have been hanging out quite a bit.  Honestly, while there’s not a lot of talking, I am getting so that I just enjoy being still with him.  We sit across from one another at the feast table for our first coffee each day.  Not much gets said but “Good morning.”

Recently, a friend from my teaching world and my church family, lost her eight year old son, very suddenly.  He will be laid to rest this week.  Caleb gave the gift of his organs so that others might have life.  Everything about the situation seems impossible.  I hold Caleb’s family…his two brothers, sister and Mom and Dad very close to my heart. But, as a mother, I most deeply imagine (because one can not truly know) Caleb’s Mommy’s pain.  It is such a feeling of helplessness, no matter what way you look at it.  I am so sorry. In thinking about it, I’ve decided that the best I can do in my life is to honour the lives of those I love, most especially, my family.

I haven’t been much for hanging out in crowds the last long while.  I like the quiet that my son and I share.  I like walking with my daughters and my grandson at the river.  I like hanging with Max on the red couch.  I enjoy my daily conversation with my father via Skype.

Today, I nudged my son to drive out to the Leighton Center with me to see, on its final day, an exhibit by beautiful lady and watercolourist, Brittney Tough.  I met Brittney, gratefully, through my experiences painting down at the Rumble House.  She is one amazing artist!  This exhibit demonstrates her patience and her skill.

The drive to the Leighton Center is so calming; the countryside, so beautiful.  Presently, canola fields are ripened.  Hawks call out from above the landscape.  Mountains to the west are veiled in smoke.

The exhibits Threaded Through Paint and Bison, Bison, Bison were both stunning.  I really felt at ease and peaceful sharing this time with my boy.  Congratulations, Brittney! (Say ‘hi’ to Harley and Alistair) Your notebooks and explorations in colour are spectacular…your compositions, pure genius!

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House Wrens

I enjoyed my river-walk with Max today.  There were several baseball games going on while I was there, so there were more people at the Bow. (Pet Peeve = people who throw cigarette butts into the bush.  Buddy, are you aware of the fires burning in B.C.?)  I made no sightings of the Bald Eagles today, so they must have withdrawn into solitude elsewhere.  I’ve enjoyed the nesting House Wrens as their wee ones have fledged and it’s like all of the dead fall becomes a home for the ‘chittering’ sounds.  This morning, I focused on capturing them with my camera.  I stood still and enjoyed every moment.

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Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage

My friend, Pat, has an astonishing way of discovering new and wonderful places to visit around Calgary.  My tendency is to always say “YES” when an invitation comes my way from Pat because, in the end, I learn something new and see something fascinating.  So, when I received an e mail to travel south to Nanton and to see the Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage, I was keen.  Included in the experience would be a lovely and reasonably-priced brunch served up by Brown’s Catering and live music under a tent (although we all agreed the musician of the day might have turned down the mic…just a little).  As well, we then strolled about and admired the gardens and the buildings.  Delightful!

We could not have had a nicer day…a huge open sky and golden canola fields in full bloom created a backdrop of magic. The drive was filled with our usual enthusiastic banter and that always makes the miles fly by.  Gail, Mary, Pat and I embraced the visit and the views.  It was an exceptional time.  I’ve been digging myself out of a period of sadness, despondency and disconnect.  I am grateful for dear friends who have stuck with me through the malady, and anticipate, as I do, better days.  What can be more healing than amazing sky, flowers and forever-friendship. Thank you, Pat.

Click on individual photographs, in order to have a better look.

 

Thanks to Gail who hosted a further debrief at her home in High River.  I appreciate the hospitality and it was so wonderful to see you again.

Boulder Hot Springs and Farewell, Dear Friend!

I felt a degree of anxiety about the drive into Boulder.  It was raining on and off and I was lagging behind Ramona.  I didn’t sleep well on this trip.  I was processing a lot and it had been a big day…cattle drives, Lost Creek, the Mineral Museum and the Copper King Mansion.  The skies were dramatic and thunder was rumbling.  I was really happy when we pulled into the Boulder Hot Springs, shortly after pulling off of the I-15.

The building facade was magical.  The receptionist was calm and welcoming.  I liked the place from first site.  Some time in the early 1990s, this space was purchased by writer Anne Wilson Schaef and is presently owned by a Limited Partnership.  I’ve read some of her work and it was a surprise to see some of her titles sitting on the counter.  From that point forward, the entire evening became one of continued healing and peace.  I am so grateful that Ramona sought out this venue.

I wouldn’t go into the hot pools while the thunder was booming…but, as time passed, the weather cleared, we popped into the outdoor pool…and then popped out, with the coming of the next series of sky flashes.  It was wonderful for even that short time to recline back, pool noodle on my neck and float with Ramona…speechless…ears submerged…until I shouted out to Ramona that we needed to get out.

I then stepped into the hot springs steam where I shared space with a naked woman doing yoga.  Briefly, I remembered my younger body.  I remembered the University of Lethbridge and the wonderful cleansing feeling of the sauna in the Physical Education department.

This would be magic…I knew it.

Our room…

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and the art…

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I claimed the time as mine…shared with a friend…so, no photos of the pools.  And because of the rain, we didn’t head up to the sculpture, Seven Generations.

The space…the food…

Click on individual photos to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

Ramona’s camera…

 

 

 

 

After a scrumptious breakfast, I went for a walk on the property.  Everything about the air was delicious.  I watched the swallows, followed closely by the cat and listened to the cock crow.  I felt mixed feelings as I headed for the parking area and embraced Ramona for the last time.  Tears wouldn’t come…not until Ramona headed east, at the end of the driveway and I headed west.  I had tears until I reached the town of Boulder, stopped at the gas station, filled my water bottle and resolutely headed north on the highway.

It was a wonderful time, dear friend.

 

 

Pekin Noodle Parlour

As we left the Copper King Mansion and headed for supper, it began to rain.  What could be more wonderful than a hot bowl of soup and traditional foods served in a very historical restaurant, the Pekin Noodle Parlour.

I enjoyed reading the article written about the restaurant and will include a bit of of the content, here.  Ed Best of the Last Best News is the writer. This article first appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of the Montana Quarterly.

“Entering the building from South Main, you walk up a long flight of stairs to a door on your left. It opens on a long, narrow hallway flanked by little rooms, each with its own table and chairs, separated by bead board partitions painted a bright orange, with an orange curtain hanging over each entrance. The chairs and tables, with their legs of braided steel, date to 1916, according to Danny Wong, and the cozy little booths have never changed. There are rumors—as persistent as those concerning the tunnels—that the booths are a holdover of the days when the Pekin was a brothel, or an opium den. Nonsense, the historians say; it was simply customary to give diners a bit of privacy.

Chinese lanterns hang from the ceiling over the narrow hall between the booths, and the waitresses deliver your food on metal carts that trundle noisily down the aisle.

Even the bathrooms are an experience: little side-by-side rooms that you enter through swinging doors, and then a regular door that opens inward, barely missing the toilet. You have to stand alongside the toilet just to close the door, unless you happen to be meth-addict skinny.

And presiding over it all is Danny Wong. He is 82 and has worked at the Pekin since coming to the United States in 1947 at the age of 13. He took over the business in the early 1950s from his Great-Uncle Hum Yow, who had run the Pekin Noodle Parlor since it opened in 1911. But Wong is not just the owner of a business that has been in the same family for 105 years.

He is also the owner of a virtual museum, an accidental museum of a type more likely to be found in Butte than anywhere else in Montana. Butte has lost so much population since its heyday that countless artifacts have been preserved simply because the space they occupy is not needed for anything else.

On the ground floor of the Pekin, where Wong’s ancestors ran a gambling hall and an herb dispensary, one wall is covered by a collection of large wooden drawers with Chinese lettering on them.  Inside are heaps of desiccated medicinal herbs.

There is also a sizable collection of tin containers, likewise covered in Chinese characters and still full of various kinds of tea. Crammed into a rabbit’s warren of rooms in the vicinity of the tea and herbs, there are other relics of old Chinatown: an ancient brass cash register, hand-woven reed baskets, antique Chinese gambling devices, stacks and stacks of old dishes, lottery sheets with Chinese lettering and kitchen implements that look like they were forged in the Iron Age.

Such scenes presented themselves in every room we entered, with Danny Wong in the lead. One door led out back, into what used to be known as China Alley, when the Pekin was at the heart of a lively Chinese community that might have reached a population of 2,500 people.

Dick Gibson is the treasurer of the Mai Wah Society, which works to collect and preserve Asian history in the Rocky Mountain West and which runs the Mai Wah Museum, just down China Alley from the Pekin. It was Gibson who vehemently dismissed rumors of mysterious tunnels or an underground city. There were simply vaulted sidewalks, he said, empty spaces under the sidewalk that gave property owners a bit more room in their basements. There is no evidence that any subterranean chamber was attached to any others, Gibson said.

It was also Gibson who said the Chinese population of Butte has been estimated to have approached 2,500, though official census figures topped out at 400. The Chinese were subjected to much discrimination in the West, Gibson said, and were the target of occasional boycotts and discriminatory laws. But even the big boycotts of the late 1890s were more successful in Helena than in Butte.

“The non-Chinese population of Butte really did support the Chinese,” he said.

That has certainly been true of the Pekin, which has long been popular among regular folk, bigwigs and politicians. In 2011, when the Pekin celebrated its centennial, then-Sen. Max Baucus entered a lengthy, tribute-filled history of the restaurant into the Congressional Record. It was also much loved by Butte’s one bona fide celebrity, the late Evel Knievel. He used to bring his family to the Pekin on a regular basis, and he would often have Wong down to his place in Las Vegas. And when Knievel died in 2007, family and friends gathered at the Pekin—after one of the larger funerals in the city’s history—to mourn, reminisce and carouse.

Wong’s ancestors have been in Butte almost from the city’s beginnings. One, whose name has been forgotten, came to the United States in the 1860s and used to deliver supplies to Chinese in camps and communities throughout the West, including Butte. That man’s sons came to Butte in the late 1890s and ran a laundry that remained in business until the mid-1950s.

When Danny Wong came to Butte in 1947, he still used his given name, Ding K. Tam. He adopted the more familiar “Wong” from his aunt Bessie Wong, while “Danny” was bestowed on him by a school classmate.

Wong married Sharon Chu in 1963 and she was soon as much a fixture at the Pekin as her husband. Their son, Jerry Tam, said that through the years, his father brought over hundreds of relations to work at the Pekin and get a foothold in the United States. And in 1980, after years of delicate negotiations with Chinese authorities, Wong was finally able to bring over his parents, whom he cared for until their deaths.

You get the feeling that Wong couldn’t be much happier with how things have turned out. He seems perpetually serene and happy, even while working busily in the kitchen, rubbing spices into a pork loin or chopping up a slab of meat. In the Pekin bar—a later add-on, comfortable but lacking in history and quirkiness—just off the banquet room at the front of the restaurant, there is a plaque with a sketch of the Pekin on it. Underneath are the words: “Given as a token of our appreciation for being a wonderful friend and boss. Always working with us, side by side through good times and bad and much laughter. From all the old-time workers.”

I didn’t speak to him, but while back near the kitchen, I had the chance to see Danny Wong, hard at work.  When asked, the waitress denied any connection of the restaurant to past opium dens, just as the text of this article attests.  She did say, however, that there have been recent discoveries of things below neighbouring buildings, so that is interesting.  I enjoyed the hot food and relaxing with my friend.  We were on our feet lots that afternoon.  Outside, the weather was coming in.

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Ramona’s photos.  (thank you, buddy)  I haven’t included the one of ‘moi’ taking in the sight of my food because I look exhausted! lol  Click each image, to make larger.  I’m glad you got one of the neon sign!  After dinner, back out onto the I-15 and Boulder Hot Springs.